A few hours ago I read Lee Kolbert's blog entry about vendors at NECC 2009. I wanted to comment, but worried that my comment would be too long. I decided to respond and piggyback on her entry with my own!
As a 'Newbie' to NECC, I had heard mixed things about the Exhibit floor. "Don't waste your time," some said, "they're just salespeople." "Check it out," other said, "you can learn about new and upcoming technologies and get free stuff!" I decided to meet them somewhere in the middle by visiting a few booths, but trying not to get stuck listening to a sales pitch.
I found the Exhibit floor to be worth the small amount of time I spent there (about 1 1/2 hours over 2 days). I checked in with the Discovery Education booth where I met people who work closely with my school district. A colleague (Tracey McGrath) had brought me to the booth recommending that I become a Discovery Star Educator, which I am working on as I write this blog entry. We have a license in Philadelphia for Discovery Streaming, which allows you to access Discovery Education's huge library of videos available for download and streaming for members. While I did not sit for a presentation, as a user of Discovery Streaming, I know what a great resource it is for teachers. This vendor was providing a great resource to NECC 09 attendees.
I also stopped by the Tech4Learning booth, where a presentation had just started. It was led by a real teacher who not only introduced us to the various softwares (Pixie, Frames, Twist, Image Blender, and more), but showed us examples of student work from her classroom using some of these tools. I have been trying to find an alternative to KidPix for the last 2 years, and by visiting the Tech4Learning booth, I now have a software that I fell in love with (Pixie) and can now present to the district as a new tool for the classroom. Tech4Learning also has tons of online resources as well as an online community for users of their products. Plus, after sitting through a short presentation, I was awarded a CD with free licenses to 5 of their software products!
I also attended sessions with SMART and sat in on a Promethean presentation. Both of these sponsors added content to the conference by stoking the fires of imagination about what can be done with Interactive White Boards in the classroom.
While these are just some of the examples of booths that I visited, I have to agree with Lee that vendors have something to offer NECC (ISTE 2010 next year). That is NOT to say that ALL vendors added something to the conference. What I think would be useful for 2010 is the ability for attendees to rate vendors based on certain criteria. For example: quality of presentations, interaction with attendees, relevance to ed tech and whether they add anything to the conversation and dialogue about ed tech at the conference.
If you did not visit the Exhibit floor in 2009 and are leery of vendors, please take 30 minutes in 2010 to check it out!
Please leave comments about vendors or tell me about some vendors I missed and should have checked out!
Thanks to Lee Kolbert for the thoughtful commentary that started me thinking about corporations and ed tech!