This is the first of what I hope to be several posts following NECC.

NECC 2008 - Convene, Connect, Transform. I headed to this conference by myself, hoping to meet some of the people I've worked with, learned from, talked with, read about, and shared with over past six months or so. Some I felt I knew a little better than others due to more interaction via a project we collaborated on, or through Twitter, Skype, or Blogging. Overall, however, my prior interaction with most was very minimal. I wish I would have attended EduBloggerCon to see what it was all about and after looking back, I probably could have made it for the afternoon. My flight arrived around 11:00 on Saturday and rather than head straight to a relative's house where I was staying, I could have stopped by for the experience. Hopefully it will work out next year if I attend NECC 2009 in D.C.

I wrote earlier about my thoughts sitting in the Bloggers' Cafe for the first time and how it compared to a classroom, but wanted to add that this was a very important place for me during NECC. I think I would have spent a lot of time wandering around if this place didn't exist. The Bloggers' Cafe was a place where people like me could take a break, have a conversation, or simply catch up. I didn't really blog that much although I did do quite a bit of reading (or deleting). This was also a place I met some people who collaborated on a project with me earlier this year. While I did have some email and Skype contact already, it was really nice to meet Laura Deisley, Robin Ellis, Howard Martin, and Teryl Magee face to face. These were great people and I ended up hanging with Teryl and Howard a little more as the conference went on. As the conference progressed, I met Martha Thornsburgh when I unknowingly sat next to her at a session. We chatted about the project we worked on together briefly and I'm happy to say they would participate again in the future.

I'm not usually the type of person who will go up to someone and introduce myself out of the blude so doing this wasn't easy for me, especially the first day. However, as the conference when on, I figured, what the heck. I was able to meet and have a few conversations with some of the people I follow, which was nice. Some people, like Scott Meech, came up to me, which was exciting. I had an interesting conversation with Laurie V. about walking up to the "big names" and whether or not that was appropriate or even if they cared. I mentioned a blog I had read about Elite-ism (by Darren Draper I think), which I feel is very much related to this topic. Are there "big names" and then the rest of us? This seems to have been a much discussed topic over the last week or so. The more I think about this, however, I think maybe it comes down to the role each of us has in education. Everyone I talked to was very nice, some more talkative than others, but I may have caught them at a bad time. What I mean by role, is simply their job. I'm a K-5 library media specialist. Others were teachers, tech integration specialists, district technology directors and so on. Perhaps people have an easier time talking to others who have similar interests/experiences/problems. When I look back, some the people I think are "big names" are people with educational technology positions I hope to have some day. They have been doing this much longer than I have and have more experience and knowledge in the field. Maybe that's why I think I'm not quite up to their level. Laurie and I both weren't sure what was the best way to handle these introductions, but we both did end up meeting great people. There were some tweets during NECC about this topic, some even mentioning that telling someone you "follow them on Twitter" was a faux pas. I don't agree with this at all. There's nothing wrong with walking up to someone and telling them you follow them. Like she mentioned, if you don't want this, don't put yourself out there. If they don't care, they will give you a brief response and the conversation will be over. When I introduced myself, I tried to say something like "I've enjoyed learning from you" or "I've enjoyed reading some of your stuff." I'm sure I mentioned Twitter at some point as well. Perhaps wording it like that reduces the stalker effect.

As far as meeting people, I was really shocked when the same thing happened in similar situations. One took place on an escalator and one took place in a session. I was positioned next to someone else and when they looked at my name tag, said, "Your Chad Lehman, Jen Wagner (who I met in Spring at WEMTA) told me I should say hi if I saw you" (or something similar). Wow, the power of Jen! Of the hundreds of people Jen knew at NECC, it was humbling to have her mention my name to some of her friends and have them try and meet me. In fact, in one of the situations, the other person and I were in the back channel of the session and Jen was participating as well.

I have more thoughts about NECC that I'll eventually get to. Please feel free to share your thoughts about about Connecting.

8 comments

  1. John Pederson // July 5, 2008 at 7:55 AM  

    Thanks for putting your reflections out there. While I'm a bit biased to the "locals" opinions, I think I learned the most by watching from your perspective.

  2. diane // July 5, 2008 at 8:41 AM  

    Chad,

    I had similar experiences connecting with people, mainly in the Bloggers' Cafe.

    The beauty of face to face interaction is that you have all types of sensory input to help you determine whether or not the person you've approached is interested in engaging in an extended conversation.

    Some people were obviously rushed, others polite but disinterested in talking - and that's fine. The satisfaction was in finding that there are kindred souls in unexpected places. Those chats were worth the price of admission, in my opinion.

    Nice to have met you!

  3. eplybon // July 5, 2008 at 10:53 AM  

    I agree, it was certainly nice to be able to meet the people I've followed and worked with over the last year. It was an eye-opener in some cases, when I realized that people who seemed extremely friendly online were a little stand-offish in real life. Perhaps they were just like me and a little shy about putting themselves out there. At any rate, it was great to meet people and I look forward to next year! (or about 10 days from now for the DEN LC institute-goers!)

  4. injenuity // July 5, 2008 at 11:10 AM  

    I'm so glad you were able to get our of your comfort zone and meet some fantastic people. I'm sure it will continue to be rewarding for you. I'm also not the type of person to just walk up to people and introduce myself. I can blabber online all day, but unless someone engages me in a conversation, I usually keep to myself. I can't wait to hear more about how your relationships grow!

  5. Jennifer // July 5, 2008 at 2:39 PM  

    Smiles
    I am glad I could help -- in a very small way.........

    just wished I had been there, I could have introduced you to sooooo many more.

    And never let the people you "know" (by blog or by twit) ever intimidate you or seem unapproachable. They were newbies once themselves and if they are genuine, they will be gracious, even if they are busy!!

    Hope to "see" you again soon.
    Jen

  6. Lee // July 5, 2008 at 7:40 PM  

    Chad,
    I'm surprised to hear you felt intimidated because you appeared so comfortable and in your element everywhere I saw you. I listened quite a bit while in the Bloggers Cafe and I assure you, you are far more personable than many of the "big names" I encountered. Your blog remains at the top of my blogroll.

    As for the "I follow you on Twitter" comment. I feel the need to jump in here, and eventually when I get to my own blog post on NECC, I'll address it there too. I heard David Jakes say this and I understand why he said it, but I believe he has an issue with Twitter. I don't think he would feel the same way if someone said, "I know you because I read your blog," or "My child was in your class," or "You helped my grandmother cross the street."

    Point being, even he must admit that's how people make connections to each other when the meeting is not random.

    I had people come up to me and tell me they follow me on Twitter and I was honored. I definitely approached people and told them I followed them or read their blogs or heard them speak. I also tried to speak specifically to a topic that impacted me.

    Everyone needs to do what's right for themselves and what's so terrific about my PLN (of which you are a part) is that we are all so accepting of each other while being so diverse.

    Great post. You've raised the bar... now it's going to take me even longer to write my post!

  7. Cory Plough // July 5, 2008 at 8:34 PM  

    Hey Chad - Great post. A lot of what you talked about I experienced as well. I agree with you about it being our positions that determine some of the leadership, but I also think it has to do with time.


    These guys connected years ago online and began sharing ideas back then. A lot of us are fairly new (year or less) to blogging on a large scale, microblogging, and presenting at conferences about the ideas we discuss on a daily basis in our PLN's.

    Also, I think that there is plenty of room for us to lead. Even if we don't organize K12 Online, or EBC, we can organize in our spheres. We can lead teachers who are coming in behind us. The point of all this is to build awareness for educators and help make school better and more relevant for students.

    I definitely sense a little elitism, and that's fine, these guys are awesome! and making a major difference!! But we all can too, it just might look a little different which is great. Al I want anyway is for more of my at-risk kids to graduate and learn.

  8. Mrs.A // July 5, 2008 at 11:47 PM  

    Wish I spent more time in the blogger cafe to just talk to everyone. I seemed to still try to take in as many sessions I could, walk the exhibit hall and seemed to be pulled in so many directions. I was happy to at least meet you. It would be great if you could come down to the ICE conference. We'd love for WI educators to share their successes and network with IL educators.

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