San Francisco to Charlotte to Greensboro to Winston-Salem with two hours sleep, arriving at the Conference centre to check in to my room, only to find that I’m not expected. Somehwre along the line, someone at Lenovo (an Australian they tell me) forgot to mention me. So there is no room at the Inn and, as it turns out, no big Conference Participant badge waiting for me. Homeless and without purpose or identity, a very nice woman at the Conference Centre gives me two bananas and a plate of fruit and I resolve that, having waited all my life to visit North Carolina, I need to sort this out. Evetually I find ‘Big Tim’ as he’s called, and he gives me a badge. So all is well.
North Carolina is flat and green with brown tinges. It is fairly manicured and even the steel works is tidy. Devoid of obvious charms, but having many churches, the ride from Greensboro Airport (aka Piedmont Triad – North Carolina’s answer to North Shore City)is humdrum. A moment of excitement as we pass the Cosmetology University (someone look that up on Google please) at which point the R&B Musak (sub-Barry White) CD that the driver is playing – Just Want You To Be My Lady (you know the one, SAlex and Ken) – shifts into five minutes and five miles of aural soft porn moaning and groaning, which whiles away the time.
As we get nearer to the Conference Centre, however, the green trees that have lined the road for 20 miles turn into a ‘leafy’ place – you know, when all the tress look scrubbed and arranged, and you know there are some very rich people hiding behind them. The Conference Centre is behind these leafs and was originally built for the Reynolds family (they made cigarettes) and is wonderful. Designed in the ‘Early 20th century Every Room is a different European Century and Country’ style that was popular in the US in the 1920s, it is in great condition and a lovely place to stay, once I persuade them that I am allowed to stay there. Having checked in I am taken by Mr Parker (the butler sort of person) in a 1950s London Taxi to Wake Forest University (you don’t really belive me, do you)
You may noy have heard of Wake Forest University but it was established six years before the Treaty of Waitangi and is so rich that it has a need-blind policy, ie any one who is good enough can go there, and if you don’t have the money, they give it to you. It has one of those beautiful campuses that appear occasionally in Hollywood movies. Even the students are manicured and scrubbed and neatly arranged on the grass lawns.
I’m there for Lenovo’s Think Tank 2008. Lenovo make ThinkPad laptops and run a ThinkPad University, so I think the three days are about thinking. Thinking of which.. (Enough!: Ed). Lenovo bought out IBM Personal Computers a few years ago and I always think that it was one of the turning points of the early 21st century – who would ever have thought that the Chinese Government would own 21.7% of the great iconoic 20th Century American Company. Talking to some of the Lenovo technical staff who were taken over – all good Bush supporting North Carolinans – they tell me that it was a really good thing. The new managers are excellent and innovative while IBM had beome a creaky bureaucratic giant.
The conference is really about innovation in teaching and learning and so there are some nice toys to play with and some interesting people to meet. I meet someone who runs 77 Catholic Schools in some part of Australia (and who is giving the keynote speech) and, after chatting for an hour, he says ‘That’s really interesting Rob’ pulls out a camera, tells me to talk for two minutes about my views on learning and teaching, and then posts a video of me onto his blog site for all the world to see. All in five minutes.
Clearly two hours of sleep and too much thinking are making me tired … zzzzzzzzzz