Upstate Technology Conference 2011

Last week I had the opportunity to once again attend and present at the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC) in Greenville, SC.  This is one of my FAVORITE conference to attend.  Not only because I get to meet up with my friends from around the State, but because the sessions I attend here provide me with new knowledge and challenge my thinking.

My sessions were ones I’ve done previously at the ETV Workshops, Aiken TechFest, and other venues.  My morning session, Web 2.0 Speed Dating, went very well and I was pleased to have a fellow Aikenite there (sorry I can’t remember his name, but he works at LBC Middle!)  This session has never bothered me and has typically gone very well.  It is my afternoon session that continues to bother me – “Evernote to the Rescue!” I have varied my delivery, updated the content, re-organized the content, and more, to no avail.  The session just doesn’t satisfy me.  Oh, it’s not the topic – I LOVE EVERNOTE!  I think I finally hit the nail on the head – it’s the TIMING of the session.  I think I’m so pumped up in the morning – I’m borderline hyper – and so tired in the afternoon that it is ME that is the problem, not the content.  You see every time I’ve done these workshops I’ve done them in the same order – Web 2.0 in the morning and Evernote in the afternoon.  And every time I feel the same – happy about the morning session and blah about the afternoon session.  So from now on I’m going to ask to do one session on both days in the morning instead of both session on the same day.

I attended Tamara Cox’s session on cell phones and learned some new and interesting ways to utilize the tools in the library and classroom.  Unfortunately, cell phones are verboten in my district.  Until this changes I’m limited in what I can and cannot offer in terms of services/programs using cell phones.  She did have some tools that we can use our iPod Touches and some that can be used outside of school that I will be exploring.

I attended Chris Craft’s session on student engagement – and while I still think there is such a thing as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, I agree that the issue is complicated and engagement means something different to everyone (both to the teacher and the student!)  That motivation and engagement are individualized and we should be customizing our instruction and delivery for each student.  We shouldn’t “assume” we know what motivates a student – we should build relationships with each student to learn how best to serve their needs.  That’s easy for me to say as what I do in the library is customized for each patron – for the most part.  Yes, some instruction is group and is a one-size fits all, but ultimately we help each student as each student needs (or wants) us.

Another great session I attended was Pat Hensley’s session on QR codes.  While I know how to create and scan QR codes, it was great to hear other examples of how to incorporate QR codes into the curriculum.  I think I got the most fun out of assisting the two “novices” next to me in how to text to Poll Everywhere and then scan QR codes!  Seeing them get excited about something new made me happy!  It reminded me how I realized in my Web 2.0 session that while I’m familiar with tools that I’ve been using for years, there are still teachers out there who haven’t even heard of them.

My only disappointment with a session was one on the Nook eReaders given by representatives from Barnes & Nobel.  I went hoping to hear tips on how to use it and/or incorporate it into the classroom/library.  Instead I left early after (whether intentional or not) they lied about another company’s eReader.  Guys, you don’t have to bad mouth other products to sell your own – it should stand on it’s own merits.  And trust me, the Nook will hold up without how you went about selling it to your audience.  I know, I have a Nook Color and it is a pretty sweet device.  I also have  a Sony eReader, a Kindle, and an iPad.  So I know what each can and can’t do – and what you said made me sad.  This is why I walked out on your pitch.  If it was because you just don’t know the other products, then DON’T discuss them – just say I’m not sure how the other product works.  DON’T lie to me.  I’m just sayin’.

But on a brighter note, as always the most fun is gathering with my colleagues and friends.  In fact, I missed some sessions just because we were too busy talking to make it to a session on time.  Thanks Pat for remembering to take pictures.  Every year I say I’m going to and every year I never pull out my camera.  Sigh.


Lt to Rt: Cathy Nelson, Fran Bullington, Chris Craft and ME!

Photo Credit:  ”001″ by Loonyhiker  (aka Pat Hensley) –

Technology Proficient?

Recently a Media Specialist in another county emailed me to ask about our State Department of Education’s Teacher Technology Proficiency Survey.

“What do you think of the SDE’s technology proficiency test? … We are a little dumbfounded here that some of the technology referenced is unknown to us, and we are supposed to be mentors to our teachers.”

For background, in SC our teachers have to “prove” that they are proficient (80%+) in using technology in their practice as part of their teaching certificate.  The survey is supposedly based on the ISTE NETS for Teachers and has questions that deal with all things tech related, including Web 2.0 tools.

As a “tech expert” in my school, I assist our technology coach with the survey administration – helping teachers access the site, sign-in, and navigate the survey.  Listening to teachers during and after the test, I frequently hear “what the heck is a … ”

The following is an excerpt from my response to my friend’s query:

… Yes, the SDE tech survey isn’t “passable” to many in my school/district since almost all of the Web 2.0 tools they list are BLOCKED.  My teachers have no clue what wikis, nings, and other tools are.  Oh, they’ve heard me talk about them, but since they are blocked very few have explored them.

That said, let me ask you this?  How many of your district LMS/teachers are taking the time to try to learn what those tools are?  Did they make note of the questions/items they didn’t know about (or review their test & answers) to find out what they missed?  Are they just sitting back and waiting until the district provides them training or are they actively seeking to gain their own knowledge?

Two things:

1) teachers and LMSers CHOOSE to be in this profession.  As educators, how can we ask our students to be “life-long learners” if WE aren’t willing to walk the walk?  Also, the TEACHER/LMS is responsible for their PD, NOT our school or district.  Yes, they should be allowing us to attend PD, but we shouldn’t be waiting for them to always pay or organize the training.  If the teacher/LMS can’t afford to pay, find FREE alternatives.  There are so many free online PD opportunities and we have the ETV FREE workshops, too (March 29-31)!  Time is another excuse I hear and I don’t buy it.  People find the time to do the things they want to do, they can find the time to do PD.  And Web 2.0 tools can take as little as 20 min a week to try out a new tool.  Doesn’t mean you have to become an expert, but as LMSers we should be at least FAMILIAR with this stuff.  Don’t know where to start – why not use the AASL Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning?  OR I HIGHLY recommend attending the Upstate Technology Conference for PD in the use of education technology.

2) how can we advocate for these tools to be unblocked and/or taught in PD by our districts if all we do is sit back and complain and/or sit back and do nothing?  For all those who complain to you/me about the SDE tech survey how many have taken the time to protest to the powers that be at the district level?  You and I individually can’t really do anything – we are low “men” on the totem pole.  If we are being held to the topics in the survey in order to be considered Technology “Proficient” then our districts SHOULD be providing training in house AND these things shouldn’t be blocked by our filters.  Why aren’t the teachers/LMSers holding their district accountable?  If it’s on the survey doesn’t that mean the state thinks these things are important?  Then collectively we should be FORCING our districts to unblock and train on these tools.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox about teachers being in charge of their own PD, being sick of excuses and district filters.

I do sympathize and understand my teacher’s frustration with the survey.  I, too, struggled with some of the questions.  Not because I didn’t know the technology, but because of poorly worded or multiple correct (in my opinion) answer choices.  There were also questions that were tool/program specific instead of generic/category/process specific.  I know there was one that included a specific brand of library circulation software (and not the one my district uses) for which most teachers would have no clue what it was.  There were also questions for software that is traditionally used in elementary schools that high school folks wouldn’t recognize.  I’m really interested in knowing who authored this assessment and did they field test the questions before publishing it for administration to teachers?

Since I was tasked to administer a similar survey to our 9th graders (based on the ISTE NETS for Students), I have access to my school’s results (both teacher & student).   While our district hasn’t provided any instruction as to what we are to do with our results (as proficient OR not proficient) my school’s Technology Committee will be using the results from our teachers to designing our future in-house PD – using the categories most missed.  As a bonus, using the survey and the teachers’ needs as justification may help to get some of these tools unblocked!