#VSS2010 – DAY 1

This is my first time at the virtual school symposium. So far it’s very similar to NECC or any of the other edtech conferences I’ve been to. The format is very traditional. It is vendor heavy. Wireless sucks. They don’t take nearly the advantage they should of the Internet. If conferences want to survive they’ll also figure out some really useful things to do that can only be done by having this many people in the same physical space.

I know that sounds pretty negative. I’d say it’s accurate. If any of the conferences want to share their profit margins on these things maybe I’d feel more magnanimous.

Random thoughts so far1

Just because something rhymes does not mean you have to retweet it as gospel. I know there’s research that shows that rhyming has something to do with people’s perception of veracity but still.

Many people have not read Disrupting Class (or maybe I don’t understand the book) but they insist on quoting it. One of the major points of the book was that the disruptive innovation occurs in a place where there is no competition. The product is also usually inferior to the product in the main space (Apple PC as toy vs IBM mainframes). That’s certainly not how people are using it. I’m not really buying chunks of that book anyway but it seems we ought to be able to use the term in the same context.

One of the vendors was giving out the book2 Waiting for Superman as a gift people could win. I asked the vendor if they’d seen the movie. As she ran away, she said it was great and may have missed my comment about corporate propaganda.

One thing, I have seen is that the parallels between online ed and tech integration are more similar than I’d like. Both groups seem to continuously conflate3 pedagogical concepts with tools that might enable them. Both groups have a dearth of good examples available to the public and yet that’s one of the strongest needs I’ve seen. The vendor is also playing a major role in presenting at these conferences in ways that are subtle and overt. People seem to be waiting for one-size-fits-all solutions that they can buy.

The most unfortunate parallel is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. One of the oft tweeted phrases was something like “Let’s focus on next practices, instead of best practices.” That pains me and seems to indicate continued confusion about what is a tool and what is a proven learning strategy that will work just fine online.


1 Session summaries and day #2 will be saved for the plane ride back.

2 Who knew there was also a highly biased book?

3 Higher Ed’s favorite word

Comments on this post

  1. Lori Skurka said on November 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for your perspectives on Disrupting Class. I had heard some discussion of it, but will def. check it out now.

    Lori Skurka
    EleMental Learning
    http://www.elemental-learning.com

  2. Jenny said on November 17, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Depressing, but not surprising. I think you are completely right about people wanting the one-size-fits-all solution they can buy. I’m not sure I can blame folks for wanting it. But. It seems like folks in education should be smart enough to realize that isn’t possible and move on.

    • Tom said on November 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Vendor areas always depress me. Costumes, candy, and give-aways while teachers scramble around like kids at Halloween.

      VSS seemed unusually corporate to me. I might have gone to the wrong sessions but there was the smell of money to be made in the air. Depressing stuff.

  3. Jim said on November 19, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Why do you hate the word conflate so much? I think it is kinda sing songy, like toothless southerner.

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