So, Friday night, Marilyn Singer pondered whether the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, but Saturday morning I determined the the road to hell is paved with bad technology!
I was part of three panels at NCTE, and I was thrilled to be part of each. Alyson Beecher, who put together the Revved for Research panel, did an enormous amount of work ahead of time. She rounded up us panelists, made sure we wouldn’t overlap too much, corresponded so that we all kind of knew each other, put together an image to share on social media, and more. I felt like that panel would probably be the smoothest and most fun, just because of how invested everyone was in it.
And then technology stepped in. But didn’t step up.
Alyson, along with Deb Parryman, brought so much tech stuff it wasn’t even funny. They had multiple versions of things, back-ups, and dongles galore. And we couldn’t get our slides working. From about 10 minutes before our session was scheduled to begin to 10 minutes after, Alyson, Deb, and the Convention Center tech people (yes, more than one had to be called) worked tirelessly.
The attendees were getting a little restless, so I told Alyson I could do my part without slides while they kept working on tech.
I felt so bad, because it was so stressful for Alyson, after all the work she’d put in! She handled it like a pro and was really just worried about the effect it would have for the rest of us speakers. She did a quick intro of everyone, and I started my talk. When I got to a part where I really needed the photo on the slide to illustrate what I was saying, I just gestured grandly toward the screen and said things like, “Imagine, if you will, beautiful golden ash leaves with the Minnesota autumn sun shining brilliantly through them!” The attendees (including my Can Be… editor Carol Hinz!) were very good sports and laughed and played along. Luckily, I only had to do that a couple of times :>)
About halfway through my part, the slides appeared! Yay! I finished up my talk on the research I’d like to do versus the research I’m able to do, and how I often use very non-exotic methods that teachers can use in their classrooms. Then I got to relax and enjoy the other speakers. Everyone did an amazing job. I really enjoyed learning from other writers and from educators on the three panels I was on last week. Whether it was Loree Griffin Burns’ dedication to on-site, hands-on research and how that has shaped her books; Sarah Albee’s tales of roasting crickets and trying to keep kids from eating them until they were on-camera for her book trailer; or Chris Barton’s stories of the meticulous research behind his history-based nonfiction–I left wanting to read (or re-read) every book they mentioned! Everyone was disappointed that Sy Montgomery, who was going to be joining us from Miami via Skype, was the sole casualty of the tech problems we had. She was there and waiting to participate, but nobody could get that fed into the projection :>(
I felt so honored to be speaking at NCTE, and I send out thanks to everyone who invited me, spoke with me, and attended our sessions. It was awesome to be part of this learning community! And thank you, Alyson and Deb, for not letting tech get the best of us!