My smooth, easy, cheap ($99 round trip) and enjoyable 977 mile flight from ACY to FLL (via Spirit Airlines) was followed by a comfortable night at the palatial (by my standards at least) Crowne Plaza ($109, Hotels.com). I’d already missed half of the conference, but that didn’t matter, since taking Friday off was never an option for me. I was thrilled I could go at all when Marc asked; if the summit been during the week, I simply would have not been able to make it.
Breakfast was terrific. I somehow ended up at the table with the cool kids, including Cathy Nelson, Chris Harris, Doug Johnson, Joyce Valenza and a few other notables. The keynote speaker was Scott Traylor, CEO of 360Kid.com. My mind was focused on last-minute preparations for our panel at 9:45 so I wasn’t able to give him my full attention, but I did follow along as best I could. I was pleased to learn about his company as well as a few sites and services I’d not heard about previously. I did however have a hard time swallowing his statement that he limits his kids to 30 minutes of screen time a day. TOTAL, all media – TV, computer, consoles, etc., for all reasons – homework, recreation, etc. I don’t mean to disrespect the man and have no reason to doubt him but I just have a really, really hard time believing that. :/
Marc got things rolling with prepared remarks about his work and the exciting potential future books face in the 21st century, as elecrtronic media promise to deepen and extend the relationship readers have with content. He advocates NON-FICTION as the best opportunity for compelling, engaging, thought-provoking work to challenge and delight readers, particularly in schools. He spoke of new technologies and old passions, suggesting that authors work more closely with schools to promote their work and build readership.
Next up was Vicki Cobb, author of the We Dare You! series of do-it-yourself science experiment videos for elementary students. These were hilarious and amazing! Vicki is a former elementary science teacher and it shows. The videos accompany her book, “We Dare You!: Hundreds of Science Bets, Challenges, and Experiments You Can Do at Home.” More than just being a cool example of how books can engage kids, Vicki demonstrated how modern technology – particularly video shot by kids, of kids – doing her experiments – really captivates and engages.
Nancy Feresten of National Geographic talked about some of the exciting things going on at her company regarding web technology and print media, including the Atlas of My World series (https://www.atlasofmyworld.com/). How cool is this: a customized, bound, printed, personalized atlas for your kid! It’s a little on the expensive side (just my opinion) but it’s the kind of gift that could set a young mind off on a lifelong adventure amid the study of history and the world around them. As she spoke, I kept hearing music … why is that?
My contribution to the discussion involved showing and helping explain Marc’s Second Life build for his book RACE: a History Beyond Black and White, and discussing how virtual worlds like Second Life and Quest Atlantis are being used in education. I actually started the presentation by asking who in the audience was familiar with Second Life and almost two thirds of the room raised their hands. Clearly, School Library Journal has done a terrific job talking about virutal worlds and the folks at this conference were clearly ready to explore. We had great questions about particulars like economics and the digital divide as well as healthy skepticsm about curricular value. If only Peggy Sheehy could be with us in the room! It was a brief but fun conversation followed by several people expressing interest after we’d wrapped for the day.
The Summit was a terrific experience if for no other reason than it got me brefly out of the “echo chamber,” surrounded by other educators, yes, who are also technology people, but, who are in a very different world dealing with similar challenges … changing curriculua to meet the needs of modern learners, evangelizing the use of technology in their districts, fighting for quality professional development. Brothers and sisters in arms, to be sure. After all, even though we’re in different worlds to a large extent, we’re all here for the same reason – making a difference in education!