T.E.L.L. Conference 2009

Yesterday I went to my very first educational technology conference, T.E.L.L. ’09. In my former life as a computer programmer, I had attended plenty of technology conferences but these weren’t related to education. I had also virtually attended the K12 Online Conference for the past two years but this was my first in person experience. What follows in this post is a recap of my day.

Opening Keynote – Rushton Hurley: Hope For Teaching and Learning

Rushton was a great way to start the day with ideas to get us to remember why we went in to teaching and to excite us about what we do and to help us to inspire confidence in our students. I was amazed at the Steampunk Neaman Lion and loved the story behind the creation of the Multiply by Nines video. I know some of my 8th grade students would be inspired by what is happening at FreshBrain and I’m already thinking about how to use the content at Next Vista for Learning either as part of a lesson or to inspire my students to create something of their own. I loved Rushton’s use of Cooliris to show pictures related to vocabulary and think it might be a unique way to link to photos that my students can use on Flickr. I have avoided using Flickr in the past due to possible inappropriate content but I’ll explore this to see if it would work by using favorites or a group. A quote to remember from Ruston, “Every kid has something to share. Technology helps with that.”

And then it was on to Session One …

New Reading, New Writing with Social Bookmarking

This session was presented by Janice Stearns and was advertised as a “Bring Your Own Laptop” session but they weren’t really needed or used – though I did try to tweet or pluk about the session as it was happening so I used mine. The original description of the session said that attendees would be setting up a Diigo account which didn’t happen but I don’t fault Janice on that. Sessions were 45 minutes in length and it’s tough to define what Social Bookmarking is, talk about Delicious & Diigo and how they are similar and yet not and how you can automatically have Diigo update Delicious, etc. and have hands on time. Janice did a great job presenting the basics and showing off a lot of the features. I have both a Delicious account and Diigo account. I attended this session hoping to find out more about Diigo since I haven’t really explored it at all. I did get to see some things I hadn’t tried like highlighting & sticky notes on websites. Honestly what I really need is a How to Clean Up & Organize Your Social Bookmarking Sites class. I have things saved in both places but I’ve lost most of my hopes at organizing things. I need to bite the bullet and go through it all and set things up so Diigo updates Delicious and then maybe look in to using it with students. Do students need emails on Diigo if I have an educator account? I need to look in to that.

Session One done and it was on to Session Two. I would have liked to attend every single presentation during Session Two but I had to pick just one …

Podcasts and iPod Flash Cards: Study Tools for the 21st Century

Brent Coley led this session and definitely inspired me with his use of Podcasting in the classroom and his iPod Flash Cards. I had been to Brent’s web site and looked at the information there but I’m much more likely to actually use something if I’ve seen it shown to me by someone who’s passionate about it. Does this mean that am I inspired to implement anything in the classroom? Definitely! I had tried podcasting with my 8th graders last year and it was a struggle but after attending Brent’s session I’m energized to try it again. This year I think I’m going to start with my 7th graders who are embarking on creating a newspaper. As part of this, I am going to have them create not only a printed newspaper but an audio version too! I am also going to have 8th Grade create some iPod Flash Cards to go along with their Social Studies curriculum. Oh, and I learned a new trick in Audacity and realized that I really want Garage Band but I’m a PC.

After Session Two, we had lunch and I enjoyed the conversations I had with some of the other attendees and then it was on to Session Three …

Search and Rescue

Another “Bring Your Own Laptop” session that didn’t really require a laptop presented by Chris Bell. Google Searching is such a huge topic to try to cover in 45 minutes but Chris tried his best, showing us:

  • Setting Safe Search Preferences
  • Advanced Search
  • Search Operators
  • Narrowing searches by File Type, Location, Language, etc.
  • Extended Google Searches
  • Timeline
  • Using the Custom Search Engine
  • .. and more

There were two sessions offered on Google Searching and I wonder what the major difference were between this session and Jim Sill’s Google Search Making Information Useful session? I picked the session I did because it was a “Bring Your Own Laptop” session but have a hunch the two session were probably very similar. I use Google search a lot so I knew most of what was presented but seeing the Custom Search Engine demonstrated has given me a push toward using that for research possibilities with some of my classes.

Then it was time for Session Four …

Kick Up Your Lessons with Google Maps

This was my favorite session of the day and it was a last minute replacement. This was originally scheduled to be something from the Discovery Education Fall Virtual Conference but that was replaced by Dennis Grice‘s session on Google Maps. I had previously read Dennis’ blog post about this and knew I could figure it out if I wanted to but I wasn’t really inspired to try it. After attending this session and helping to build a map using a form in Google Docs and MapAList I’m excited to use this in the lab! Dennis’ idea of kicking up state reports by using Google Maps (which was what we did in the session) would be great to use with my 5th graders or I could use it with my 4th graders as a something extra for their mission reports or my 8th graders could use it to map locations from their study of U.S. History. I know I will use this sometime during the year – Google Earth may not work on computers in the lab but Google Maps do!

Then it was time for …

Closing Keynote – Jeff Utecht: The Future is Now: Changing Habits, Changing Minds

Talk about a unique and major demonstration of technologies – Jeff Utecht was not in the room for the closing keynote but was on a Skpe call from Bangkok Thailand where it was 5am on Sunday morning! There were a few technical glitches getting things started and at times the sound got a little garbled but wow, isn’t technology amazing!  One of the first things Jeff had us do was put our shoes on the wrong feet to make us a little uncomfortable. Honestly, I don’t understand how kids can wear their shoes on the wrong feet all day and not notice! Ü Jeff also had us discuss four questions:

  1. Is the technology being used “Just because it’s there”?
    Sometimes in my case I think it is but I can’t really avoid that because I’m a computer teacher in the computer lab and part of my job is just to teach the technology. In order to do that I will use things “just because they are there” or in my case “just because they work in the lab”.
  2. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in Old ways?
    At our school, technology isn’t used much in the classrooms since the classrooms have at best 3 computers and they are old and they are not hooked up to the Internet. This means that mostly, it’s old things in old ways that don’t even involve technology other than perhaps Word Processing software.
  3. Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in New ways?
    This is part of my goal to try to get technology more integrated in to the curriculum and let the students do the old things in new ways. It’s tough since the technology isn’t in the classrooms but I do try to extend the old ways using technology when I can.
  4. Is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students?
    Not as much as I would like but I think the online collaborations that we try to do are starting to do this for my students. I hope so.

Jeff’s final thought was Do One Thing and Do It Well. I need to take this to heart. I tend to bookmark or jot down way more ideas than I can possibly use (and not in the most organized fashion) and sometimes lose sight of what I need to be concentrating on day to day.  I really need to make sure that I focus on what I need to accomplish with each of my classes and do that well. If I don’t get around to using all of the cool new tools with my students, so be it. There’s always next year and there will always be more cool new tools!

Final Thoughts

As part of the evaluation for the conference we were asked what suggestions we would make for future conferences and my major suggestion would be to have a strand of sessions for attendees who wanted more depth. I would have loved more “hands on” type sessions which is really hard to do in 45 minutes – believe me I know because my computer classes are 45 minutes (or less) in length.  I would love to see “in depth” sessions that are twice as long as the 45 minute session – so an attendee could go to one in depth session in the morning or two shorter sessions and the same for the afternoon. Another thing I would really like to see is more of an emphasis on how to use it with students and less on “here’s the tool”. I enjoyed Dennis & Brent’s sessions the most because they really did emphasize how to use the tools with students.

I felt like I knew most of what was presented in the sessions or could find it online but I think attending a conference and seeing it along with other teachers who are there and want to learn is a valuable experience. I would definitely like to do it again and hope this becomes an annual event even if it stays in the exact same format.

It was nice to say hello to Jennifer Wagner. I love her Jenuine Tech projects and it was nice putting a face & voice to the name. You can read Jen’s thoughts on the day on her Thoughts By Jen blog.

Finally, I am so jealous of the technology at St. Elisabeth School where the conference was held – computers in all of the classrooms, WiFi on the entire campus, 1:1 netbooks in Middle School. AMAZING!

Now time to share and TELL others about it all.

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