Lots of Learning Going On

Warning, long blog post ahead!

I’m finally getting around to writing about my trip to Greenville where I attended the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC) (June 25 – 26), and let me tell you I am still tired and on brain overload even now.

UTC ROCKED! Thank you Cathy Nelson for telling me about this conference. I had already signed up to attend UTC when I was told the dates for the Education and Business Summit (EBS) overlapped UTC. Thankfully, both conferences were in Greenville, SC (practically around the corner from each other) and my new principal agreed to let me slip out of our High Schools That Work (HSTW) sessions on Wednesday to go to UTC instead. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Arriving at J. L. Mann HS I couldn’t help compare the school to my own school. It is amazing: new technology everywhere; whiteboards/LCDs in every classroom; large, open classrooms; ginormous library media center; computers all over the place; TV broadcasting over the computer; message displays in the lobby/café area; a drama/journalism studio; I could go on and on, but I’m sure you can already tell I’m envious! (BTW: Did anyone else notice the stairwell lights were motion censored to come on/brighten only when you entered the stairwell?!)

The other big surprise: blogs, wikis, Flickr, and other Web 2.0 tools WERE NOT BLOCKED! Now, this may have been only to accommodate the conference, but I’d like to believe that this is always the case.

The tone of the conference was set with keynote addresses by Ewan McIntosh and David Jakes. Both were awesome speakers – witty, informative, and engaging. Definitely not boring! If you don’t already subscribe to their blogs DO SO NOW! Both speakers stressed the need for educators to learn to use the Web 2.0 tools that our students and young people today are already using and for educators to develop an online learning community (professional network). Students shouldn’t be learning (and we shouldn’t be teaching) in isolation. Connecting with others enhances the learning!

I’m thankful teachers from my school as well as other Aiken County folks attended to learn from these masters. Hopefully, we can start a movement in our district to bring the ideas and tools to our students, too! A few of the concurrent sessions that made an impression on me were:

“Making Your Podcast More Pro” – Ewan McIntosh: After attending this session, I wanted to immediately take down my podcasts and fix them. Of course, this isn’t practical. At least I have better guidelines for future endeavors. Basically, my big mistake is having long intros. They should be no longer than 10 seconds and should state the purpose of your podcast/what you’re going to talk about so people can decide if they want to listen or not. Another tip, host the podcasts where your listeners can leave comments to promote an ongoing dialog.

“Thinking Out of the Xbox: Creative Writing Through Computer Games” – Ewan McIntosh: “Play helps us understand the world around us.” He equated reading a game (level) can be the same as reading a chapter. Not being a gamer, I was unaware of just how much text could be in a video game. He showed example of a teacher using the game MYST III: Exile to have students write about their thoughts, observations, feelings the game/visual/setting evokes.

iPod-abilities in the Classroom” – MaryAnn Sansonetti: If you click on the title link, you’ll be taken to her wiki for this session, which has links for all of the notes I took so I needn’t post them here! Since I already have an iPod and am familiar with educational podcasts, I was mostly interested in ways to incorporate them into the classroom. Thanks MaryAnn for all the wonderful suggestions.

Digital Storytelling 2.0: What’s Next?” – David Jakes: You can click the link in the title above to go to the wiki where the keynote slides and digital storytelling information can be found. Along with various storytelling tools, the message I took away from the Digital Storytelling session is that it’s “the story within the story” that should be the focus of any storytelling project. You’re going for the emotional impact, not the “we did this and this and this…” Use sounds, visuals, music, cutting to images, etc., all to evoke an emotion in your audience. Also, script and storyboard before you put together your digital story.

“Don’t Read to Me – A Presentation on Presentations” – Chris Craft: WOW! Chris used Cognitive Load Theory to show why bad presentations cause students to revert to bad habits because they cannot process all of the information you’re throwing at them (among other reasons!) Talk about a dynamic speaker with such a needed message! I admit, I’ve been a bad PowerPoint user in the past, but I’ve never been a fan of PPT to begin with. Needless to say, I immediately Twittered Chris to come speak at our school! Great thing is, he’s practically around the corner (relatively speaking) to Wagener, and best of all he said YES! Now I have to convince my principal this is a great idea, too! (Carrie, help me out!) Oh, you can also read Ewan McIntosh’s post about Chris’s presentation here.

Of course, I have a lot of additional notes (or should I say more messages to myself), and I went to a few other sessions, but this post is already long enough! [BTW, one of my teachers won a drawing at UTC, so not only did she take away the prize of new ideas, but computer speakers, too!]

I also want to say it was great to meet so many of my Twitter friends and people whose blogs I follow…many for the first time face-to-face. It was also a thrill to have lunch on Wednesday with Pat Hensley, Cathy Nelson, Julia Davis, Chris Craft, and MaryAnn Sansonetti … but to make my day even better, David Jakes and Ewan McIntosh joined us! I also want to send out a big thank you to the folks who organized the UTC. You did a phenomenal job and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next year.

One thought on “Lots of Learning Going On

  1. I really enjoyed the conference too and learned so much. And I was thrilled to finally meet you since I follow you on Twitter and I have your blog in my Google Reader (so I don’t miss a word of what you say! lol) Lunch was fantastic too to be surrounded in real life with so many people from my virtual life.

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