Category Archives: Professional Development

ISTE 2010 Snapshots

It seems just about everyone has posted blogs of their thoughts and reflections from the ISTE 2010 Conference in Denver, Colorado. Now it’s my turn. Since it’s difficult to weave all the events, sessions, and conversations into one coherent stream of wisdom or insight, I’m not going to try.  For me, ISTE feels a lot like Twitter in real life.  There is so much to see and so much to do and everything and everyone seems to be coming and going at such a fast pace, it’s like most of my ISTE experiences seemed to happen in short “140 character” bursts.  So instead of a long narrative detailing my experiences, here is a list of  imaginary “tweets” that will hopefully paint a picture of my ISTE experience.

As you can see, for me at least, ISTE is mostly about the people and the conversations.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I depend on these connections to help me learn and grow as a teacher. I love attending a conference that puts so many wonderful educators, tool creators, and subject matter experts in one place.  Don’t get me wrong, the conference sessions were wonderful and packed with information too, but I made it a priority to meet, talk, and learn from those around me. That’s why I spent so much time at the Bloggers Cafe, the poster sessions, and just around the conference and exhibit hall talking with people. I did attend some amazing sessions, and I’m also thankful that many of the ones I missed are archived on ISTEVision. Even though the conference is over, my learning continues.

Rocky Mountain Tech High

Tomorrow I begin my drive to the ISTE Conference. I can’t wait to arrive in Denver and get my “tech high”. I’m really looking forward to all the sessions, workshops and posters, but most of all I look forward to connecting in person with so many awesome educators and tech leaders, many of whom I know only by their twitter avatar.

If you’ve never attended ISTE (formerly known as NECC) it can be a little overwhelming. Even though this is only my third time attending, I have learned a few things from my previous visits. So if I may, let me share…

A Few Words of Advice

  • Absorb all you can where you are and don’t worry about what you’re missing. Once you get to ISTE, you’ll quickly find there is so much to see and do that there’s no way you can possibly get to everything – but that’s okay. So don’t burn yourself out trying to do it all. Just admit there are things you’re going to miss and, say it to yourself right now, “That’s okay.”
  • Be sure to visit the poster sessions. I’ve learned more in ten minutes of one on one conversations at poster sessions than I have in 45 minutes of some regular sessions. Here is your proof of concept. Take some time and learn from teachers who are actually doing the things that so many of the presenters are talking about.
  • Go listen to someone new. (I got this tip from Jen Wagner.) So often I catch myself looking through the catalog at WHO is presenting and making my decisions based on a name. Sure the “big names” are awesome presenters, but take time to look at the session descriptions, find something interesting, and listen to someone you’ve never heard before.
  • Never eat by yourself. Some of best conversations happen over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a great chance to slow down, get to know other people on a more personal level and hear what they have learned.
  • Don’t just be a sponge, also be a watering can. (Another Jen Wagner gem.) You’ve got a lot to contribute. ISTE is about learning, but it’s also about teaching. We’re all teachers, right?
  • Be sure to continue your conversations. The great thing about a tech conference is that you can start a conversation in person and then use any number of web tools to continue it later. Just because the conference ends, doesn’t mean the learning has to end.

Where Will I be at ISTE?

To be honest, I haven’t even looked at the session list or started working on my ISTE planner yet.  I can tell you I will be at the Discovery Pre-Conference event at the Denver Zoo on Saturday the 26th. (I know I’ll be missing EduBloggerCon and I really wanted to go there too – but “that’s okay”.)  On Sunday I signed up to attend the Constructivist Celebration to learn and create with a bunch of amazing teachers. I think there might still be room if you want to sign-up. Between sessions I plan to hang out at the Bloggers Cafe, and after sessions I’m signed up to attend various events hosted by BrainPop, Wikispaces, Gaggle, and a few others.

For now I’m just looking forward to get away for a few days, unplug, and enjoy the drive to Denver. It doesn’t really take 4 days to get there from Southern California, but my Nikon and I have a few side trips planned along the way. If you know me, you know there will probably be a train trip in there somewhere too.  (Keep an eye on my Flickr photostream.)

See you at ISTE.

What I Learned From Twitter This Week

A while back, someone posted a message asking about my favorite teacher. I’m wondering if Twitter might be an acceptable answer. Now I’ve had some amazing teachers in my past and I mean no dishonor or disrespect to them, but when I stop and think about where I’m getting much of what I’m learning right now, I’d have to say that Twitter has been an excellent teacher – or more accurately the group brain of all those I follow on Twitter.

For example, here is just a sample of what I’ve learned this week…

MONDAY
From @imcguy

Thanks Chad. I too really need to take a look at my privacy settings and share this slideshow with others.

From @jgriffith2

I learned that Glogster is a great way to create and share workshop flyers. This sounds much more fun than a plain old Word document or PDF.

TUESDAY
From a retweet by @jasonschmidt123

Will definately have to forward this list to my teachers. Okay, sometimes I’m guilty of a few of these myself.

WEDNESDAY
Busy with meetings and student projects. Didn’t have much time to check Twitter today. It’s sad when I think about all the learning I probably missed. 🙁

THURSDAY
From @kditzler

I spent way too much time this morning squashing flies with this little math game.

Direct Message from @rjacklin

Thanks to Twitter, our 3rd grade was able to video chat with another 3rd grade at Rob’s school near St. Louis. We shared information about our schools and communities. It was a first skype for both classes – and it won’t be the last.

FRIDAY
From @wfryer

I know Steve Jobs says that iPods and iPads will not support Flash, but that didn’t stop a few people from figuring out a way to make it work. Thanks for sharing this. Although until I know for sure that my confidential info was safe, I’d limit use to flash sites that don’t require you enter your username and password.

The All Important Question

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a technology coordinator, tech teacher, technology coach, or for lack of a better title, the guy in charge of making sure our teachers and students are using technology effectively to support curriculum. My workplace is St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, California. We are a K-8 Christian elementary school with approximately 680 students. We are currently finishing year 2 of a 3 year plan to implement 1:1 Tablet PC’s in our middle school. Students in K-5 currently share a single computer lab and also have one student computer in each classroom.

Last week my principal asked me these three questions:

  • How you would like to see instruction change as technology develops?
  • How does it transform instructional strategies?

AND THE ALL IMPORTANT QUESTION…

  • How do we intentionally design and train staff to accomplish the desired outcomes?

This was my e-mail response:

Yesterday I had a teacher share with me that they would really love to have some of “those mini laptops” for their classroom. When I asked why, they excitedly shared their vision of students being able to take STAR Reading, Math, and Accelerated Reader tests whenever they wanted. Seriously, if that’s the only argument for putting technology in the K-5 classrooms then my answer would be a definite “No!”. Computer based assessment is not a transformative use of technology. It’s just using a modern (and expensive) tool to do something we’re already doing.

The ISTE National Technology Standards for Students say that we should be preparing students so they can effectively use technology tools and demonstrate…
1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Communication & Collaboration
3. Research and Information Fluency
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5. Digital Citizenship
6. Technology Operations & Concepts

In my opinion, we are already working on the first step toward transforming our instructional strategies through the process of curriculum mapping. Changing a mindset of “my textbook is my curriculum” to “my curriculum is my curriculum and a textbook is just a resource” is a monumental task. Once this has been accomplished then we can work on identifying lessons and activities that focus on curriculum goals and also meet these six areas of technology proficiency.

Preparing and training our staff to do this will involve tweaking a couple of other mindsets as well. First is that our students need to learn to be good citizens and demonstrate Christian morals and values in two worlds – the real world AND the online world, because they will be living and working in both. Our teachers need to be able to model and teach good digital citizenship to their students. This will involve training in web safety, appropriate use, and how to integrate our Online Behavior Agreement (PDF) into their Christian Learning curriculum and any lessons that involve using technology.

Second we need to help them understand that all learning and knowledge is not limited to the walls of their own classroom. They need to be connecting and collaborating with other people (subject matter experts) and classes outside our school, state, or even country. To do this, teachers need to develop their own Personal Learning Network (PLN) – an online community of professional educators for sharing ideas & lessons, getting support, and working together on projects. This will require moving beyond email and training them to use and integrate online collaborative tools and social networks into their daily life. It will also require some cooperation with our IT Department, convincing them to open up some of the restrictions currently prohibiting such tools. If our staff understands and demonstrates proper use of the tools and can use them effectively to help our students meet the ISTE Standards, this should not be a hard sell.

After we met on Tuesday to discuss this further, I was assigned the task of planning our professional development days for the 2010-2011 school year.

Be careful what you ask for…

(Be warned, I will be calling on my PLN for help with this.)

Not Worth The Hassle

Sometimes it seems like getting anything done on our school network is like being forced to make three left turns in order to go right. I understand filters, firewalls, and proxies are pretty much a necessary evil when using a network at school, but they are also key source of frustration for a teacher trying to work with technology in their classroom – right behind the dreaded “I can’t print”.

At our school we have a “wonderful” (quotes intentional) product called iPrism which serves as our web proxy and Internet filter. Teachers have the ability to override a blocked web site. Students do not. Our IT administration also has the ability to make exceptions for sites that are blocked by the default iPrism filter which updates regularly. This sounds like a fair system and one that should work pretty well. Not always.

The fact is, with many web 2.0 tools, simply allowing or unblocking a site is not always enough. There are issues with firewalls, ports, and other mysterious network authentications and protocols that can take a simple online task and turn it into a complicated process of ridiculous steps and meaningless procedures. Something that should take one click, now takes 3, 4, or 5 clicks and require several proxy authentications just to get it to work. Unfortunately, many teachers give up before they get that far. “It’s just not worth the hassle.”

This is one of my major stumbling blocks in getting our teachers to embrace and use technology tools with their students. Most genuinely want to, but when they try it doesn’t work. I’ll come in their room and explain to them, “Well, if you want it do that, you first have to close this, click here, sign-in here, open that, click here and click OK. Then it should work.”

“Why do I have to do all that?” They ask, looking at me as if I just told them to turn around three times, pat your head and rub your stomach.

“You just do.” I say.

“It’s just not worth the hassle.”

If I may, let me present just a few of my network frustrations. Maybe you’ve run into one or more of these problems yourself.

(By the way, If you have any insight into ways to make these work please leave a comment or e-mail me so I can help our IT troubleshoot these issues.)

Automatic Software Updates – Ever get those little messages when you first start up your computer that Flash or Java are ready to be updated? Even if the computer is properly logged into on to our school domain, these updates do not work. To get them to go, you first have to open Internet Explorer (not Firefox) and go to any web page that is outside our network. After that, you close Internet Explorer and the update will work. Even though the computer is properly logged on to our network, there is something that Internet Explorer does (and Firefox does not) that opens up a connection through the iPrism that then allows these updates to connect through the proxy. What does it do? I don’t know. Is there a way to open this connection automatically when you log on the network. I haven’t found one yet.

Diigo – One morning I discovered that our latest iPrism update had blocked Diigo. I convinced our IT Administrator to make an exception for it so now it works – sort of. I can get to Diigo, look at my library of bookmarked sites, but I cannot create any new bookmarks. When I try, I just get a Diigo Server error.

Discovery Education Streaming – Many of our teachers use Firefox as their default browser, but if they try to watch a streaming clip it won’t play. The workaround for this is the same as the one for automatic software updates above. Close Firefox, open Internet Explorer, go to a random site outside our network, and close Internet Explorer. Go back to Firefox, log into Discovery Streaming, and the video will now play just fine. Even though Firefox is configured to work with our iPrism proxy, Internet Explorer must do something else that opens up a connection for streaming media.

Flash Apps that run in a web browser (ed.voicethread, Glogster Edu, etc.) – These Web 2.0 tools are not blocked, but they don’t completely work either. You can’t always upload images, sounds, video, or other files. It looks like the upload is working but it never finishes. Clearing out the temporary Internet files and cookies will fix this sometimes, but not always. Sometimes uploading only works with Internet Explorer – but not always.

Glogster Edu – has a “Grab” tool that lets you record voice or video directly within the application, but that tool has never worked here at school no matter what browser you’re using. You just get an error saying it can’t connect.

Are these proxy authentication errors? Is our firewall blocking things that these apps need to connect? Why should I have to use Internet Explorer for some sites and Firefox for others? I don’t know. What I do know is if I want our teachers and students to be able to use these tools at school we need to do something to make it easier and more reliable, otherwise I fear using the technology will “not be worth the hassle.”

KISSS my PD

If I had my way, I’d never lead another mandatory, all staff, technology in-service at my school ever again. Simply put, they’re a waste of time and they don’t work. First, there’s a problem with focus. More often than not, the focus of all-staff PD is on the tool, not the curriculum. Second, it implies a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to professional development. Have you ever been in a room full of teachers at an in-service!? If there was ever a more diverse group of learners I have yet to see it. You think your students need differentiated instruction? Teachers need it even more!

That’s why I’ve adopted the KISSS Principle for professional development. Keep it…Small, Short, and Specific.

SMALL – I’m talking small group. Rather than work with a room full, select a single grade level. At my school, that’s 3 teachers. Then, before I start talking, I listen. I listen to find out what they are teaching. What are their learning goals? These answers differ greatly between grade levels and departments.

SHORT – Teachers’ free time is valuable and they get precious little of it. Try to respect that. Rather than one long session, I’ve found it’s better to do short mini-sessions before and after school. Fellow tech educator Suzanne Wesp has a program at her school called “Lunch & Learn” where teachers come in during their lunch for mini lessons.

SPECIFIC – Keep the training specific and focused on the curriculum standard. For me, the first sessions are more just casual conversations where we talk curriculum and I find out what these teachers are doing. Next I come in and demonstrate a “learning tool” or “project” that will help their students meet a specific learning goal or standard. Finally I work with them to develop a lesson that will help their students meet that standard. The goal of the training is to give the teachers something they will use tomorrow or next week. If I can get this lesson into a teacher’s lesson plan book I know I’ve struck gold because once it’s in there, it will likely become a regular part of their classroom curriculum.

Things to remember for successful teacher training:

Focus on the curriculum, not the technology tool. I try not to even use the words “technology” or “Web 2.0” when working with teachers. Instead I use “learning tool” or “web site”. Technology is MY passion, not theirs. Don’t intimidate with terminology.
Be there when they teach the lesson for the first time. This provides that much needed safety net when trying something new. In some cases I’ll even team teach with them, letting the teacher present the curriculum while I show how to use the tool. If I can’t be there, sometimes I’ll create tutorial videos or screencasts for the teacher to use.
Follow-up. Meet with them after the lesson. Discuss how it went. What worked? What didn’t? Discuss and make notes on how it can be improved next time. The important thing here is to make sure there WILL be a “next time”.
Share successes. Rushton Hurley (www.nextvista.org) has said, “Great things are going on in our classrooms and nobody knows about it.” Take time to share great lessons and student work with other teachers. Others might see it and say, “Hey, I can do that!”

“To Infinity and Beyond!”
As teachers use the technology…er…i mean…”learning tools” they will require less and less help from me. Better yet, they become “experts” on using that tool. If I have another teacher that wants to learn it, I can say, “You should go talk to so-and-so. They use that tool all the time with their class.” My long term plan is to develop a network of experts on various tools at my school. Eventually some teachers may even feel comfortable sharing their expertise with others outside our school.

The biggest compliment I think I could ever receive is seeing a teacher that I helped present at a conference. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting close.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Education is a Team Sport
Tutorial Videos? Okay, show me an example. Here you go: PhotoStory Animal Riddles

Morsels from NCCE

Okay, I have to admit I’m a little jealous of people who can attend a conference or workshop and by the time it is over they’ve already written and posted a clean, coherent, and thoughtful blog recap of what was learned and experienced. For me it takes some time to process all that has been received, and even then it’s often difficult to put pen to paper (or text to screen). Maybe that’s why I have such great respect for experienced edubloggers like Wes Fryer.
Even so, it has been a week since I returned from Portland, Oregon and the NCCE Conference, and while it may not be as timely as some bloggers, here are a few morsels that fed my brain last week.

Peer Coaching
This idea of training a team of teachers to design and implement technology rich, standards-based lessons, and then sending them out to coach and train others at their school is nothing new. It keeps the focus where it should be – on the students and the teachers, not the computers and the technology. It makes sure that technology is not used for technology’s sake, but rather with a real learning goal in mind.
In my practice at school, I’ve realized that staff in-services once or twice a year are not nearly as effective as working one-on-one or in small groups to provide “just in time” learning. When a teacher learns how to use a specific tech tool that engages students and helps them achieve a specific learning goal with greater understanding and retention, that teacher sees the value of that tool for learning. Better yet, as that teacher becomes proficient using that tool, they can help their colleagues learn it too.
In Washington state they’ve formalized the process of peer coaching with the help of grants from Microsoft and peer coaching facilitator training through the Puget Sound Center. I think a program like this could really benefit our schools and districts here in Orange County.
In my previous post I shared one example of how this type of mentoring works in the Bend/LaPine School District. I’m really impressed with the work done by these “cadres” of teachers to energize their lessons with technology. Besides I think it just sounds cool to part of a “cadre”. I want to be part of a cadre, or maybe I’ll join an “EdTech Posse”. What do you think?

Mobile Technology in the Classroom
From Karen Fasimpaur I learned about “Using Mobile Technology to Differentiate Instruction” and how podcasts, vodcasts, Palms, cell phones, netbooks, and ebooks can be used to engage students and motivate them to learn. I also got a chance to get my hands on Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. I know I keep saying it’s about the learning and not the thing, but I SO want one of these now. (Is that wrong?)

ISTE’s Classroom Observation Tool
Want to see if technology rich lessons and projects are really helping your students? Download this free tool from ISTE to use as you observe in the classroom. You can use it offline, but data is uploaded to ISTE’s secure server so you can access it from different computers and generate various reports. I asked if ISTE intends to use this data for their own purposes, but was told, “No, they just store it. They don’t use it.” With that in mind, if you use this tool, you still might want to be careful to keep your observations clear of specific names and keep them limited to “just the facts”. I can definitely see benefits to using this tool to record and report the effectiveness of instruction. Now if only ISTE would update it with the 2007 NETS for Students rather than the 1998 version.

Northwest Tech Teacher of the Year
What a pleasure it was to see my friend and fellow DEN STAR, Martha Thornburgh awarded the Northwest Tech Teacher of the Year award. It’s always nice to see someone you know and respect honored for the great job they’re doing. Way to go Martha! If you get a chance, be sure to check out her “Give Math a Voice” presentation and Voicethread.


Blog author with Northwest Tech Teacher of the Year, Martha Thornburgh, and StormChaser Reed Timmer. Photo courtesy of Martha Thornburgh.

Storm Chaser
The DEN came through for me again, this time giving me and other Discovery Educators an opportunity to meet and talk with Reed Timmer of StormChasers. His passion for science, math, and meteorology is demonstrated in his fascination for getting up close and personal with tornadoes and other violent storms. I was also surprised to learn that in addition to storm chasing, he’s also working on his PhD! Is this guy brilliant or totally nuts? Perhaps a little of both. Thanks Reed for inspiring my students, and thanks Discovery for this wonderful opportunity!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

ITSC is small compared to other state or regional conferences – only about 400 attendees – but I really like how they put it together. The three hour workshops really encourage conversation and allow time for reflection. It’s also a great opportunity to hear and interact with some pretty amazing presenters on a more intimate level. Having access to these presenters both during and outside of their sessions is a real treat and facilitates some great conversations.
Speaking with Jennifer Arns, the Program Director, I learned that at ITSC they really want schools and districts to attend in teams and they provide teams with time to meet and discuss what has been learned periodically throughout the conference. This time to process what has been learned and brainstorm how it can be applied is quite valuable and unfortunately pretty unique in educational conferences. The fact that they can actually get this many teachers to take their President’s Day weekend to attend speaks to the importance these educators place on using technology tools to improve instruction.

Here are some thoughts from sessions and conversations:

Cell Phone Digital Storytelling – Wes Fryer
I’ve created podcasts from my cell phone using GCast, but another tool called Gabcast adds the ability to post from not just MY cell phone, but ANY phone.

With this tool, teachers can create multiple channels for different classes, then give students the phone number and access code so they can just call in and record their thoughts & stories, posting them to the class podcast. At our tables we brainstormed how this could transform a class field trip by directing students to use their cell phones to take pictures at certain locations and record and post their thoughts on what they see, what they experience, and what they learn. These images and audio files are captured “on location”, and can later be combined into digital stories using any number of media tools.
The best part? There’s no need for the school to supply students with expensive camera or recording equipment, most already have what they need to collect their stories.

Historical Documentaries – Jennifer Gingerich
Using familiar tools like PhotoStory3, iMovie, and GarageBand, students take “digital kits” and use them to create documentaries from periods in history. Jennifer worked with our group to create a pretty impressive Ellis Island story in just a matter of minutes. She also shared student created Oregon Trail diaries. These documentaries are written in first person, using images from the kit, or photos taken of students in costume with a sepia tone effect to give an “antique” look.
The digital kits contain music, photos, citations and other components needed to create the stories. For the students, the focus is not on teaching them how to find pictures or make videos, but seeing how well they know the content and can tell a story. The emphasis is on writing and historical accuracy. The advantage of digital stories over a written report? Stories not only capture the facts of the time period, but give kids an opportunity to put themselves in the place of these people and consider what they must have thought and how they must have felt – connecting them to the history on an emotional level rather than just a factual one.

Wii Whiteboard – John Sperry
I’ve seen Johnny Lee’s video on YouTube, but here I got to actually see, feel, and try it out for myself. John Sperry from Springfield, Oregon demonstrated how easy and inexpensive it is to make your own interactive whiteboard using a Wii Remote. Time to dust off my soldering iron and go into project mode. I may have to take John up on his offer and send him a empty Expo marker so he can transform it into an infra-red pen.

Bend/LaPine School District – Amy Lundstrom
Amy Lundstrom is a technology program developer for Bend/LaPine School District. She’s also the one that suggested I take an extra day or two to attend this conference. I’m so glad she did.
Speaking with her between conference workshops I learned how she is working with teams of teachers in her district, facilitating development of standards-based lessons that integrate technology. One unusual thing they do is give teachers an opportunity to observe their own class during one of these lessons. Through this “Lesson Study” program, members of these teams take turns teaching and observing each other’s classes. The purpose of these observations is to determine 1) Do all students have access to the content being taught? 2) Did technology help students acheive the standard? In addition to observing the whole class, the classroom teacher can identify specific students in their own class to be observed. Observers are directed to be “human video cameras” noting how these students act during class and determining if those actions indicate motivation. After class, these students’ work product is also evaluated. This program gives classroom teachers a unique insight into how particular students are affected by these newly developed lessons and technology tools. Ultimately it helps these teachers become more comfortable and confident planning and implementing technology infused lessons with their classes.

The NECC Buffet – Part 3

Part 3: Dessert!

Remember to save room for dessert? No trip to the buffet would be complete without it. Forget about counting calories – just dive in! My favorite part of a buffet is the dessert and my favorite part of the NECC buffet was the opportunity to spend time and have fun with some amazing people. I’ll have to admit that one of my primary reasons for attending was to renew friendships with many of the Discovery Educators I met at the DEN National Institute last year. Just knowing that these people would be in San Antonio made my first NECC experience a lot less intimidating.

In addition to spending time with DEN friends, I was delighted to meet many others I only knew online through Twitter, the Discovery Educator Network, or Second Life. I owe a big thanks to Anne Truger and Tom Turner (both NECC veterans) for helping me make connections and friendships with some wonderful tech educators. My personal learning network continues to grow.

Hats Off To Discovery
If one group has done more than any other to help me connect, grow, and learn it would be the folks at Discovery. I like to think of Scott, Steve, Hall, Lance, Matt, Joe, Brad, Justin, and of course mother-to-be Jannita as good friends and education professionals who just happen to work for an awesome company. The DEN event at Enchanted Springs Ranch was yet another opportunity to learn, connect, and have fun with other teachers. Here I finally got to meet Martha Thornburgh, a teacher I’ve collaborated with online but never met in person. Thanks DEN.
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Teachers That Play Together…
Not only is NECC an a great opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with other teachers on a professional level, its also a great place to play together as well. And play we did! As I mentioned in my previous post, its all about relationships. I feel so fortunate that I had a chance to meet and get to know teachers like Lee “@Teachakidd” Kolbert, Darcy White, Tim Childers, Chad “IMC Guy” Lehman, and the infamous Riptide Furse! It was fun to get pulled out onto the dance floor by Anne Truger & Teryl Magee, to find out what SL’s Lori Abrahams is doing in RL, and to catch up with fellow “Academic Excursion” cruisers Jennifer Gingerich, Elaine Plybon, Tanya Gray, Heather Hurley, and of course Howard Martin – the voice of Igneous Rock himself. I really hope that we can keep communication open through Skype, Twitter, and other online tools.

The Jen W Factor
Finally, I need to share another NECC treat on my dessert tray. Even though Jen Wagner was not able to attend NECC, she was busy at home Ustreaming, Skyping, and using any other means possible to connect to the conference. For me, having Jen there virtually was like having a little Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder guiding me through my first national conference. I really appreciated her reminders to, “Make sure you go and see a presentation from someone you don’t know”, and “Don’t just be a sponge, also be a watering can.” Jen helped alert me to opportunities I shouldn’t miss and people I should try to meet. It was my pleasure to be a small part of the crew that helped keep her connected to the conference. I still have fun telling people she sat on my lap during Jakes & Shareski’s “One Hour Power Point” session. Thanks Jen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Shareski on Flickr (Modified by Me)

Lessons Learned
Just writing these last three blog entries have helped me review and organize many of the things I learned at NECC this year, but if I had to pick one major lesson I learned it would be this: “Its not what you use its how you use it.” This message is nothing new of course, but it was reinforced while talking to teachers and visiting the poster sessions over my 5 days at NECC. We are blessed with an abundance of technology tools at my school in Orange, CA. It was humbling to see how some teachers are doing more with so much less. Therefore I’m resolved this year to do my best and make the most out of the technology we’ve been given and use it to help our students become powerful thinkers, creators, and problem solvers.

That’s about it. Thanks for taking time to read about my NECC buffet experience. There’s so much more I would have liked to try. I’ll definately have to make it back for NECC next year in Washington DC. I’m sure my plate will once again be piled high with great presentations and conversations. Then again, maybe I’ll skip all that and just go for the dessert.

Can I offer anyone a “wafer thin mint”? 🙂

The NECC Buffet – Part 2

Part 2: The Entree

The Entree is the reason you go to the buffet in the first place. It’s the main course of the meal. Here’s where you pile your plate high with everything you like or have been been dying to try.

For many people the concurrent sessions at NECC were their entree. That was not the case for me. The main reason I attended NECC was for the conversations – the chance to talk and exchange ideas with other technology educators. This is why a arrived (at the buffet) in San Antonio a day early to attend EduBloggerCon 2008 so I could have an extra day to engage in conversations.

PHOTO CREDIT: by elemenous on Flickr (Modified by Me)
Between EduBloggerCon, the Bloggers Cafe, and random meetings throughout the convention center, my NECC experience was filled with great idea exchanges and brainstorming. Here are a few morsels I brought home with me.

Why Didn’t I Think of That?
After any professional development, Kevin Honeycutt sets out a “buffet” of laminated key tags – just like those grocery store club tags. Each one lists a tool that was discussed on one side and a web site address for that tool on the other. Under the web site is the name of a school or district contact who has agreed to serve as a mentor to support teachers and help them learn to use that tool.

Think of these like collectors cards for all your professional development topics. Kevin discovered that his teachers like to collect tags and will even trade them with other teachers. It even becomes a little competitive as teachers try to see who can collect the most tags. Besides, “If you laminate it, teachers won’t throw it away.”

Virtual Class Pets
Real class pets teach kids responsibility. Virtual pets can do the same and also help them learn responsibility and good online habits. Maria Knee uses a Webkin as a virtual class pet. Kids take turns caring for their class webkin, decorating it’s house, doing chores, earning Kinzcash to buy new things, and communicating with other Webkins. Along the way they’re learning to be good online citizens. Guess I’ll have to work making an exception for this site on our school web filter.

We All Scream for Ustream!
Strangely enough, one of the best sessions I attended at NECC, I attended virtually. I caught most of Chris Lehmann’s School 2.0 session from the Global Connections lounge and followed along with backchannel chat as well. Chris did a great job demonstrating how to build a collaborative unit plan with audience participation. Participating in the chat and sitting a few feet away from me in the lounge was Jeff Utecht. As an added bonus, after the session I was able to talk with him and learn how he uses Google Apps for Education at his school in Shanghai.

Meaningful Change
How does it happen? Rushton Hurley led this discussion at EduBloggerCon. What an amazing opportunity to meet and share with other Edubloggers! The topic: What needs to be done at the school/classroom level to bring about a meaningful change in day-to-day learning?

PHOTO CREDIT: Teachandlearn on Flickr

If we’re right, and technology has the potential to change learning from passive to active, we can’t simply bemoan being inundated by complacency, what do we do?
– Rushton

Everyone at NECC seems to have a passion and energy for technology & learning, but that excitement loses something when you try to bring it back home to your school. In my opinion, it’s all about having conversations and developing relationships with your teachers. Identify those who have a passion, whether or not it’s a technology passion, and partner with them. Help them take that first step. Celebrate their successes. When things go wrong, help them figure out what to do better next time. To ensure that the change is permanent, its important that teachers see added value the technology brings to the project, but its also important that you make it inconvenient for them to go back to doing things the old way. This is where an administration can help by defining policies that take the “old way” option out of the equation. Even if you don’t have administrative support you can encourage change by publicizing student success and work products among parents and the community. Once word gets out that this is the type of work being done in their class, it puts a little social pressure on the teacher to keep these technology projects going.

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?
There were many other conversation morsels at NECC. Unfortunately that’s what they were – morsels. My NECC plate was so full that I regret not having time to really sit down and enjoy a full portion of some conversations. “Let’s talk more later,” was a recurring phrase. Too bad the conference ended before many of these “laters” came about. Thankfully we have online tools so I can go back for seconds.

NEXT POST: Part 3 – Dessert!

OTHER PHOTO CREDITS: Keytags (www.edubloggercon.com/Web+2.0+Smackdown)