Saturday, March 6, 2010

NCTIES Reflections

Short notes on conference:

Many great sessions and of course, difficult to choose which ones to attend!  One of the great things about a conference, though, is learning from the people attending, too.  There are conversations in the car - for us in Forsyth County, that's an additional 4 hours of conversations about edtech, what works, and what doesn't, what's new, what we want to try, etc.

Next month, we will move into a new building with new equipment.  We have thought for a while we would have SmartBoards, but may have Promethean boards - just not sure.  The first session I attended was on ActivExpressions, the new, upgraded handheld used with Promethean boards.  He showed us how to do the software upgrades to the handhelds and several different ways to use them in a class situation.  We should find out soon which we will have in the new building.

Another session was Cindy Phthisic's "Ride the Wave."  She shared her top 10 google tools.  Loved them.  One tool that is advantageous for groups in education or in teaching is google wave.  It has a great way to share and communicate and plan and you can add widgets and maps, so many things that aid the discussion.  But, I think that they do work best with smaller groups - like a class -- 10 or 20 or 30 people can do a lot in a wave.  If it gets too large, it is too bulky.

The absolute best part of the conference was Ron Clark's introduction and presentation at the luncheon.  I've read one of his books.  I've always enjoyed teaching with enthusiasm to engage students - singing silly little made-up songs to help students remember things.  In the fall, we took the ship measurements of the Mayflower, used chalk to draw them in the courtyard, used tables, chairs, boxes to represent areas of the ship and tried to imagine how the people lived there during the voyage.  We followed up by reading a lot about the first settlements, how the people lived, and what they did.  We made our own Thanksgiving meal, made hats, collars, place-cards for our lunch, churned butter, baked a turkey, cooked the side dishes, and finally enjoyed our feast.  This is just one example of many practical, hands-on activities.  Like others in the luncheon, I identified with Ron Clark and his love of students and teaching -- finding out what students need and trying to help them learn and be excited about learning new things.

The session after lunch was about Ready Animation - software by John Lemmon and session by Julia LaChance.  This session demonstrated one of the grant winner's project that worked great for her middle school students.  We skyped with John Lemmon and had the opportunity to ask him questions.  It was another good session.  We could do parts of this with clay animation, or art, and use digital cameras, and powerpoint with 1 second slides.  This is thought for a trial class to see how it works.

The last session of the day was a session from LearnNC about online learning.  Many participants were beginning online learning opportunities for their teachers and staff just like we have in Forsyth County.  There are many online courses offered to our teachers in the state and LearnNC is also offering COLT classes to add more classes - free classes - for counties in NC.

Friday sessions began with Leslie Fisher's updates on ipods and iphones.  She shared many great apps for students, teachers, and techies.

There was a great session on using digital storytelling.  This was appropriate for our new 6 digital flip cameras for students.  Gained some new ideas for use.  Our original idea was for students to take them on their field trip to the coast as they learn about other regions of the state and visit landmarks that they have been studying.

The last session was another digital storytelling session using flip video cameras.  My head is spinning with all of the interesting sessions and the vendors demonstrations.  WOW!

The benefits of this conference will be seen within the next year as we try out some of the ideas for technology in our new building and create some new ones of our own.  Yippee - when you love your work, all is good!

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