Yesterday at NECC was one of those yin/yang experiences, with one of my worst conference moments ever, which, as these things go, preceded probably the best conference feel good ever.

The Yin: I was on a panel with two other featured speakers that I thought was supposed to be a discussion about how Web 2.0 and School 2.0 are playing out and what it all means for the public education system. What it ended up being was about a total of 15 minutes total of actual conversation and 45 minutes of attempting to coax the audience into submitting best practices for the panel leaders’ new book about Web 2.0 tools in schools. Not to say that the ideas that many of the people submitted weren’t interesting and of value and worth listening to. But I have to say, I felt pretty used. And the total irony of the moment was that in this “Web 2.0” and “School 2.0” session that was supposed to celebrate the uses of the tools, the random notes were being taken on screen in a very un Web 2.0 tool called Microsoft Word. No transparency. No collaboration. No thought to sharing.

And no surprise.

I’m sure this is going to come across as conceit, but as much as there are many sessions about 2.0 this and 2.0 that, as much as the exhibitors are trumpeting all this great 21st Century learning stuff (all labeled “Safe for Your Students!” btw) there is still very little real “getting it,” real understanding of how these tools change everything, real appreciation for the transformation that so many folks at EduBloggerCon expressed on Saturday. Yep, everyone is on the train, but hardly anyone still knows what’s feeding the engine.

But the folks at the Blogger Cafe do. And that’s the yang. I don’t know how many of them will blog about it, (probably most) but the cafe is turning more into camp as people basically say “forget the sessions…this is SO much better.” And so we linger and talk and teach and learn and bond and I swear this is the best experience I have ever had at a conference (and I’ve been to a lot of conferences.) It’s just too much fun sticking around all of these people who share this itch and want to continually keep scratching it. (Check out Jeff’s Twitter feed to see what I mean.) The passion is palpable. In some ways it’s extended what started on Saturday, and it feels like more of a classroom of the future than most of the other models being bandied about.

The important thing for me is that even though we’re all heading out today, class is still in session. We’re just moving over to the virtual cafe where the pace slows down a bit and the laughter isn’t as loud. And just like the physical space, we drop by, hang out, speak up or listen when we’re able. And the learning continues. That’s what’s so powerful about all of this. That’s what I keep hoping more people will experience.

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