Transformation and collaboration were the central ideas of the 2008 National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in San Antonio, which kicked off June 29 with a call to fundamentally change education and continued with several other sessions that repeated this theme.

Hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), NECC is the largest educational technology conference in North America. Now in its 29th year, the conference brought together more than 12,000 educators and school administrators from around the world to network, share successful ed-tech strategies, and learn from their colleagues.

And in keeping with the theme of this year’s event–“Convene, Connect, and Transform”–ISTE President Trina J. Davis opened the conference by challenging attendees to really transform education through the use of technology, not just layer technology onto traditional instructional practices.

After a local high school mariachi band put conference-goers in a festive mood, Davis struck a more serious note when she described five ways attendees could make a difference in their schools:

1. Become powerful advocates for change. Regardless of who inhabits the White House next year, educational technology must play a more prominent role in our national education policy, Davis said–and educators should do everything they can to ensure that it does.

2. Share your knowledge and your passion. Help others take steps to ensure their growth as teachers, Davis said–so they can help students grow as learners.

3. Showcase your work, and students’ work, in innovative ways. Invite parents and community leaders into your schools, Davis said–or take students’ projects to them with the help of podcasts and other technologies.

4. Dream big. Have high expectations for your students, Davis said, because the possibilities that educational technology offers are “endless.”

5. Use all of the resources available to you as you try to effect change. These include ISTE’s many online resources, such as the group’s National Educational Technology Standards and its research-based reports.

“Collectively, we can have a real impact around the globe and be effective change agents,” Davis concluded.

Speaking of having an impact, keynote speaker James Surowiecki–author of the best-selling book The Wisdom of Crowds–explained to attendees how it could be that the collective decision-making ability of a diverse group of people can be smarter and more effective than the very brightest of these people individually.