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!

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.