Presenting For the First Time … Again

Back in the days before I was a teacher and before I was a mom, I was a computer programmer & designer and wrote business applications for a variety of different industries. Part of what I did during that time was to develop “train the trainer” classes and presentations. I would travel to various offices and train the people that would actually be training our customers or train the sale people who would be selling the software. Sometimes these were hands on classes and other times they were short presentations on the software. I also attended trade shows and technology conferences and would put on demonstrations of our software for people who visited our booth.

So, I had presented before but I had never presented at an educational conference – that is until the T.E.L.L. Conference on October 9th.

Last year, I attended this conference and decided this year that it was my turn to share at this conference rather than just attending again. I debated what I would present but since I had spent quite a bit of time during the summer learning online with a variety of free resources I thought something about being a lifelong learner for free would be a good subject to cover. I know at my school there is little (if any) money for conferences or other forms of professional development and I’m sure that we’re not the only school where this is the case.

With my subject decided, I collected resources into a Live Binder and created a presentation in PowerPoint and ran through the presentation until I knew the material. Did this make everything go exactly as I planned? Well, not exactly:

  • Most of the attendees at my session did not have laptops or even cell phones with texting ability so there went my techie interactive question. I should have known this would be the case and not planned on using an online tool but I think at least one person in the session thought it was a fun.
  • For some reason my sound driver decided that it was corrupt the morning of the conference, so there went the video I was going to use to introduce YouTube and how you can learn anything on YouTube.
  • I had too much material for the length of the session. I wasn’t sure how many questions I would get so I planned more material than I would need – too much more. Next time I’ll remember less is more – I feel I really rushed some things and would have liked to have had more time at the end for additional questions. I wonder if Prezi would have been a better choice for presenting since it’s not as linear as PowerPoint and may have been better for skipping things as time ran out? I have never been able to wrap my head around Prezi but I think I need to look at it again.

I enjoyed the experience and hope to present at more conferences in the future. I have debated throwing my hat into the ring for the CUE LA Tech Fair but I see you have to bring your own projector (which I don’t have) and I’m not sure where my presentation idea would fit into the Curricular Areas on the Presenter Registration Form. Maybe I’ll think about the CUE OC Technology Festival instead.

In addition to presenting, I also attended the keynotes and some sessions at T.E.L.L. ’10 – I love being able to share something I’m passionate about and learn something on the same day. It doesn’t get much better and here were some of the highlights of the day for me:

  • Brent Coley‘s Keynote, “Educational Technology: Without Why, How is Irrelevant”, was inspiring and full of advice on both why and how to use technology in the classroom. It’s great to have someone who is actually using the technology in the classroom be a keynote speaker.
  • Kevin Honeycutt closed the day with a fun ending Keynote that unfortunately was marred by technical problems since he was presenting remotely. I just wish he could have been there in person or the connection had been better.
  • I didn’t get to participate live but I have watched the archive of Diane Main‘s session, “Google Earth For All Grade Levels” and it was amazing. I just wish Google Earth worked on the computers in our lab. I can only run it on my laptop but I think I’m going to adapt some of the ideas and use Google Maps with my students.
  • Sean Williams‘ session, “Give Your Students A VoiceThread”, has inspired me to use VoiceThread again. I do have a class subscription on VoiceThread but haven’t used it yet this year. I loved the ideas on differentiation and the examples Sean showed were great. And, don’t tell Sean, but I hope to someday be as good at presenting as he is!

I would love to have attended both of Dennis Grice’s sessions and both of Greg Dhuyvetter‘s sessions and any session that Chris Bell does is always worthwhile. I lurked a bit outside of Stephen Davis‘ session and it looked amazing – if I hadn’t been trying (in vain) to fix my sound driver I would have attended that one!

Thanks to everyone involved with the T.E.L.L. ’10 Conference – I had a great time, learned some new things and look forward to next year in Orange County!

Reflections on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

7 Days to a Better EduBlog run by Stephanie Sandifer at Change Agency has just ended and I wanted to take a few minutes to:

  1. Finish the Day 7 assignment which I have been thinking about for the last day & a half
  2. Reflect on the process & what I learned
  3. Thank Stephanie for all the work she put into her mini course.

Day 7: Setting Up A Blogging Schedule

I have always been a when the mood hits me kind of blogger. I have come to realize that if I really do want to build an audience for this blog I do need some kind of schedule so people have a reason to come back. I’m just not ready to commit to blogging every day. I may get there but I know if that’s the schedule I try to set that I won’t do it and I’ll just feel guilty about it. I have decided that I am going to try to blog at least once a week. During the school year, I will post what worked and what didn’t that week in the lab. I also plan to post at least some detailed information about projects as each one ends. I can’t put a time on that because it will vary but I can post something every week. During holidays and summer vacation, I know I can find something to blog about every week and I intend to do it. I’m not sure which day will be best for this – I’m leaning toward Mondays – but I’m not making that decision  just yet. Once school has started again and I see what my schedule is going to be like – not only for school but for my mom duties too since my youngest daughter is starting high school this year – then I can decide which day of the week the blog will definitely be updated.

Final Thoughts on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

  1. How did I model these best practices in this mini-course?
    Some of the assignments were not really natural to me at least as a required exercise. Looking back at my previous blog posts, I see that I already do a lot of what was discussed during the course. I do think all of the assignments have value and they all add interest to a blog, but I had to stretch to actually do the assignment sometimes. Like I said I’ve been a when the mood strikes me kind of blogger so it was good thing to stretch and create a post even when the mood wasn’t really striking me. Things like setting and keeping a blogging schedule and engaging with media and discussion questions will help to draw in readers for my blog. I need to remember that I shouldn’t be a sage on a stage here any more than in the classroom!
  2. What strategies did I incorporate to encourage participation and a more social (engaged) learning environment?
    I tried to do incorporate all of the suggestions (except new pages since I already had the ones I wanted) as they were made but doing them once won’t suddenly make my blog more engaging or encourage better participation. I think for me the biggest strategy that I need to incorporate is blogging on a regular basis. I also need to make sure to not only read other blogs (you should see my reader – it’s out of control!) but to comment on them too.
  3. How might you incorporate everything you have learned in this mini-course in your own edublog — whether your audience includes students or other educators?
    My plan is to start NOW and to blog consistently once a week about something related to technology in education and to make it a point to comment on at least one other blog a week. During the school year, there really is plenty to blog about – then it’s about making the time to do it. During the summer, I can spend more time finding current events and things that I think will be interesting to use as subject matter for my blog.

And finally, thanks to Stephanie for putting this together – it got me to blog regularly at least for 7 days and it made me think about the things I should be doing.

Summer: A Time For Learning

I look forward to the summer – not as a time to get away from all things education related but as a time to regroup and to take some time for my own learning. I hope to help my students become life long learners and what better way to do that but to model a passion for learning myself. Our school has no budget for travel to the many wonderful conferences that are happening all over the country during the summer and sadly, I personally have no budget for this either. I didn’t let a little thing like money stop me, I put together a plan for myself to attend and participate virtually in conferences, classes and whatever else I could find this summer. Here’s what I’ve done or what I am doing or what I plan to do:

  • ISTE 2010 Unplugged & ISTE 2010 Live & Recorded Sessions
    This was an amazing few days of following along on Twitter and Plurk and attending as many virtual sessions as I could. There were so many wonderful ideas and I’m still trying to synthesize it all and figure out what I’m going to actually make a part of what I teach. This will be a subject of a future blog post.

ISTE Unplugged by McTeach

  • Flat Classroom Workshop
    I have long thought of having my 8th grade class participate in the Digiteen Project but have been rather intimidated by it. When I saw a tweet about participating virtually in a Flat Classroom Workshop, I jumped at the chance. This was a whirlwind couple of days but I learned a lot about putting together a project like this and think I’m ready to sign my class up for the Digiteen Project.
  • PBL Camp
    I do projects in the computer lab all the time but I wanted to get more of a handle on true Project Based Learning so I signed up for the camp. This one is on week two and I’ll admit it’s still a bit overwhelming still but I’m hanging in there and hope to start collaborating with another teacher on a project for our classes.
  • 7 Days To a Better EduBlog
    I have not been the best blogger this past year and I’m working on catching up on some blogging about last year’s classes and thought this would be a good thing to do to make sure I do something blogging related at least for 7 days.
  • Plurk Book Study: Drive
    This has just started but I’m looking forward to reading the book and having some discussions with fellow educators.
  • ntcamp 2010
    This is an unconference that will be streamed live and archived. I have heard wonderful things about these types of conferences and hope to be able to catch a session or two live and will visit the archives when it’s done for things I’ve missed because I really don’t plan on being up at 5am on a Saturday in the summer.
  • Reform Symposium 2010
    This is a new online virtual conference that has some amazing presenters. My biggest problem on this one will be making sure that I actually sleep!

And, if it’s possible, I also try to participate in chats and webinars that I think will expand my thinking or help me to be more successful as a teacher. I don’t make all of these but lucky for me (and you) they’re all archived and I can revisit them even if I miss them live!

  • Twitter #edchat
    Sometimes I find it easier to go to the archives for this one because it moves really fast!
  • Classroom 2.0 Live
    There are amazing live events all year long here. I love to attend these live but will often find myself visiting the archives when I need some inspiration.
  • Steve Hargadon Interviews
    Steve interviews some of the most interesting people and all of these get archived too if you miss them.
  • EdTech Talk
    I enjoy the webcasts here all year long and during the summer there are less shows webcasting but I am especially finding ideas and inspiration from the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcasts this summer.

Whew, just looking at this, I think my head is going to explode. Is it too much? Maybe and if I do get overwhelmed, I can always do less but so far I’m finding it invigorating and inspiring!

What are you doing to stretch your brain this summer?

Photo from ctkmcmillan’s photostream

CUE 2010: My Turn To Learn

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from my very first CUE Conference experience as I approached Palm Springs in the early morning on Thursday, March 4, 2010.

Power by Richard Cawood
Power by Richard Cawood

What follows below is the good (and the not so good), the better, the best & even a few regrets.


The Good

I love that this conference is in Palm Springs which is an easy drive from the San Fernando Valley. I procrastinated enough deciding whether I was attending or not that I missed out on the less expensive conference hotels so I got on to Priceline and found something in the area. It turns out it was right across the street from one of the conference hotels and a short walk to the Convention Center and best of all it was just over $100 a night. Well more than that when you add in taxes, etc. but still about 1/2 of what I would have had to pay. Oh, and the room was HUGE with a living room, dining area, kitchen and a separate bedroom!

Living & Dining Room

(And the NOT so Good)

Yes, nothing is all good:

  • $2.50 for a can of Diet Coke?? Really?
  • Spotty, slow and often non-existent wireless access
  • Really busy slides with bad contrast & way too much text in a Keynote Address
  • Teachers trying to figure out how to get out of attending any more sessions in the 2nd session of the conference. This just made me sad.
  • A session that felt more like a commercial (with bad sound since you could barely hear the presenter) rather than inspiration and motivation to use their (free) resource.

The Better

The sessions!! What a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. I want to implement everything now even though I know I can’t due to the constraints of the equipment we have in our computer lab. I am however already planning things that I can do in the upcoming weeks and mulling over ideas of how to take some things and tweak them so the will work on our equipment.  Here’s just some of what inspired me:

Not the Same Ol’ PBL: Strategies from Kindergarten to College
Christy Keeler & Heather Rampton

The slides in the presentation that showed the correlation between Project-Based Learning Strategies, 21st Century Skills & NETS*S correlated were a light-bulb moment for me. I sometimes have a hard time deciding which NETS*S my lessons are addressing and this gave me some new ways to think about that. Session materials are supposed to be available on the CUE Community Ning but so far I haven’t found anything from this session. I did find an older blog post by Christy with this session’s information on it. If you download the CUE session slideshow you can see the correlations. I notice that some of the links on the blog post seem to be broken but some of them still work. I loved the idea of digital photography scavenger hunts and virtual museums and plan to use these soon.

Sharing Stories with Google Earth
Joseph Wood

I really, really, really wish our computers could run Google Earth but the wheels are already spinning in my head about how to do much of this with Google Maps or Scribble Maps. I love the idea of not just mapping things but telling a story with it and plan to put together and introduction of me for next year using Google Earth. I’ll have to run it on my laptop but it will work! It’s 4th Grade Mission time and my 8th Graders are going to be reading Johnny Tremaine as a class. I’m getting to work on some kind of mapping project for these this year. The resources from this session can be found at http://joewoodonline.pbworks.com/Sharing-Stories-with-Google-Earth.

Hidden Treasures in Your Curriculum: Using Geocaching to Motivate and Engage
Susan Anderson, Jim Holland

I haven’t ever done any geocaching but the ideas presented have the wheels turning. First I have to figure out how to get a few GPS units. They recommended the Garmin eTrex but said that any basic unit that showed your position in real time would work fine with students. The presentation on page on digitalgoonies.com has great basic information on how to use a GPS unit which would be great to use with students just learning how to use these.  The Geocaching Activity Types on that same page has lots of really fun ideas of different things to do with students. This will be a next year thing I’m sure since I have no GPS units yet but I’m excited to try this myself and with students.

Podcasting with 70 Middle Schoolers–RU Crazy?!
Heather Wolpert-Gawron

I tried a little bit of podcasting with my 8th graders last year but I felt pretty disorganized doing it so this session was just what I needed. Heather went over the nuts and bolts of organizing tasks to create a regular podcast. I loved the idea of using a pocket chart to keep track of where in the process things are. I think part of my problem is that I only see my students twice a week for about 80 minutes total so it’s probably going to take us 2-3 weeks to produce a podcast even after the students are comfortable with the technology. The presentation materials are on Heather’s TweenTeacher web site. I just wish they were available in a format other than Keynote since I’m not on a Mac and don’t know of a free way to convert from Keynote to something I can use.

Google for Video
Jim Sill

This was a really fun session with lots of information. What a great idea to use Google’s Wonder Wheel to explore the connections to your subject and I loved the use of the drawing tool in Google Presentations to do storyboarding. How long has the drawing tool been there? And, Magic Auto Fill on Google Spreadsheets – love it! Guess I need to play with things more. The tip on embedding videos that you have uploaded to Google Docs was very cool. I hadn’t ever heard of http://www.freevideocoding.com. It was really inspiring to see the way Jim weaves Google tools like YouTube, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Search, etc. into the video making process. I also discovered something about me and conferences – if a presenter doesn’t have a sense of humor an hour long session feels twice as long to me. I really appreciate anyone that can have fun with what they’re presenting. Check out Jim’s Google 4 Video page for more information and links.


The Best

How can anyone not love lesson planning with Chris Lehmann? Seriously, just being in the same room with him and his passion for education was an inspiration. One of the attendees at the session said that he’d never had so much fun planning a lesson and how true that was. I had read a little on Understanding By Design (UbD) and had wanted to attend Alice Mercer‘s Cue Unplugged session – Including Technology in your Unit Planning Using Understanding by Design (UbD) – but didn’t get to it. I have watched it since and with inspiration from Chris and Alice, I plan to dip my toe into the world of UbD and try some lesson planning this way.

Loved the closing Keynote by Carol Ann McGuire. Rock Our World is an amazing collaborative project and it was so inspiring to have the students & Petree end the conference with song.

But, by far the very best part of CUE was just being surrounded by all of the educators who are passionate about what they do and the students they teach. It was amazing (and more than a bit of an I’m not worthy moment) to meet and just hang out with some of the wonderful speakers and attendees at the conference. The conversations were never far away from how we can make education better for our students even during the social events such as IPABloggerCon or just wandering around in downtown Palm Springs. Thanks for the fun, the ideas and the conversations.

IPABloggerCon


And, a Few Regrets

There were times I wanted to be two or three places at once but that just wasn’t possible – though I was able to catch a few archived sessions after the fact. I tried to choose my sessions based on things I want to do or need to do with my students. A couple of times that resulted in a session that wasn’t as motivating as I would have liked or that was just plain boring. I don’t know how to completely avoid that but next year I’d like to:

  • Try to attend at least one session with every Spotlight Speaker. I didn’t do that this year and heard I missed some great sessions.
  • Not be afraid to bail on a session if it’s not what I expected or if it’s just plain boring. I should have done that a couple of times this year.
  • Attend sessions given by people that I know are wonderful presenters because I have learned that even if it’s on a subject I think I have mastered they will show me something new.
  • Attend at least one workshop or seminar. I pay for conferences myself since there’s no budget for it at school and I just didn’t have the funds to pay for any of these this year. I really regret missing out on Rushton Hurley’s Flip Into Movie Maker workshop and Kyle Brumbaugh, Diane Main & Kenneth Shelton’s Google Workshop For Educators – Intermediate/Advanced (BYOL) seminar. Time to start saving for next year!
  • Work the Exhibit Hall better. There were many give-aways to be had and I missed out on all but a couple. I used to be good at this when I went to construction and home building conferences years ago when I wrote software. Time to work that skill again.

This was definitely worth attending and I’m already planning for next year. I just wish there were some way I could make it to ISTE 2010 this summer.

CUELA Technology Fair 2009

The Plan

This past Saturday, I attended the CUE Los Angeles Technology Fair. I had reviewed the program online before I went and had decided on attending the following sessions:

  • Session I & II – Google Lit Trips
  • Session III – Blogging in the Middle School
  • Session IV – Practical Demos on Demand

In reality, I attended none of these. Why? Well, the Google Lit Trips one and the Blogging in the Middle School one were canceled. That was a real disappointment to me because I had been looking forward to learning how to put together a Google Lit Trip. I have looked at the Google Lit Trips site but have not really tried to set up anything in Google Earth myself. I was hoping this would give me the push to try it. I have also thought about starting up some kind of blogging project with my Middle School students and welcomed the opportunity to learn more. Looking closer at the program, I think this was probably a vendor presentation so it probably wouldn’t have been what I wanted anyway.

The Reality

So, here’s what I did end up attending for the day.

Session I: Making Movies With Frames

We don’t have Frames at our school and don’t really have the budget for it. However, this was a billed as a hands-on session (actually 2 sessions) and I have heard great things about Tech4Learning products so I decided to give it a try. The presenter was James Kosako who is a teacher in the computer lab at a Christian school and he obviously loves what he is doing and loves the product he was presenting. He had some great ideas on how to do stop-motion animation with spending little or no money which I would love to try with a class. The demonstration of Frames was interesting and I would love to have it in the lab but I don’t see that happening soon and even if it did, I don’t know how well it would run on our equipment. So, as James was showing us the basics of what it could do, I was trying to figure out what I could use to try to get a similar end result. I want to try out stop-animation either in PowerPoint or Photostory or Movie Maker. I can’t really do the green screen effects or anything but I think we could create some effective stop-motion animation and we can narrate it and we can turn it in to a movie.

I was excited for the second half of this session (it was supposed to run 2 sessions) because we were going to actually play with the program. Most of the laptops didn’t have the program installed on them even though James had been told that it had been installed. I felt sorry for James at this point but I didn’t want to wait for 1/2 of the next session to try to install the software so I ended up leaving and moving on for Session II. I do plan on downloading Frames and trying it out myself at some point because it did look fun.

Session II: 21st Century Skills To Improve Achievement & Literacy

Since I hadn’t planned on anything for this session, I just quickly picked something physically close to the classroom I had been in. Oops, I ended up in a vendor session which is not what I really wanted to attend. Looking at the program now I should have gone to The Latest in Technology or Presentation Design or I should have stuck around for the second 1/2 of James’ session since he was giving away a copy of Frames but I didn’t. The pitch was for a site called Room 21 – the most interesting part of this session for me was the discussion of what 21st century learning is. Anyway Room 21 is a social networking site for schools allowing teachers to post assignments, students to turn in work, teachers to grade work & give feedback and parents to see grades. All of this is in the context of an interface that looks similar to Facebook and allows social interaction between students and teacher and parents. Interesting or not, we have no technology budget so I can’t afford the $2500/day fee for training especially with a minimum 3 days of training recommended. On top of that, I can do most of this for free right now using a combination of Edmodo & Engrade. Yes, it’s not seamlessly integrated and there’s not a social aspect for parents and there’s no rubric grading but the price is definitely right. I did get an extra raffle ticket for attending this session but I should have chosen differently.

Keynote: Ted Lai – Teaching for the 22nd Century

I really enjoyed Ted’s Keynote. He’s a dynamic and engaging speaker and gave me some things to think about. I plurked about the keynote as it happened and this is what I shared. I have added a few comments to my original thoughts and these are in italics.

  • We are not yet teaching 21st century skills so how do we get there and beyond?
  • Great quote: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday we rob our children of  tomorrow.” ~John Dewey
  • Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. We spend too much time questioning if how we know using technology is effective. We never question if using a pencil is effective.
    I do get caught up in the details too much sometimes but it’s not questioning effectiveness so much as being Type A and not letting go!
  • Told story about how he had an application that he didn’t have time to learn so he gave it to his students and told them what he wanted them to accomplish and they did it. Ted said that he didn’t bother teaching the application after that.
    I think I do need to let my students be more responsible for the learning and not give really detailed instructions all the time. I do still need to learn the application myself though because I am, after all, the Computer Teacher and I will need to help troubleshoot and get students back on track.
  • We should innovate and allow creativity in all projects
  • Collaboration does not mean group projects! True collaboration is ongoing and everyone contributes and makes the project more than any one person could do.
  • Students need to know that their projects are for more than just a grade. Publish their work!
  • Recommended the Apple Learning Exchange even if you are not using an Apple computer.
  • It’s really about the teacher designing the lesson with the idea of what we want the student to achieve.

Session III & IV: Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

This was a 2-hour demonstration given by Chris Bell. Chris showed some wonderful examples of digital storytelling and I think he did a great job covering the basics of how to actually do it with students. Some highlights of the session for me were:

  • Set time limits. I loved the idea of having students make short clips – 5 clips of 5 seconds each. I always run in to the students that take forever and I think this would really help.
  • I loved the video Chris shared from a digital storytelling project in Africa. I never knew that part of the CyberSmart site existed.
  • It was great that Chris had some headphones & microphones & Flip Cameras for attendees to see. I think I need an HD Flip now!
  • I was really happy that Chris passed out a card at the end with a link to his session resources & links.

Bottom Line:

I didn’t win a prize even with my extra raffle ticket – bummer. I would have loved a Flip Camera or a copy of Frames or Pixie or registration for the Cue Conference coming up but I guess it wasn’t to be. All in all though this wasn’t exactly the day I had hoped it would be, I learned some new things, have some things to think about and met some great educators. Would I do it again? Probably, but this time I’m going to read more carefully and have a Plan A & B for all sessions!