(Almost) all our content from 2006 to 2017 is archived and available online under a Creative Commons license. Please read this post from June 2018 for more background and updates about our conference and current status.
2006 - Keynote

PRE-CONFERENCE KEYNOTEDerailing Education: Taking Sidetrips for Learning

David Warlick
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Twitter: @dwarlick

Presentation Title

Derailing Education: Taking Sidetrips for Learning

David Warlick is a 30 year educator, author, blogger, and Web 2.0 programmer. Since 1981, he has been using information and communication technologies to help people learn, young and old. When his school could not afford any software for it’s computers, he taught himself to program and wrote award-winning instructional games, before computers could even display in color. His blog postings are read around the world, and his free online web tools are accessed millions of times a week. At heart, David Warlick is a teacher, with a contagious passion and enthusiasm for helping people discover a brand new world of teaching and learning.
David blogs at http://2cents.davidwarlick.com/
and podcasts at http://connectlearning.davidwarlick.com./


Originally posted on:

Hello and welcome to the k12 Online Conference!


It is a great honor to be delivering the keynote address for this, the first K12 conference of this type. I must admit a certain amount of discomfort with my experience in doing this. First of all, I am not happy performing into technology. I can feel quite at ease speaking to 5000 people in a conference hall. But sitting and speaking into my camera does not come at all naturally to me. I thought it might help to take my camera out of my office and into public places, but, nope that didn’t help at all. You judge!

The second reason why I am not taking readily to this arrangement is that I really like teaching people. I like the energy that arises from a group of people who are learning something new or thinking about something in a new way. It is an electricity that hums in my ears, and the electricity of my video camera in hand, does not hum to me.

Still, we teach and we learn in order to accomplish our goals — our personal goals, our community goals, and our planetary goals. ..and the landscape within which we must teach and learn has changed dramatically in just the last few years. Therefore, we all must learn new skills, learn to think about our work in new ways, and to redefine what it is to be a teacher. I am no longer merely one who stands and teaches. I am also an information artisan, creating and crafting learning experiences that bring knowledge, skill, and joy. — and I hope to get better at it 😉

Traditional conferences act like traditional teaching and learning experiences. I face you. You face me. You all face in the same direction. In this conference we are not only facing in different directions, and not only in different locations, but you are reading this blog and watching my keynote at different times. We are free from what Chris Anderson calls the tyranny of locality (Anderson 17). You’ll spend some time paying attention to me and others, but the best part of this conference will be the time that you are reflecting on what you see, hear, and read, and then writing in your blogs and populating wikis, and then reading other people’s reflections, and reacting. This conference is not as much about teaching and learning as it is about building new knowledge.
Here are some links that may be useful to you:

  • K12 Online Conference Hitchhikr — A page where you can read blog entries posted about this conference.
  • K12 Online Conference Blog Tagger — This tool will help you generate Technorati tags for your blogs that will make it much easier for you to have your blogs accessible to other conference attendees.
  • My Keynote Wiki — Here you can register yourself to the wiki page and generate your own conference notebooks for taking notes during the various presentations and conversations. Through this wiki page, your notes will be available to others — and visa-versa.

Ya’ll have a wonderful Conference

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail. New York: Hyperion, 2006.


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  2. Mark Ahlness

    Oh my goodness, David – your keynote is incredible! I am sitting at my teacher desk (at this moment in time), prepping for a week, and you’re out there at the train station, talking about time and information… Thanks for all you are doing – wonderful! – Mark

  3. Jeff Utecht

    You were there then, I am here now!

    David, you are so creative. Great work!

    So while Mark was sitting at his teacher desk, I was lying in bed with my wife watching the first half of the keynote. We then woke up this morning and watched the second half on the bus (downloaded it to my computer) on the way to work. Information today does not know time, it sits and waits for you, and when you are ready, it is ready for you.

    This is the exact reason why you can get college credit for attending this conference anytime between now and Dec. You do not need to be here now, you can be here then. This is a unique and amazing opportunity, I’m glad to be a part of it.

    So where were you when you watched David’s keynote?

    Can’t wait for the conversation 7am (China Standard Time) Oct. 17, 2006

  4. Scott S. Floyd

    That was an awesome experience, folks. Thank you so much for all of your hard work. It is going to be an exciting next few weeks. I hope my brain holds out for all of the new learning that is going to happen.

  5. Graham Wegner

    Hi David, I still have to watch the second half of your keynote – but I worked it would be available for download at 9.30 pm last night here Adelaide, Australian time and set my newly upgraded wireless connection to work. Absolutely fantastic and I am definitely going to use this as part of an organised K12 staff PD session – it will look pretty cool on an interactive whiteboard. The line up of expertise for this conference is awesome, you could never assemble so many top line educators for one conference if it wasn’t online. The fact it hasn’t been done before means that no-one has a preconceived notion of what a presentation should look like and the sky’s the limit. David does that beautifully by creating something not possible in a traditional keynote – this is going to be great!

  6. Quentin D'Souza


    There was a different type of humour in your keynote: How many keynote speakers get interupted by a little old lady, while delivering in the local greenway … David that was hilarious! You are obviousily a man with patience.

    The presentation was great. I’m hoping that the conference, and the theme of your keynote, with the direction off the rails, will also provide some interesting models for realistic implementation throughout the conference.

    I’m excited!!

  7. Cathy Nelson

    My music teacher (I am an LMS at an elementary school) came into the library for help on using the multibay cd/dvd burner. I was listening to the keynote. He was SO IMPRESSED, he needed the URL so he could download and listen too. It was awesome David, and thanks for making it very interesting. MY personal favorite was the interruption by the mature lady (and other??) who just flat out admitted they were being nosey, but were obviously impressed. I’m sure you were the talk of their supper that night.

  8. Glenn E. Malone

    Enjoying this keynote from home after a long day at work…now 8:30 pm …I’m a derailed elementary principal in Washington State. I’m excited about the conference…Great Job David!

  9. Nancy Scofield

    All I can say is WOW! I have only heard about half of the keynote presentation so far, but it is WONDERFUL! It’s downloading to my iPod now so that I can take it with me to school tomorrow.

    This conference already has me amazed. I feel like a little kid waiting just a few more days for Christmas to arrive…the countdown to the main gig continues.

    David, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas so clearly. Bravo!

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  11. Jeff Whipple, Technology Mentor, Nashwaaksis Middle School, Fredericton, NB, Canada

    Bravo David!

    The first time I saw/met you was in a formal conference environment. You were excellent, rekindling an enthusiasm for learning and the immense potential these tools have in our classrooms (Just ask any of my colleagues – they hear it every day!!).

    But this time…it was even more special…even though you were there then and I was here now (and I watched half yesterday here at school and the other half late last evening at home) this keynote had an innate sense of intimacy. The way you moved around to illustrate and convey ideas, it reminded me of how my kids send video clips to tell their stories to their Grannie who lives three hours away. It was personal and a truly amazing learning experience. I only wish I could have particpated last night.

    What a GREAT idea for a conference. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a valuable place for the traditional conference (where else can we share a beer or two together??!!), but this experiment will surely take its place in the repertoire of learning essentials.

    I have been peddling the conference to our staff. I’ll be interested to hear their thoughts.

    On top of all this, after being an avid consumer of your blog (and a few others) and promoter of learning-based blogs in our school, your enthusiasm has encouraged me to finally take up blogging on a personal/reflective (professional development) basis.

    Thanks, eh?,

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  13. Wesley Fryer


    I liked your challenge for educators to stop acting like immigrants and start acting like natives. I think this is right on target, and I really like the metaphor to language learning and acquisition. I can relate to this as a Spanish language learner. At some point a new mindset is needed for the language learner, when they even stop thinking in the old language and start thinking in the new one. This is a huge jump, but I think it really defines “fluency” when it comes to language. This is what we need to do in the digital environment as well, I think. We need to think as well as teach digital.

    I also loved the railway metaphor, and the idea that information does not travel in rows. I think we have kidded ourselves for years thinking that learning could and should take place in a hierarchical, top down and linear process. I think learning has always been more dynamical and chaotic than linear, but the information environment today empowered by the hyperlink makes that even more apparent– and concretely visible.

    Thanks so much for sharing such great insights, and getting our conference off to an outstanding start!

  14. Andrew Pass

    David, I’m particularly impressed with the fact that you began your talk by stating that you are not comfortable yet with this form of teaching. The way I see it that’s the sign of a great teacher, somebody’s who’s willing to continuously learn. As teachers we need to continue to stress the importance of learning to our students. When they see us trying to learn something new it is far more powerful than anything we could say. I”m very much looking forward to more of this conference.

    Andrew Pass

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  16. Laura B. Fogle

    I was less than 50 miles away from where David created it when I was watching the keynote. Yet I was able to watch it after attending an open house night at my children’s elementary school, getting them tucked into bed, making their lunches for tomorrow and laying out their outfits for picture day.

    That is the beauty of Web 2.0. It comes to you when you are ready. And yet, I feel that its full power eludes me. I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and six years as a computer technical support engineer, one year as a programmer. Yet, I haven’t gotten the RSS feed from my blog working the way I want. I don’t have Technorati tags on it, but I don’t really get how they work. How do we expect teachers, who are up to all hours grading papers and preparing lessons after THEY get home from open house and put their kids to bed, to figure this stuff out? We have to push to make it less cumbersome. The tools have to become more user friendly.

    David, thanks for the links that will help me further down the road of Web 2.0.

  17. Charlene Chausis

    Wahoo David!
    I just want to “get in line” and thank you for your very creative presentation and terrific story telling! Thanks for including the “senior” guests!! They are so sweet and brought a very human element to your message!

    Interesting how many of us watched your pre-conference message in more than one sitting… me included! As Jeff U. said, it’s wonderful that technology can “wait” until we are ready.

    I had the opportunity to present a workshop today on “Emerging Technologies That Are Changing ‘What and How’ Students Learn” to our admin team. (Actually, “you” presented this workshop for me!) I attended the Eluminate chat and watched your keynote last night and knew that I had to include your message. This, plus the “Did You Know” presentation from Karl Fisch (which you also inspired) gave my admin team plenty to think about!

    I thank you, and all the folks who have worked so hard to spread this very important message…. what a great time to be an educator …. what a great time to be a student!! Wow!

  18. Bob Sprankle

    Outstanding, David! Your “documentary/reflection” is on the level of Ross McElwee’s work (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0568478/) (another N. Carolinian, btw).

    I love the whole metaphor of “leaving the rail”… the conversations, the learning is now happening on these “side trips” more and more. Certainly it’s been that way for me for the past two years—where I’ve received more and higher quality prof. development in my car (with Podcasts) than previously in my 11 yr. career.

    Kudos and thank you!

    Bob Sprankle

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  24. Wade Bosworth

    I have been struggling to find time to finish the keynote address. I have started and stopped many times at different times throughout the day – interrupted by students, my family, etc. I also found myself going back and reviewing parts of the address to let it sink in. This was the magical part of this online conference – engagement that transcends time and space – very appropriate to David’s introduction. I downloaded the keynote to my MacBook Pro so I could travel with it. I have “spent time” with David in my classroom, on my back porch, and in my bedroom. What other conference can offer that level of intimacy?

    I have heard the concept of learn, unlearn, and relearn before but hearing it again affirmed what I am currently doing in my physics classroom. I think the way we tackle things using inquiry and technology that supports the process creates the type of graduate that David refers to. I took bits of David’s keynote and shared them with my AP physics students. We have a discussion area for our class and they reflected on what was said. I’ll share some of their comments in a later post.

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  31. Diane Hammond

    I started typing my apology to the group for arriving late at this conference, (picture me tip-toeing in through the door at the back of the room, glancing around, looking for a free seat – they’re all at the front, I can’t interrupt by just walking up there…), and I realized, there is no “late”. No apologies are needed! David, as you pointed out at the beginning of your talk the “here, there, then, now” doesn’t matter. I’m accessing the information in “my” here and “my” now.

    David, as many others have mentioned, I too really appreciated your train metaphor. Let me share with you some of my sidetrips from your main line:

    -I was immediately engaged by your warm, informal style and knew I was hooked for an evening of exploration. So I hit the pause button, made a hot chocolate, pulled up a comfy ottoman and settled in.
    -I opened a new tab in my browser to have a look at the wiki you set up as you were describing it. I scanned the list of your session attendees who had set up wiki pages. I hit pause again to check some of those out.
    I read the wikis of people I know or have encountered on listservs, at conferences etc. and then started working my way through the wikis created by Canadian educators. (I had no idea there would be such good “attendance” by educators in my own province). I noticed your responses on many of those wiki pages and discovered that I’d been thinking of wikis as products, not finished products, but products just the same. I hadn’t thought of wikis as conversations.
    -Back to listening again, this time to how to make our blogs available to other people. I opened another tab to have a closer look at hitchhikr. Neat tool! I hit pause again, generated tags on hitchhiker and opened another tab to visit one of my own blogs (Ontario Blogs). I edited one of my posts so I could paste in the tags I’d generated in hitchhikr. It worked great…I didn’t know I could do that.
    -Back to listening again…

    And on it went for three hours! I listened, explored, tried things out, reflected and joined the conversation. My here…my now…my journey…

    Thanks for the ticket!


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  37. Michael Richards


    I watched your keynote back in October and took a lot from the messages you provided. I just watched it again for the K12 Online Course and found new things to take away from it. I’m curious how it would play in a couple of years as the technology evolves the way information is delivered and processed.

    This summer I’m going to keep a mindful eye on providing more opportunities for my students to take the sidetrips so the journey is more than the final destination.

    Thank you.

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  41. bobe_logan

    That was an awesome experience, folks. Thank you so much for all of your hard work. It is going to be an exciting next few weeks. I hope my brain holds out for all of the new learning that is going to happen.

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