Ready for an Amazing Week!

For those of you that are lucky enough to be able to go to Denver to attend to the ISTE 2010 Conference – Exploring Excellence, you know what a rich experience it will be. It’s awesome to be in an environment with so many enthusiastic, like-minded educators. The energy at the Denver Convention Center can’t be described!

Don’t despair if you aren’t in Denver this year. (Start planning on how you can make it to Philadelphia next year.) There are so many ways to attend the conference virtually, there’s no excuse for not taking advantage! Here are a few tips to help you out. It’s going to take some time and commitment, so settle in and make a plan.

Go through the conference planner and find sessions that you would have attended if you were here. Most session descriptions have links to the session resources, presentations, and contact info for the presenters. Download them all and put them in a folder. Spend some time learning from those resources. If you have any questions, make sure you email the presenter. They’ll be happy to help!

The ISTE Connects website will help you find video taped sessions, live blogging, twitter feeds, and other news and events about the conference.

Get the perspective of the attendees as they blog about the various sessions. Not only will you get links to presenter resources, but you’ll get the perspective of some really smart educators as they learn.

The ISTE Ning Network will also help you connect with others, and find lots of documentation from the conference.

Embed 21st Century Skills

One of the sessions I attended at NECC was Building 21st Century Skills into Core Subjects. As much as I love learning about new tools, I purposely look for opportunities to explore specifics on how technology fits in to core curriculum areas. This session consisted of a panel of representatives from NCTE,
NCGE, NSTA, and NCSS to discuss ways to effectively embed 21st century
skills into core subjects.

I’ve been to the website, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The best way to explain this organization is to check the About page on the site.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has emerged as the leading
advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into
education. The organization brings together the business community,
education leaders, and policymakers to define a powerful vision for
21st century education to ensure every child’s success as citizens and
workers in the 21st century. The Partnership encourages schools,
districts and states to advocate for the infusion of 21st century
skills into education and provides tools and resources to help
facilitate and drive change.

The resources available from this organization are quite significant. The workshop was introducing the latest in a series of curriculum maps the outline concrete examples of best practices in Science, Social Studies, Geography, English, and Math. These documents are definitely worthwhile for any teacher or administrator who is making decisions on shifting the learning environment to gain relevance in these changing times. The curriculum maps are a little hard to find. Here’s the link to the page with all publications – scroll down to the bottom to find the maps.

Show Me Something I Can Use

Tammy Worcester did an amazing job presenting some really great tools and web based applications. She not only demonstrated how to use the tool but gave plenty of ideas about how students can use it in the classroom. I hope I can demonstrate in writing effectively enough to encourage you to try a couple of these ideas.
Jam Studio is really cool. It’s kind of a music making sandbox that allows the user, even a non-musical one to experiment with the program and create a really cool track – which by the way, can be used as a background track for a PowerPoint presentation, slide show, video, or podcast. Here’s the catch: You can create a track for free and without signing up for an account (in the case of students). In order to “keep” the track, you have to sign up for an account. Unless, you can use this nifty workaround: Record the track you have created in Jam Studio using GarageBand (for Mac) or Audacity. You could even record it using the audio recording feature in PowerPoint.
Vocaroo is a great tool to use as a way to enhance your wiki. Here’s a scenario that I think would be a perfect use for Vocaroo: Say you have a few links on your website or wiki that you want your students to use. You have written directions for your students about what to look for or what you want them to do with a particular activity. If you have students with special needs who may have trouble with written directions, you can record the directions to the assignment and create an embeddable audio player for the students to click on to hear you tell them what to do.
Once the student gets to the site, if the reading level is too complex for them to effectively use the site, the student can copy and past the text into the text box inĀ VozMe. Once the text is pasted into the VozMe application, the user can create a downloadable mp3 that reads the text aloud. The user can download an mp3 to listen from a player like an iPod or from the computer.
Tammy presented lots of other tools at that workshop. I’ll show a few more in the next post.

Final Impression of NECC

My intention is to write about the many things I learned about NECC09 in separate posts, but I’m writing my “wrap up” post first.

This is my second attendance at NECC – the first being in Chicago in 2001 as a new technology teacher. That conference was a blur for me since it was my very first experience of any ideas, concepts, or tools in the ed-tech world. I do remember being so extremely excited about all I learned that I created a 4 inch 3 ring binder with handouts and went through them with my principal in a meeting the summer before I started my position as technology coordinator. I must have been pretty enthusiastic and passionate during that initial meeting, because she spent the next several years quoting me, asking me to revisit things she heard me mention, and basically letting me develop an awesome technology program. I didn’t meet many people and I made no lasting friendships, but I saw amazing presenters (including Steve Jobs) that were influential and help me expand my knowledge and certainly my enthusiasm for all things Ed-tech. I remember being overwhelmed but not in a negative way. Soaking it all up like a sponge was more the feeling I remember.

I’ve gone in to so much detail about that first conference to make a point about this conference. After working in the ed-tech world for 8 years now, what I gain from this event is very different. First of all, I keep handouts in my delicious links or in a folder on my desktop – there are no binders. That’s not the important part though. I’m not a newbie anymore and I have to carefully select the sessions I attend so that I can gain something from them. That’s pretty tricky – more on that in another post. Here’s what the Conference meant to me.

  • I “hung out” with old friends from ICE, helping me further establish relationships that will help me with my contribution to my Illinois tech teacher community.
  • I was able to put a face with a name for people that I know through Twitter and blogs I read on a regular basis – although I didn’t do as well with that as I’d hoped.
  • I managed to go to several really interesting breakout sessions in a variety of topics, and although I claim to be an expert, I managed to take away something new.
  • I validated my disdain for anything commercial. Although I visited the vendor floor, I picked up no swag and made no new contacts. I didn’t even pick up my personally engraved flash drive. (If ISTE could send that to me – I’d really appreciate it!) If you’re looking for a pen or a T-shirt, I would not be the one to ask.

Here’s what I’m wondering……

Being that ed-tech has been around for so many years, evidenced by the fact that the conference has been around for 30 years, was there anyone there this time that was “soaking things up like a sponge”? Did educators leave with enthusiasm and passion for new ideas, tools, and strategies?

I’m in a much different place now, but I think I’ll go to NECC again. I’m still learning and I particularly like being validated by my colleagues in face to face chats and while listening to really smart presenters who I seem to connect with.

See you in Denver!