Sunday, March 20, 2011

On a Techie High

The annual MACUL Conference was held this past week.  The word on the street is that the conference was the best ever.  This is good news to me, because I'm on the Board of Directors and helped plan and carry it off.   :)    There were over 4,000 attendees and I could feel the high level of energy and enthusiasm among those who were there.  I kept really busy with organizational tasks throughout the conference, and was only able to make a few of the sessions, so I look forward to keeping my own learning going; there are many ways to do this:

  • Check out the awesome resource materials posted by presenters on the Speakers' page of the MACUL website.

  • Browse through the #macul11 tweets. Conference attendees posted quotes, links, ideas, questions, photos, and more.

  • Follow the discussions going on at MACULSpace.  I just added a forum for sharing your "best of MACUL" stories.

  • Read the posts on the MACUL Conference Blog.

  • The keynotes and some of the featured speakers were videotaped.  The videos will soon be available on Michigan Streamnet.

But wait... there's more!  The day after the MACUL Conference, my district hosted the Stir it Up with Discovery Education Conference.  It was sponsored by Discovery Education, and it was like a "mini MACUL Conference."  Many educators who were not able to get away for the MACUL Conference came. There were 75 attendees from at least 15 SE Michigan school districts.  We were lucky to have Discovery Education's Mike Bryant, Matt Monjan, and Porter Palmer there.   The Michigan Discovery Education Leadership Team planned and presented at the event: Cheryl Lykowski, Eric Strommer, Gina Loveless, Lisa Wickman, Cindy Carson, and me.  Walled Lake educators who presented included Mark Lada, Randy Micallef, Jennifer Bond, Rob Osterman, and Mark Hess.  Support for technology integration by the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools administrative team was apparent, as many attended:  Superintendent Gutman; Assistant Superintendent Barry; Director of Technology & Data Analysis, Mark Hess; Director of Community Relations, Judy Evola; and the hosting school's principal, Brad Paddock.  AWESOME!   You can check out the conference wiki for session handouts and other electronic resources.

I'm tired physically, but am intellectually energized!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Return to Sender

I was browsing through the electronic version of The Journal this morning. The cover story, "Return to Sender" by Dan Gordon, is a thought-provoking article about the role of technology in educational reform.

"Work readiness is no longer just about the three R's; now it's also about turning information and knowledge through web sesarching and vetting. It's about developing effective multimedia presentations.  It's about seamlessly using digital tools to collaborate and problem solve."

Almost all decisions we make are impacted by persuasive digital media:  what to buy, where to go on vacation, who to vote for, and what to think about current events and issues.  Graduating students who can use digital media to deliver a message have a much better chance of landing a job in the workplace. 

"If the United States is to stay economically powerful in this global economy, we have to develop the next generation of STEM professionals - young people who are not only good at math and science, but who think creatively and work in teams.  The platform for doing that is technology."  We cannot fix our schools by using the technology that we have to teach students the same way we always have.  We need to be brave, take risks, think outside of the box, don't try to do it alone, and provide learning opportunities for students that are interesting and based on real situations and problems.  Figuring out a way to do that on a systemic level is the challenge.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Unintended Uses of Twitter

Twitter is everywhere.  I started using it in March of 2007, when it was a communication medium that I used with other ed techies out there (I still use it for this purpose).  I learned quickly how it could benefit me... My position was/is unique in my school district, so I often did not have colleagues who I can collaborate with on many of my projects. Twitter helped me get connected to others all across the nation (and the world) who I could turn to for support and encouragement.  I'm now connected with others who know what I'm talking about when I ask about such things as codecs, applets, and glogs.  Sharing and learning is what I do with Twitter.

I recently saw a 8 minute TED-Talks video featuring Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter.  He talked about how Twitter originally was created as an experimental broadcast medium, and that the growth of Twitter came as a result of unexpected uses invented by users.  Examples:  Users invented a way to respond to each other by using the @ symbol.  Users also invented a way to search for posts about a topic by other Twitter users (#hashtags).  Twitter has been used during times of disaster and political unrest.  Mr. Williams had no idea that his little experiment would end up being such a valuable tool.  He ends his speech with this remark:  "Follow your hunches, but never assume where they will go."  Enjoy his 8 minute TED Talk.