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!

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