My head is swimming with all sorts of impressions from the opening day of the PDF conference. Really smart people talking about really amazing shifts, trying to figure out if they are really transformative or just a better, larger, more immediate way to communicate with people and move them to action. I think the jury is still out (though I’m leaning toward the former) but it gets pretty heady when you think about what we have to prepare our students for in terms of the potentials for participating in the political process (both good and ill) and the extent to which we encourage that participation.

Zephyr Teachout (who has by any measure one of the coolest names ever) opened the day with a compelling question:

How many people have within them the knowledge of how to form a local group and to use that group to change the structure of their society?

And it wasn’t asked in the context of these connective technologies, but the implication was obvious. If we’re not preparing them to do it in their own physical spaces, how can they be expected to do it effectively in virtual space?

There was lots of talk as well about being able to use these tools, especially mobile tools, to capture and document important events and share them with the world. The example of Mayhill Flower, who happened to catch the Obama comment on average Americans being bitter and clinging to their guns came up on a couple of occasions, as did the Hillary Clinton comment about Bobby Kennedy which was captured on a Mogulus stream. Left a lot of people wondering if all of this is a good thing or just a recipe for chaos.

During the session I Tweeted to Andy Carvin who was also in attendance, asking whether all of this meant we should be preparing our kids to be, in effect, journalists. He Tweeted back, yeah, we should prep them to “conduct random acts of journalism when moments arise that demand coverage, debate.” I think I agree.

And then there was a panel titled “Building and Using the World Live Web” which featured Robert Scoble and the creators of Qik, Mogulus and Cover it Live. It was a fascinating discussion and model of just how live things are getting, including live streaming from your phone right to the Web where people can interact, ask questions, leave comments which are then sent back to the phone where you can integrate the suggestions into the broadcast. Stories of politicians who are using the feature to interact with their constituents, me wondering what the potentials are for local board of ed meetings, town councils, graduations, etc. (And, all the not so wonderful content as well.)

Zephyr cited a statistic that said that historically only about 5% of people have actively participated in the political process on a local or national level. I’m heading home tonight wondering if that percentage is going to change because of these tools, and if so, if that will be a good thing or not.

More tomorrow…