Thursday, June 28, 2007

Conference 2.0

I've been attending the National Education Computer Conference for over 10 years, and each year I walk away revitalized, my head swarming with ideas and luggage filled with resources ranging from business cards, handouts, literature, and other conference goodies. This year I noticed educators walking away with one more exciting 'benefit' -- an incredible sense of community that resulted by combining their face to face conference experience with read/write web's community building tools.

Conference 1.0 looked like this: You're sitting next to someone at a workshop. You spend several minutes chatting, learning about each other, and just as you start to engage in a meaty discussion sharing resources, the workshop presenter brings your focus to their exciting content. Trying to squeeze in as much as you can in this day packed with valuable, but limited, opportunity to network, you run off to your next session, remembering that you forgot to get a business card from the person sitting next to you, but thankful that your presenter had not run out of handouts.

At recent NECC's we have been introduced to the tools of the read/write web and have started to use them to build community online. While at this year's NECC, I saw a new level of passion being ignited as educators who have been using these tools met on escalators, in workshop sessions, at the blogger's cafe, or by an exhibitor booth.

Conference 2.0 looks like this: You're sitting next to someone at a workshop. You politely introduce yourself, and recognize the name on their conference badge. You've seen it online along with the works of her students. Within seconds you are in a meaty discussion receiving timely tips about how to replicate the strategies you've already picked up from this teacher's online showcase. Your workshop presenter starts and skips all the “background” information that would build credibility and authority (because it's online at his/her blog) and gets right into the meat of the presentation, touching on the important points, leaving you to explore the minute details on their wiki or blog. Instead of fervently taking notes and hoping they don't run out of handouts, you click on online conference handouts and focus and reflect throughout the whole workshop.

For others, the online communities that lead up to face to face meetings at the conference were more formal. Member of Classroom 2.0, the open source community, second lifers, edubloggers, and even we (ITM bloggers) met face to face for the first time. The sense of community reached a new level by these face to face meetings, and I know that our online experience in the year to come will be richer because of this opportunity. Feeling like I already knew someone because of their contribution to the read/write web; and knowing that I would be able to continue to have insight into the development of their work, ideas, class projects through their read/write web contributions, made my NECC 2007 connections some of the most powerful ones I've ever made at a conference. How did the read/write web impact your conference experience?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Navigating NECC

Navigating NECC

The world's largest educational computing conference, the National Educational Computing Conference, takes place next week in Atlanta, GA. It’s a potentially overwhelming experience, especially for first time attendees, and in this post, I thought I’d share a few tips for how to make the most of your NECC experience. Please add any other ideas in the comments section of this post.

1) Pick a theme. Explore an idea that you’re interested in-depth by attending related program offerings. At NECC 2004 in New Orleans, I chose blogging as my personal theme, and signed up for a blogging workshop in addition to attending general sessions. During the 2005 conference held in Philidelphia, podcasting was all the rage, so I attended an Apple event and a great introductory presentation by David Warlick. This year, I hope to squeeze in a few sessions in between presentations and exhibit hall obligations. If I have time, I'll be scouting out sessions that have a global focus.

2) Utilize the conference program planner. Sign up for any and all sessions that pique your interests, even if they are flagged as potential conflicts. If a session is full, you can then always look at your planner and run to another pre-selected session. Also, use the planner to insert your own events (i.e. vendor off-site events, meet-ups with colleagues etc.) and to mark which vendors you want to visit in the exhibit hall. The sheer amount of exhibits is daunting, and it helps me to plot out certain booths ahead of time.

3) Put your conference planner into a format that you will use. Print it out, put it into iCal or even load it on your handheld device. My personal trick is to put the results of my program planner into iCal and then, into Google Calendar. After importing the file created by the online conference planner into iCal, I then chose the File menu in iCal on my Mac and selected Export, sending the file to my desktop. Next, I imported this file into my online Google Calendar. I clicked on the Add link located above My Calendars on the left-hand side of the Google Calendar page. Next, I created a new empty calendar in Google Calendar and called it NECC 2007. Following that, I selected Import Calendar from the same Add menu and chose the new calendar entitled NECC 2007. Browsing my desktop for the iCal file, I then used the pull-down menu to add it to the calendar called NECC 2007. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s manageable... really! I prefer to have my calendars in Google Calendar because it plays nicely with Gmail and I can easily share calendars with others, even allowing them to edit a shared calendar. See my calendar as an example.

4) Leave yourself enough time to digest everything. Don’t expect to attend session after session without a break. Break up your day a bit by visiting the exhibit hall, poster sessions and the like.

5) Bring your laptop. Set up a bookmarking service and bookmarklet to save web sites cited in presentations. Tag these resources with the labels necc or necc2007, so that others can check out these sites as well. New this year to NECC are bring your own laptop hands-on sessions, too.

6) Bring a recording device to record informal conversations for future reference. This idea comes from ISTE Leader of the Year Charlene Chausis. Last year in San Diego, we lunched with Judy Beaver of Hawaii's Punahou School, and Charlene pulled out her iPod and recording attachment to preserve our conversation. Instead of taking notes during our impromptu lunch meeting, Charlene had a recording to review had she wanted to revisit the topics we discussed.

7) Come prepared to network. Check out birds of a feather sessions to find like-minded souls. Find out if your local ISTE affiliate is planning a special event. For instance, my Illinois (ICE) affiliate is hosting a dinner on Tuesday night.

8) Bring business cards, and preprinted labels containing basic contact information. It’s always helpful to have cards in order to keep in touch with people you may meet at NECC. Labels are useful when filling out forms for vendors in the exhibit hall.

9) Follow the bloggers. See Steve’s post and check out David Warlick’s Hitchhikr site. Also worth checking out is eSchools News Online Conference Information Center.

10) Bring an extra bag to transport goodies and brochures home. You don’t want to go over the airlines’ weight limit because of everything you accumulate at the conference!

If you’re not attending NECC, keep an eye on the bloggers (see #9), on ISTE’s podcasting page, and on Chris Walsh’s NECC Live segments.

NECC attendees can also check out happenings in the Google booth (#2730) and other assorted events related to ITM bloggers:

Monday, June 25th
10:00 - 10:40 Take a Lit Trip with Google Earth (Jerome Burg)
11:00 - 11:40 Project-Based Learning with Google Tools (Cheryl Davis)
1:00 - 1:40 Searching with Google (Chris Walsh)
2:00 - 2:40 Blogger Basics (Mike Lawrence)
3:00 - 3:40 SketchUp (TBD )
4:00 - 4:40 Collaborating with Google Docs & Spreadsheets (Esther Wojcicki)

Tuesday, June 26th
10:00 - 10:40 Searching with Google (Chris Walsh)
11:00 - 11:40 Project-Based Learning with Google Tools (Cheryl Davis)
1:00 - 1:40 Searching with Google (Chris Walsh)
2:00 - 2:40 Take a Lit Trip with Google Earth (Jerome Burg)
3:00 - 3:40 Blogger Basics (Mike Lawrence)
4:00 - 4:40 Collaborating with Google Docs & Spreadsheets (Esther Wojcicki)

Wednesday, June 27th
10:00 - 10:40 Take a Lit Trip with Google Earth (Jerome Burg)
11:00 - 11:40 SketchUp (TBD)
12:00 - 12:40 Collaborating with Google Docs & Spreadsheets (Esther
1:00 - 1:40 Project-Based Learning with Google Tools (Cheryl Davis)

Chris Walsh

Chris will be in the Google booth (see above) and will be conducting a series of interviews around the conference. See last year’s videos for a taste of what’s to come at NECC 2007.

Lucie deLaBruere Research: Redesign Assignments with Social Bookmarking
Hands-on BYOL
Tuesday, 6/26/2007, 11:00am-12:00pm; GWCC B305

Redesign research assignments for students, increasing critical thinking and maximizing your own productivity in managing online information using social bookmarking tools such as
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s588

Lucy Gray

Classroom Innovations Series: Teaching and Learning in a Global Context
Workshop: Hands-on
Julene Reed, St. Georges Independent School with Lucy Gray
Monday, 6/25/2007, 8:30am–11:30am; OMNI International A

Learn how to use technology and online resources to provide structured experiences so students deepen their understanding of the world as they explore environments outside the classroom. (Exhibitor-Sponsored)
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s217

Podcasting and Podcatching for the Absolute Beginner
Session : Spotlight
Larry Anderson, National Center for Technology Planning with Lucy Gray, Julene Reed, Tim Tyson, Cathleen Richardson, Dan Schmit and Steve Dembo
Tuesday, 6/26/2007, 12:30pm–1:30pm; GWCC Murphy 4

Podcasting! Everybody seems to be doing it. But if you've been afraid to jump into the podcasting water, join us and learn how!
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s603

Preparing Teachers to Lead in a Global Society
Session: Panel
Lucy Gray, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools with Judith Beaver, Lynnwood Belvin, Rae Niles, Julene Reed, Lori Roe, Otto Benavides and Elaine Wrenn
Wednesday, 6/27/2007, 12:00pm–1:00pm; GWCC Murphy 4

Professional development experts will discuss the critical need to educate today's students to be global citizens and the role technology can play in the process. (Commercial Content)
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s716

Steve Hargadon

Steve is going to be one busy man at NECC. He is running "EduBloggerCon 2007” on Saturday, June 23rd, a free "unconference" meeting of educational bloggers. It will be held in the Georgia World Conference Center; further information is available here.

He is also managing the Open Source Pavilion at NECC, an entire lab devoted to free and open source software. A speakers series on related to this topic will also take place. Check out the schedule!

You can also catch Steve at the following events:

Free, Open Source, and Web 2.0 Software for the Classroom
Steve Hargadon, Technology Rescue with Sharon Betts, Steven Burt,
Bill Fitzgerald and Terry Freedman
Birds of a Feather Session
Tuesday, 6/26/2007, 4:45pm-6:15pm; GWCC B308

Explore successful uses of free and open source software and Web 2.0 in the classroom.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s250

Integrating Online and Open Source to Support Integration
Sharon Betts, Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine with Bill Fitzgerald and Steve Hargadon
Birds of a Feather Session
Monday, 6/25/2007, 4:45pm-5:45pm; GWCC B308

Talking about open source and online tools to support integration-we will share solutions and implementations, brainstorm ideas, network and plan future collaboration.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s263

Linux and Open Source Software in K-12 Schools
Session: Hands-on Open Source Lab
Monday, 6/25/2007, 12:30pm-1:30pm; GWCC B308

An overview of Linux and open source software, with specific examples of programs that can be easily implemented to save money and increase computing stability.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s587

Linux Solutions for Thin-Client Computing

Session: Hands-on Open Source Lab
Tuesday, 6/26/2007, 2:00pm-3:00pm; GWCC B308

Linux provides several unique benefits in thin-client computing:
simplicity, stability, cost savings, license independence, Windows
interoperability, and the reuse of old computers.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s651

Mark Wagner

Wiki While You Work: Best Practices for Educational Wikis

Poster: Traditional
Wednesday, 6/27/2007, 12:00pm-2:00pm; GWCC Level 5, Galleria
Learn how wikis can be used as powerful collaboration tools for
individual and group student projects, teacher and class Web pages,
professional development, and much more.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s313

With Power Comes Responsibility: Online Awareness, Ethics, and Safety

Session: Lecture
Wednesday, 6/27/2007, 10:30am-11:30am; GWCC B217

Blogs, MySpace, and more... Learn about the technologies, the
benefits, the concerns, and proactive strategies for helping your
students use these tools ethically and safely.
Blog Tag(s): necc, n07s707

Friday, June 15, 2007

NECC Helps for Bloggers

Attending the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC 2007) at the end of this month? (Or wishing that you could be?) Here are two quick tips for maximizing your "blog" exposure.

First, NECC is hosting a "Bloggers' Cafe" for the first time this year. This under-publicized lounge are will have casual seating for 15+, a smart board, and more. It makes sense that this might be a fun place for edubloggers and their friends to relax or gather. In that vein, I've created a Twitter account for the cafe which anyone can send a message to by email. When you are in the lounge, you can send an email that you are there, and anyone subscribed to the Twitter feed will receive your notification. If they want to join you, they can do so. Instructions are here.

Second, ISTE has done a great thing for NECC 2007: they've created individual blog tags or labels for each session (and presentation, meeting, lecture, showcase, etc.). This means that you can blog on specific sessions, and you can also keep track of all the blog posts and tagged photos from a specific session! This is going to be super helpful to both bloggers and readers, and especially to those who are not attending the show but want to keep up on certain topics.

However, the tags didn't get created in time to be in the printed NECC program, and they are currently only found on the NECC website by searching for individual session information. So, I've created a list of the session tags for NECC 2007, and added blog and Flickr links and feeds for each. See this long list (over 800 sessions) here.

I'll be hanging out at the Open Source Pavilion most of the time at NECC. If you are attending, please stop by and say hi!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blogging can make you smarter

Did you know writing down your ideas can actually make you smarter? I have an intuitive sense of this, as a pretty avid blogger, but I was thrilled to read this message in the closing chapter of Dr. Stephen Krashen's excellent book "The Power of Reading, Second Edition: Insights from the Research." On page 137 under the heading "What Writing Does, he wrote:
Although writing does not help us develop writing style [Krashen contends READING develops writing style], writing has other virtues. As Smith (1988) has pointed out, we write for at least two reasons. First, and most obvious, we write to communicate with others. But perhaps more important, we write for ourselves, to clarify and stimulate our thinking. Most of our writing, even if we are published authors, is for ourselves.

As Elbow (1973) has noted, it is difficult to hold more than one thought in mind at a time. When we write our ideas down, the vague and abstract become clear and concrete. When thoughts are on paper, we can see the relationships among them, and can come up with better thoughts. Writing, in other words, can make you smarter.

The context of these sentences from Dr. Krashen is WRITING in general. He is not specifically addressing blogging or digital writing. However, I think his conclusions (well documented with references to educational research) are equally applicable to the blogosphere.

People blog for different reasons, and all of those reasons have value. In the past, people were much more limited in their abilities to publish and share their ideas with a global audience. That has changed dramatically in the 21st century, however, as ANYONE with access to a computer and the Internet has access to "the global stage." Whether writing on the "global stage" or a private, personal paper-based letter, writing can stimulate thoughts, and many of those can be "higher order" thoughts involving analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Writing (not simply copying and pasting information with a web browser and word processor) is inherently a CREATIVE act. That process therefore has inherent, creative and ideological value. (Ideological in terms of helping people further develop ideas.)

Is the greatest value I personally derive from blogging this process of clarifying thoughts, literally "getting smarter" via writing? I'm not sure. I know that aspect holds great value, but I think the CONNECTIONS which are fostered via blogging as well as the CONVERSATIONS are at least of equal value, if not more.

The more we blog, the more we reflect, the more we think and write about learning and our practices as professional educators, the smarter we're all going to get! Dr. Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor at the University of Southern California, confirms this conclusion is supported by educational research! Isn't that cool, as well as affirming?!

Blog on... and tag on... The world is watching, reading, and often even writing back! What would Neil Postman say about all these digitally-empowered conversations if he was alive to read blogs and possibly even write on one today? I don't know, but I think he might need to revise some of his observations and conclusions in his book "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business."

Many if not most of the people participating in online blog conversations have moved far beyond "The Age of Show Business." We've entered the era of participatory culture, and the conversations are really just getting started. Think how smart we'll all be in ten years if we keep this up?! [grin] It kinda makes my head hurt to try and look that far into the future!

Want to help your students literally get smarter? Consider involving more of them in moderated, online blog conversations!

Friday, June 01, 2007

That's Mathematics

Part of any good teacher's strategy is motivating students by helping them understand the relevance of what they are learning. While legendary math professor and entertainer, Tom Lehrer could count on his musical talent to describe the value of mathematics, most of us have to come up with more varied engagement strategies. Part of the power of Web 2.0 applications is their ability to engage a participatory audience, thus why not capitalize on elements that make sites like YouTube popular amongst digital natives to increase participation in your classroom.

Creating a video podcast for math class can help your students correct misconceptions, learn the language of math, and clarify thinking about mathematical concepts. To see the refinement in thinking that occurred while these 6th grade students created a series of Math Strategies Podcast, their teacher examined the revision history of the scripts they edited on Google Docs. It was amazing how much ‘self learning’ occurred when students reviewed each newly produced version of their podcast episodes and self-corrected their scripts. The quality of the written process outlined in the final revisions of the scripts was many times higher than if the students had been asked to simply write out their math problem solving strategy. Although these students created each episodes using the “record” feature of a Smartboard, you can also use a variety of Screen Capture software such as the free version of Camstudio. A tablet PC or graphic tablet can also be used to capture inkstrokes making thinking visible. Some document cameras have video capture features, and there’s nothing wrong with using traditional video cameras, digital cameras, or even cell phones to create a video podcast of your mathematic strategies.

These video podcasts were created by St. Albans City School middle school teachers to help parents support their children's homework time by explaining the hows and whys of new math strategies. Uploading them to sites like YouTube, BlipTV, or Google Video allows you to hyperlink to your math podcast or even embed one directly into your own blog, wiki, or website. For those looking for a more controlled environment, consider TeacherTube or New Vista as an option for viewing and uploading video podcast. Even if you’re not ready to jump into producing your own math podcast a simple search for “math” on any of these sites will yield a wealth of videos ranging from academic tutorials to entertaining mathematics comedy to engage your students. (Warning: not all materials in these sites is suitable for educational use requiring some advanced planning on developing strategies that align with your school culture and acceptable use policies)