Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Savannah’s Big Question

Amy and I decided to take the kids to Mount Trashmore for the 4th of July fireworks display on Saturday night. It was a great day, clear and cool for early July. We arrived early and parked far away for a quick exit from the area once the show was over, a la Clark Griswold.

We climbed to the top of the hill and the kids chased a finger rocket back and forth.

We had noticed earlier that Bob McDonnell was talking to people around the park. We just kept on walking. While we sat watching the kids play, Amy and I noticed that the “McDonnell Group” was moving around. We jokingly told Savannah that she needed to go ask Bob McDonnell how he was going to get teachers pay raises so we could go to Disney World again.

We snickered and remarked to each other how very humorous we are, but Bob and his entourage continued to move, and they headed in our direction. Before we knew it, he was right in front of us. I whipped out my cell phone and quickly captured the following video.

Surprisingly, Savannah did not freeze and forget her question. In case you missed what she said, it was, “How are you going to get teachers a raise?”

He had a good prepared answer for her, but what I thought was great is that he got down on one knee to speak to her. He made eye contact with her, not the adults, and tried to respectfully talk to her. I am sure that much of what he said went right over her head, but most adult questions have adult answers. In any case, it is rare to see adults act that way around children, usually they are polite but dismissive.

I understand that he is a politician and that his behavior was not completely exceptional in the way he spoke to Savannah, but as her father, I was impressed.

It was a great day at the park that ended with some fantastic fireworks. And now, thanks to Bob McDonnell, we have a nice family story to tell and retell for years.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Hunt

My first NECC was a wonderful experience. I did not show up with an agenda to fill, but I did have the seemingly manageable goal of meeting some people I follow on Twitter. The social service Twitter has become the backbone of my personal learning network and I feel very close to many of the people I follow, both personally and professionally.

Just because I feel close to a person doesn’t mean this feeling is shared, and of course there is always that fine line that separates a loose association with another person from being labeled a stalker. As difficult as this balance is to strike, I was determined to meet these people that I have come to admire. Having provided me with valuable resources and a never ending supply of great ideas, I wanted to introduce myself and try to express my appreciation for their willingness to share their lives, in 140 characters or less, with little old me.

Early on Sunday, I spotted Liz B. Davis as she was hurrying down the hall to something important. This is not surprising as NECC is filled with many important meetings, sessions, and opportunities for food. I resisted the urge to chase after her, and felt ridiculous standing there with absolutely no plan in mind.

I have been accused of being a face poser, or someone who has a Twitter picture that doesn’t look like them in real life. The picture that I use (top left corner of this page) does look like me if I have facial hair, wear stupid 3D glasses, and take my own picture with camera while making a silly face. I chose this picture because it does best represent the silliness that is within me. The problem is that I look more like the picture below. So tracking down my Twitter friends is difficult because from their perspective, some strange guy is trying to get their attention…

Having this first “attempt” at meeting a Twitter friend go so poorly, I thought that maybe I should just be more bold and step up the plate and get it done. What did I have to lose?

My next attempt at meeting someone from my list happened on the vendor floor. I saw Angela Maiers not 15 feet away from me, walking away. I shouted her name out, and she stopped and turned to me. Only then did I realize my mistake. Ms. Maiers is a very attractive woman, and I locked up like a deer in headlights. I think I may have mumbled my name and that I followed her on Twitter, I don’t really remember, but I am sure that my conversation skills deteriorated rapidly from there. She was polite and skillfully broke off contact with me, and I knew I had ruined a chance to just be a respectable adult.

Up to this point, my lack of social skills had turned my, “Twitter Hunt” into,” Twitter Crash and Burn.” As a teenager I learned that having a wingman could always help me to bridge the social gaps that I alone could not fill. The problem at NECC was not that I didn’t have friends to pick up my slack and help me to reach my goal, it was more that with a variety of interests and opportunities we did not stick together during the day.

Fred Delventhal is actually someone who I knew from my experiences in Second Life (SL) as Riptide Furse. My first meeting at NECC with Fred was brief, but I was able to follow it up later at a Tweet Up. This seemed more appropriate to me as we both had a beer and was similar to a time we had in SL drinking virtual beer and falling over on the floor. Good times!

Having met Scott Merrick in SL as well, I was delighted that he said that he was giving out free hugs at NECC on his Oh! Virtual Learning blog. This was the friendly, warm opening I was looking for! No pressure for the socially inept such as me. Now all I had to do was track him down and I could cross him off my list. Luckily for me, he was not hard to find. All I had to do was visit the Second Life Playground for a few minutes and I got my hug!

The one person that I most wanted to meet was Kevin Jarrett. After first reading his blog a couple of years ago, I realized how little I had achieved in a similar position in my own school. My friends who have heard me speak of him have even accused me of having a bromance, or man crush, on Mr. Jarrett. While this term offends me, it is probably an accurate portrayal.

At an ISTE meeting in SL in my early days in-world, I was waiting for a speaker to begin and Kevin was handling the security- making sure everyone had their microphones off. My mic was stuck in the on position somehow (these things happen in SL), and I may have yelled at my kids or something, saying, “Stop it! Get out of the kitchen!” or something similar. I was very upset when Kevin instant messaged me asking me to turn my mic off or he would be forced to boot me off the island. The last thing I wanted was to have him kick me off ISTE Island!

I spotted Kevin early on Monday at the Blogger’s CafĂ©. He was talking to some people and I just didn’t want to interrupt. Plus, considering how my earlier attempts at Twitter friend contacts had failed, I was feeling even more self-conscious. I ended up walking away.

Monday night I was surprised to get a Direct Message (DM) from KJarrett saying he was looking for me! Yes, it was kind of thrilling. I couldn’t imagine that he would even know me. Now it was on!

Wednesday morning I was collecting my things to make a quick departure from the D.C. area when who should I see coming up the opposite escalator from me? Yes, I would be just feet away from Kevin Jarrett in the middle of the two escalators’ path. Feeling emboldened by his DM, I shouted down the escalator to him, exchanged a few words, and briefly shook hands with Mr. Jarrett. Awesome! I was able to leave the conference happy.

There were quite a number of people that I did not get a chance to see in person, or attempt to meet. Cathy Nelson was someone I really wanted to meet. She was very nice to me once, and I just wanted to thank her in person for her kindness. But, it was not to be…

If I were to rate my Twitter friend hunting skills, I would have to say C or C-. As badly as I mishandled some encounters, and couldn’t locate some of the people on my “who I want to meet list,” I did have a couple of successes. Perhaps in the future I will perfect my social skills, or just pay a silver tongued wingman to hang out with me the whole time I am at a big time educational technology conference.