Conferences & Conventions: National Council for Workforce Education 2007

30 Oct

ncwe-logo.pngGreetings from sunny Savannah, Georgia. Or, rather, given that it’s 3:56 CST and I’m in the Savannah airport waiting for my 5 a.m. flight to Houston, greetings from pitch black Savannah. Anyway, however you look at it, I’ve spent the last two days here at the NCWE (National Council for Workforce Education) convention where Jim Brazell, a co-author of several of the technology forecasts commissioned by TSTC Emerging Technologies that we’ve either published and/or distribute, was one of the keynote speakers. I flew out early Sunday morning to attend the convention—the first time I’ve been to it—and mill around Jim’s booth in the exhibit area to see what kind of business I might be able to rustle up. (I think the technical term for this is “networking.”)

One of the smarter things I did was make sure to wear clothes that—worst case scenario—I could wear on Monday just on the off chance that my bags that I checked didn’t make it all the way to Georgia with me. Sure enough, after standing around the luggage carousel at the Savannah airport Sunday afternoon there was no sign of either pieces of luggage. There’s nothing quite like going to a trade show and not having any of your materials with you: no catalogs, no display copies of books, no brand new TechBrief newsletters.

Even worse, after three follow-up calls to the 1-800 lost luggage number, the most anyone could tell me was that nobody had any idea where my bags were. I was feeling pretty good, though, about the fact that I could fake my way through Monday with the clothes I was wearing instead of having dressed in my more usual travel attire: black Ministry baseball cap, orange tie-dyed UT Longhorns t-shirt, jeans, and Stan Smith tennis shoes. (Thankfully, my bags did finally arrive late Sunday night along with a notice in one that it had been searched by the TSA.) Note to self: Next time around put a toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, and one pair of underwear in the laptop bag—the school’s laptop I take onboard with me—just to be on the safe side!

The conference itself was potentially productive. I say “potentially” because like with all events like this you talk to a lot of folks and all kinds of opportunities seem to be presenting themselves but you never know until weeks—or even months—later what the real impact, if any, is going to be. And, those things that seemed to have the most promise often times don’t pan out while some chance encounter that didn’t seem that significant at the time winds up making the whole trip worthwhile.

One person of note I met was Cliff Zintgraff, a colleague of Jim Brazell’s in consulting work, and president of Innology. He’s part of new crowd of Young Turk consultants helping to popularize and promote different aspects of technology and education. In and amongst all the different projects he has going on, Cliff works with Whyville.net, a virtual world for elementary and middle-school kids to explore different science problems and applications. And, as well, he also helps set up robotics camps for school systems.

Among the vendors I talked to was Suzannah Ciernia from Life Skills Education whose family-run company publishes 200+ pamphlets on different—more or less—social service and/or career topics. She was very generous with her time in explaining how the company’s sales and production models work. (It was also nice in this online age to meet someone still concentrating on print publishing.) I also talked to a rep from Boston Reed College. They offer a turnkey approach to schools wanting to set up programs in new areas, mostly in health-related areas. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to Lee Gilles from Read Right who works primarily with industry to train reading tutors to help employees. Finally, I talked with John Moser, an associate program manager for CETE (Center on Education and Training for Employment) out of Ohio State University who does DACUMs group. (DACUMs are a process by which new programs can effectively utilize industry input to develop the most relevant curriculum possible.) Traditional liberal arts universities don’t necessarily have a need for this but technically-oriented schools—TSTC being a prime example—use DACUMs all the time.

Of course, then there was Savannah itself. I had never been here before—and this was a whirlwind trip lasting barely 40 hours—but it’s certainly a beautiful city. (I’m hoping to come back to some day with my wife along so we can take some time and really explore all of its ins and outs.) My hotel was on Bay Street, which is right next to the river, as well as being at the edge of the historical district, so I was able to go on an informal walking tour.

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Both days I ate lunch at the Mardi Gras on Bay, a little hole-in-the-wall place a block from where I was staying. They had a good seafood basket with healthy helpings of fried oysters, one of my all-time favorites, but the best thing was the onion rings, some of the best I’ve ever had.

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Although there were a lot of examples of Victorian architecture, this building at the Savannah College of Design (SCAD) had a low, lean design that I really liked.

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Also, there were small squares scattered throughout the historical district. Most of them had some sort of statue or monument in them with old houses/mansions, many of which had been divided into two or more apartments surrounding them.

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Finally, there were plenty of grand avenues lined with moss-strewn trees.

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To be honest, after standing around for four or five or six hours in an exhibit hall schmoozing (that is, networking) leaves my feet hurting and swollen up like big puffy footballs so that my only desire is to do nothing but hole up in my room with my feet elevated getting caught up on all the cable TV shows I get to watch at home. (Being something of a Luddite at heart in addition to not wanting to pay for cable—then I’d feel obligated to watch TV to get my money’s worth and I mean, really, who wants to feel obligated to watch TV—at home we still have rabbit ears for reception.) But, all in all, given the history and beauty of Savannah, I’m glad that I took the time (and my digital camera) to do some exploring.

Mark

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