So it may seem strange to start my first blog post ever from China with a picture of my daughter, but the reason I’m feeling so giddy at the moment (aside from about seven hours of sleep after a 27-hour travel day) is because I am just loving my Skype, Skitch, connected from wherever I am in the world life. It’s about 9 am here in Shanghai and I just got off an hour Skype video call with my kids (where it’s about 9 pm) where I, like I normally try to do, helped them with their homework (Tess and I had an interesting conversation about “bartering”) and asked about Tucker‘s soccer practice and talked baseball. (My Cubbies are hangin’ in.) I know it’s not the same as being there, but I have to tell you it’s pretty darn cool to be half a world away and still be able to see them and interact with them. And I loved snapping pictures of them on my end with Skitch and then giving them the link so they could see what I just posted and watch their faces break into huge smiles, all within, literally, 45 seconds start to finish. In five years, I know, that’ll seem like nothing, but right now, it’s a big deal.

Sheryl and Wes and I arrived about 9 last night and Wes was by far the most productive on the trip, writing about 37 blog posts, doing a couple of podcasts, and getting yelled at by the Chinese authorities at the airport for taking pictures in the  customs line. (I’m sure they are on Flickr by now, which, btw, is blocked here.) Jeff picked us up and brought us to the hotel where I crashed hard after flipping through the dials and seeing almost nothing but English and American sporting events and something that looked strangely like “Chinese Idol.” Could that be? With my very limited first impression, I guess I’m almost disappointed at how Westernized it all feels. But Jeff is promising to show us the real Shanghai on Monday and Tuesday after the conference which I am looking forward to greatly. And, my own personal angst was about the air quality here…on the drive last night, you could only see about a mile or two ahead the haze was so thick. And Jeff said that was a great improvement over the last three years…they’re gearing up for the Olympics next year, you know.

So now I’ve got an afternoon to get my brain in gear for what promises to be a pretty interesting unconference-y conference with folks from around Asia. It will be really interesting to see what their take is on all of this. I feel pretty much out of my element, and in those cases I usually end up learning more than anyone, especially with the focus that Jeff and the organizers have put on the conversations. I’m leading five sessions, two of them are going to be totally unconference, one to discuss the Cult of the Amateur as it relates to Learning 2.0 and the other titled “Teachers as Learners; Learners as Teachers.” The other sessions I’m going to “present” for about 10-15 minutes and then hopefully use the rest of the time to talk about “The Big Shifts in Learning,” problem technologies in schools, and our own personal learning practice as educators. There will be a lot of Twittering going on, so if you want to follow that conversation just tap into the Learn2cn feed. And don’t forget the almost mandatory Ning site for the conference that has, I think, the coolest Ning banner to date. Hope to see you in the mix.

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