Saturday, July 19, 2014

Risk, #REimagineEDU, #BbWorld14 and Keynote Notes

Howdy, Sky here from Miami!  Posting a few recap blogs in the next few days to talk about Blackboard's annual conference #BbWorld.

Grand Canyon- Risky Business

Last Sunday, I traveled to Las Vegas so that on Monday I could see the Grand Canyon.  Something to check off my growing bucket list.  The picture on the left gave me so much adrenaline that I thought perhaps I could run a full marathon right after!  While my friends and I were checking out nature in its finest and took daring poses sitting on the ledge of the world- we noticed a mom with her kid.  The mom was standing less than one literal foot from the edge.  We watched this kid of maybe 5-6 years old, walk in front of her mother less than 4-6 inches from the ledge of the canyon with our heart racing.  In fact, she kinda leaped, hopping around.  The the kid sat on the ledge- without a fear in the world.  Perhaps at this age, risk is not in "our" vocabulary?

ReImagine This!

The overall Blackboard conference theme was "Reimagine Education." Every time I hear that phrase, I think of Pink Floyd's another brick in the wall.  Bb also changed their conference branding from black/gold to a sedate blended blue/purple theme. Sometime when you reimagine things, they just don't work out well for their purpose- for example Blackboard's BbWorld14 mobile app.  I felt like I missed out on too many great sessions.  In fact, I missed out on featured speaker's Jeff Selingo and Bob Wise.  Perhaps it was just session scheduling that was off-kilter? Perhaps that prior to Blackboard room/session logistics, Blackboard should crowd source interest in sessions to ensure rooms are "big enough" to handle possible attendees (another session related issue as I was shut out of three sessions over the conference). I do have to say that Blackboard does try very hard to add extra sessions on another day when this happens.  Overall I'm pretty savvy, yet I'm not sure exactly why the app didn't work well for me.  It wasn't technical issues, just design I believe.  I think part of it is that I want to click on a presenter's name and be taken to their profile with twitter handle.  In addition, I couldn't schedule group meal times into "my schedule."  As well, the app didn't sync to my outlook calendar- epic fail. I've actually already deleted it off of my phone or I would go back into the app to review it more fully.  I know I am not alone in thinking that the mobile app wasn't "the best" except I did see one lonely tweet that a person liked this year's mobile app in comparison to last year's app.

Opening & Closing Keynotes

Joi Ito (@Joi) opening keynote speech at #BbWorld14
Fast-forward to our opening keynote speaker, Joi Ito.  Pretty interesting guy. Scuba dives with sharks and teaches kids how to scuba dive- thankfully not at the same time.  It is also interesting to note that the closing keynote speaker who is an amazing storyteller, Geoffrey Canada, also teaches kids martial arts. In addition, both keynote speakers have participated in TED talks. There are other similarities too.  However, if you want to learn more about Joi or Geoffrey, I would suggest viewing their Wikipedia pages for a good overview of what amazing, busy humans they are.  Actually, Geoffrey just announced his is retiring from the Harlem's Children Zone.  Of course, you can also YouTube both individuals and view some of their speeches
(highly recommended).  Often I have found from my experience from last year and this year at BbWorld that they keynote speeches are similar to ones that can be found on YouTube- or at least have a lot of similarities.  

Let me highlight a theme between the two speeches: feedback.  Joi Ito talked about innovating now and continuing to push forward because feedback comes too few and far between.  Geoffrey noted that America spends a lot of testing with the benefit of its feedback.  He suggested that our teachers need feedback sooner and more often- and the kids need it too.  He also mentioned that we are failing America's children- but again, if you want to here more on that topic I suggest you view his TED talk.

Geoffrey Canada closing keynote
Joi also talked about risk and how the Internet provides elements that make taking risks "easier": collaboration, distribution and zero-cost startup. Remember that little girl at the Grand Canyon I mentioned earlier; she didn't fear heights or falling, she was having fun.  Perhaps we are failing our children in schools by teaching them to fear failure.  Geoffrey Canada provided a humorous example of when he was failing a class and approached the teacher for help.  The teacher noted his effort and provided him with alternative learning materials, focusing the attention not on the failure of the student but that the learning materials were not customized, or "slanted" towards the specific student. Later President and CEO of Blackboard, Jay Bhatt spoke on failure in the design and development.  He said that in their (Blackboard and their employees) creativity and production process, they will fail sometimes and they are moving towards learning how to move on through these failures, while learning from them.  In doing that, they hope to be more successful to provide a better experience for their clients and ultimately, our students.  

In the next few days, I'll post about what Blackboard is working on with some "sneak peak" shots.  I'll also be posting about a variety of other BbWorld conference related subjects... stay tuned and check back often!  Drop me a comment to share your thoughts!

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