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

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 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 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.


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.

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.