Texas, as the rest of the country, is in the midst of an education revolution. Tight budgets, cognitive research, and new technologies are forcing wholesale changes for students, teachers, and administrators. This was the backdrop of our trip to the Texas Computer Education Association conference the week of February 6, 2012.
We definitely noticed that attendance was down. Vendors commented that traffic was down, but that gave them more time to have deeper conversations, so the net effect was increased opportunity.
Almost by definition, if you are attending an ed tech event, you are interested in learning more and using technology, so the crowd was not necessarily representative of educators as a whole. That said, educators were looking for technology that allowed them to engage students, teach deeper, teach more in less time, and handle larger classes. Spending priorities on content seemed to be ELA first, Special Education second, ELL third, and if there were still funds available, Math. But the number one spending priority was on finding ways to use money to keep staff and avert layoffs at districts of all sizes.
We got the chance to listen to schools rave about three of our clients: Atomic Learning, HELP Math, and School Improvement Network, so that was gratifying. You always want to hear how your products are helping teachers teach better, and turning a failing student into a star.
And I was able to attend Edubloggercon, which will be called SocialEdCon at ISTE this summer. This is always a highlight for me, because the talks are unrehearsed, and the ideas free-flowing from the presenters and the audience.
For those interested in (usually free) interesting applications discussed at presentations, below are my highlights of the sessions I attended.
Kevin Honeycutt on Art and Music in Education
If you’ve never had the chance to hear or see Kevin, you’re missing something from your life. He connects education philosophy, technical savvy, empathy, first-hand experience with the effects of bullying, art, and humor in all of his presentations.
His main point in this session was that we are at the beginning of a major jobs war. Globally, there are 3 billion people vying for 1 billion good jobs. The winners are going to be inventors and innovators; yet we are cutting all the opportunities for individual expression and creativity from schools. What are some quick tips on tapping and expanding kids’ creativity?
- Give a school event where the price of admission is student content, like a dance but only allow students to come if they have written a song (which really isn’t that hard given applications like PocketGuitar and GarageBand)
- Give every teacher $20 on iTunes and let them find their own applications to use in class, but also make them share what they’ve done in some type of forum like a PLC.
- Make sure the local press reports on student created content, so the parents demand more of it.
- Put iPads in special education, and let those kids create content that the whole community hears about, so other parents demand that their own kids get the same opportunity
- Make it safe for kids to try new things. If they are using a new music application, let them use headphones so no one hears their mistakes until they feel comfortable to go pubic.
Motivating the technologically unmotivated teacher
The most common excuses are that they have no time, and the way they have always done it works. Here are the ways the group came up with for trying to overcome them:
- In tech PD, take 45 minutes and give the teacher one thing that will work in his or her classroom instead of trying to cram more into a session.
- Find ways to publicly applaud successes. For example a tech laggard, when applauded for some tech accomplishment on the district website will be more likely to try something else.
- Do an unconference with teachers on PD day. Have the teachers come up with their own 30-45 minute topics, and find a person who is willing to lead the session.
- Find teachers who are willing to be the experts, you can’t just rely on the tech team.
- Do a collaborative session with the teachers, and then use this as a model for the teachers to do collaboration with their students instead of sit and git.
- Use Google docs or Evernote for collaborative note taking on PD sessions.
- Plant some folks in tech PD sessions who will be enthusiastic
- Use a parking lot to note issues that should not immediately be resolved, so you can stay on target.
Virtual Field Trips
Dwight Goodwin is another person you should go out of your way to see. He keeps his presentations at http://classroomnext.blogspot.com/ where he has presentations on iPads in the Classroom, Google Earth for Social Studies, Websites that work well with Interactive White Boards, and Virtual Field Trips.
There are generally four different routes for Virtual Field Trips. You can often find an expert in the field who will be happy to share his or her expertise with a class. Many museums have virtual field trips. Many historical places like Jamestown, Vicksburg, and Williamsburg have virtual field trips, and there are many trips using Google Earth.
One good source for finding trips and experts is CILC. I also maintain my own Diigo list of virtual field trips. Skype has a new educator’s site which has tips and possible collaborations. There is a web site devoted to Google Earth Literature Trips. The Google Art Project has interactive tours of many of the world’s top art museums.
Five Lovely Tools
Gail Lovely presented five new useful tools.
SoapBox creates a back channel without requiring email addresses of names (unless you want to). For example, you can set up so students can anonymously can indicate if they are confused, so a teacher can decide to speed up or slow down. Later, you can pull off the questions and answers to use for student notes.
iPiccy is an online photo editor, also not requiring logins or email addresses. You upload your picture, and can apply special effects like “teeth whitening”, “eyelash”, or “thinnify”, and then pull your picture back down.
Qrvoice creates a QR code that plays text to speech. If you were creating a school tour, you could have students or parents listen to explanations on their smart phones. TagMyDoc allows you to upload a document and create a QR code to access and share it.
Myna is an online sound editor, allowing you to record sounds along different tracks, put in license free music tracks, and download the sound file for use in a presentation, animation, or video.
TitanPad lets multiple people work on the same document simultaneously, without requiring logins. It also allows the document owner to create “return to” points so nothing gets accidently overwritten.