IL-TCE – a great time!

The best advice from the Illinois Computing Educators Conference was from Vicki Davis. I attended her workshop on differentiated instruction using technology. She recommends that everyone “have a big three” from every workshop that was attended. Write down three things that will be done in the next seven days. That’s great advice! After attending this conference for the past seven years, I always feel overwhelmed, excited, energized, and have my head stuffed with new information. It’s really hard to process it all and make connections. This is particularly true when I am attending the conference as a professional development coordinator for the others in my district or my school. I not only have to fit pieces in for myself, but I have to have a handle on what the conference can mean to others that I work with – how I can disseminate information for others, how can I spread my enthusiasm for the new ideas, how can I inspire people. Start small. Write a big three for each workshop.

Why Web2.0 Is Critical to the Future of Education

The first session I attended at ICE was Steve Hargadon’s spotlight session at IL-TCE (Illinois Computing Educators annual conference). Click here for more information about his session. The highlights of his information are the ten web 2.0 trends that will have an impact on education and the shifts based on those trends. I hope that Steve annotates this wiki with more information. He was extremely passionate in the delivery of his message, I couldn’t take effective enough notes to really tell the story effectively. I’ll start with my Big Three and my Intentional R&D List for this session.

For my “Big Three” for this session, I’d like to do the following:

  • Check out diigo – Steve recommends this site as a way to keep bookmarks, annotate them, and collect information to use for collaboration
  • Use twitter – already looked at this and belong – kinda don’t get it, but I started using it a little during the two days of the conference.
  • Get the rest of my family to use Flicker
  • Start a Ning group for ICE – COLD (Steve is a consultant for NING. I belong to his Classroom2.0 NING.)
  • Use chatzy – create a chat room during at least of my parent workshops.
  • Look into using Skype in the classroom – can I find another class to collaborate with?
  • MedlinePlus Videos of surgical procedures – This is really cool, but might be a little much for elementary school.

(That’s more than 3…I’ll have to prioritize these.)

That list seems kind of weak, based on the compelling information that Steve explained during his presentation. My notes had a few good quotes, one of which is, “The Internet is becoming a platform for unparalleled for creativity. We are creating the content for the web.” The potential is there, but with few exceptions, we are not connecting content creating on the web to the educational experience of our students. Those teachers who provide those types of experiences are really the exception. One of the big reasons is because social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace were the first social networking sites. Educators didn’t get the jump on the whole phenomenon before social networking got such a bad rap. People who are producing content on the web are doing so with no guidelines and no rules.

“Web 2.0 is the cause of this tidal wave. Web 2.0 is the solution.” – another good quote from Steve. Examples of this are using social bookmarking sites to tag and share information with others. Another example is using a wiki to put together information about topics and collaborate with others to compile information and manage content.

Another example that works for me is tracking and reading bloggers. I follow about 25 bloggers and reading those blogs on a regular basis is the single most important professional development activity that I engage in. That’s how web2.0 helps me with the tidal wave.

Here’s something to look up….knowledge about career is obsolete in 3 years, meaning that the knowledge that one acquires for their profession is out of date in just a few years.

Read/Write Culture

I really learn a great deal from watching the presentations on TED. The speakers and the content of their presentations are really inspirational. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach is one of my favorite educators. I frequently read her blog. One of her recent posts summarized this presentation by Larry Lessig. Watch the presentation not only for his message, but for his presentation style and use of PowerPoint (even though in this case he was using Keynote from Apple.)

What I found most compelling about his argument is this sense that the kids and the culture are progressing, but the laws are making it impossible for us (particularly the kids) to live within the law. The culture is progressing, but the lawmakers are not keeping up. Neither is education for that matter, but how much does really matter?

Think Outside the Template

In an earlier post, I explored how PowerPoint is being used these days in the “real world”. The way to produce high quality presentations is to avoid the templates, slide layouts, and Microsoft produced slide designs. I found a terrific blog by hosted by Tom Kuhlmann. He provides some fine examples of how the program is used as an “authoring environment”. I particularly enjoyed his tutorials on how to create animations using PowerPoint.

How Walt Disney Would Use PowerPoint to Create E-Learning Courses – The Rapid eLearning Blog via kwout

I tried out these techniques and created some nifty animations. The motion path feature doesn’t work on a Mac (phooey) but the other techniques are really fun and produce some cool techniques. Here are some possible edtech possibilities:

  • Create an animation or set of animations and record narration of the story
  • Use animation as a “special effect” to help illustrate a message, to really engage the viewer
  • Save the animation as a .mov file (Mac only) and embed in another project (haven’t tried this…wonder if it’ll work?)
It wouldn’t be enough to just teach students how to create the animation. They would have to be able to use it with some kind of story telling. It’s something to think about.

We Have to Know

Clarence Fisher of Arapahoe High School in Colorado made a presentation to his staff in August 2006. His PowerPoint presentation was on his blog that week and I found it really compelling. His purpose was to get his teachers to really think about what students need in their learning environment to be prepared and to be successful in the 21st century. The message of the presentation is that we need to pay attention to factors such as the growing importance of India and China and globalization that has made our world “flat” provides tremendous opportunities for our children as our society shifts. We need to reflect on our own teaching practices and attitudes in response to this change.

During the next several months, the Shift Happens presentation was seen all over the edu-blogosphere. They call that “going viral”. In the past year or so, estimates of over 10 million people viewed various versions of the presentation. See the shifthappens wiki for information about the presentation.

Clarence Fisher
Anne’s Description of Clarence Fisher’s keynote on K12 Online Conference

The video

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A Whole New Set of Rules

PowerPoint has been around since 1987. That makes this technology application 20 years old. I was surprised to find out (from wikipedia) that it was originally a program that ran on the Apple Macintosh. Microsoft purchased the program from the original developers for $14 million. Since the 1990’s, PowerPoint has been used as a presentation software by business people, teachers, and students. I don’t have any real statistics, but I’m venturing a guess that it is used in every school. Even by non-techy people, it’s easy to use due to the features that Microsoft has put into the program to meet the needs of presenters and audiences.

When I taught second graders how to create a slide, I told the students that this program is very easy to use, because it’s “built for grownups”. Kids of course, would be able to figure out what to do to create slides with images and text just by following the directions right on the screen. I worked with children in every grade level as they produced PowerPoint presentations for a variety of classes and for a variety of purposes. Along the way, students would learn the features of the program: animations, charts and graphs, sounds, embedding movies, and using the programs to create products other than presentations, such as picture books and scrapbooks.

If I were still a computer teacher, I would have to be aware of the fact that there is a great deal of criticism over the use of the program. I’m not sure where it started, perhaps with Yale’s Edward Tufte and his book PowerPoint is Evil. Read the review from this link to get a sense of the major criticisms of PowerPoint. Basically, it’s believed that most presentations created with PowerPoint are pretty awful. Even the creators, Rober Gaskins and Dennis Austin agree as told in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The major complaints include:

  • The slides are used as “cue cards” for the presenter, not to help the audience understand the message
  • Poor layout and design due to the use of default templates make presentations hard to read or hideously boring
  • Ideas are are simplified into bulleted lists and stories are sometimes turned into a set of disparate facts
  • Every slideshow usually ends up looking like everyone elses

Don McMillan encapsulates every kind of mistake made by bad presenters. This movie is hilarious, but really gets the point across. I sent this to my husband last summer as he was struggling to complete a 60 slide presentation that was supposed to sum up his business to a set of investors. I’m sure his presentation didn’t have any of these common mistakes.

One of the most compelling criticisms is that creating PowerPoint presentations do not develop writing skills. Particularly with students, assigning PowerPoint presentations instead of writing essays is most likely a disservice because students are not utilizing a more important literacy skill – that of writing. In the articles I mentioned above, the big complaint is that business people do not write, instead they formulate a presentation, with a bunch of bullet points and charts.

Even with the criticism, it is still one of the most widely used applications, so everyone has to know how to create a PowerPoint presentation. Teach children how to use the program in a whole different way. Teach them to use PowerPoint as truly a visual aid, not as the sole source of information. It is a medium for communication and can be used effectively and ineffectively. We need to learn more about it’s effective use. We’ve all seen really bad presentations with really bad PowerPoint slide shows to go along with it. Think about how we teach our students. Always start with writing – students should write out their essay or speech and that piece of writing should be assessed using the same rubric and grading criteria as an essay not requiring a visual component. PowerPoint presentations should help tell the message of the essay (which presumably could be used as a script) and students should approach the presentation that way
Each slide can use the following

  • Really big text in a headline format (Takahashi Method)
  • Beautiful images, even if they seem unrelated, to fill the entire slide and use not text (Godin Method)
  • Combination of both – some slides with images, some with really big important text
  • Avoid the templates at all costs!

Check out this video done by an educational technology specialist:

By the way, if you following the links to the Presentation Zen, you’ll find it is an extremely interesting blog if you want to learn more about presentations. In addition, check out SlideShare – “the world’s largest community for sharing presentations on the web.”. Look for presentations that are featured and popular. Most of them follow “the new rules”.

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Killer Presentation

When one tries to describe the current state of technology and it’s impact on education, it’s difficult to help people understand the magnitude of the effect. I’ve done a few presentations for small groups about Web 2.0. Reading educational blogs and belonging to a couple of social networks really helps me learn about the Read/Write web. It’s important to note however, that most of the people I know, my face-to-face friends don’t have any idea. They don’t use social bookmarking, the don’t read, much less write blogs, and their feeling about wikis are really negative as a result of their limited understanding of wikipedia. My presentations are pretty lame compared to one that I ran across today on a blog that I read on a regular basis. Lucy Gray does an amazing job in her presentation The Winds of Change – Emergent Technologies in Education. I’m sure she had a few videos embedded in the PowerPoint so I wish I would have seen it live. The message is really thorough. Here are a few of my favorite elements of Lucy’s presentation:

  • Today’s teen – born in 1990 (same year as my middle son), and the technology that has become important throughout his life; there’s something to think about.
  • Lots of statistics – not usually a big fan of numbers, but this message needs the numbers to back it up
  • The examples of blogs in chart form – really liked that all the blogs I read regularly are broken down in categories; teacher, student, professional development
  • Same with Wiki examples – (boy, someday I want to be a “heavy hitter” so my wiki would show up on a list somewhere)
  • List of cool web2.0 tools

Overall, I though Lucy’s presentation was probably really compelling. It was thorough and provided a great deal of information. I’ll bet her audience was really moved by her story. We all should be!

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