I have been following some of the controversy around the K12 Online Conference
and have been thinking a lot about what Stephen Downes has been writing. My feeling is that one has to weigh the positives and negatives. Nothing in this world is pure any more. I understand his feeling that associating with a company may taint the speakers. However, I also know that there are many people who never get to conferences (and there is nothing quite as commercial as NECC - quite a shock the first time there). This online conference is giving access to a community and to information that may be hard for newcomers to find. It is giving people opportunities to listen / watch and decide who they wish to continue following and the great show notes give links so that people can decide who to add to their blog reads. I have not had a chance to listen to all the presentations, but I have been struck by the generosity of people who freely publish their contact information and offer help to one and all. Yes - there are probably some presenters who are involved to publicize themselves. But the majority of what I have heard just really want to share.
We are surrounded by commercialism in North America. Let's trust that most of us as educators are aware of this. In fact this is on all our agendas when we teach about literacy. Who owns the site? How does that taint the information? How do we know this information is valid? We are teaching students to be careful, judicious consumers of information. I would hope that we approach this conference, or any conference with the same wariness.
As someone who often works with teachers, this conference has provided me with a one-stop place to point some teachers to so they can be introduced to Web 2.0. I love what Jeff Utecht is doing with his LAN parties and only wish Shanghai were not so far away. Since when have people had parties around thinking about education?
There is a buzz of people who are building networks to foster their own learning. I, for one, am grateful to all those who share online.