Reflection on Day One of NECC 2009


My Live Blog (does not include Equity Summit)

Digital Equity Summit

NECC 2009 Attendees | Program | Digital Equity Summit
My Tweets from Digital Equity Summit

Given the fact that I teacher in a Title school, and make that an issue, I should be participating in this event but Equity Conference and I have not been getting along. Last year, I blogged my complaints about them charging a fee for attending ($25). I was urged to come by Jon Becker either because of my perspective as a teacher in a Title One school, or because he felt I would provide humor and amusement by causing trouble. He has been trying to shake things up with this event since last year. Apparently I was not the only one to complain, and this year it was free. Jon Becker shared this (and some of the background on why it occurred) with me on Saturday after his EdubloggerCon session on School Change. He also suggested that I go to the Conference based on my comments. So, I showed up on Monday morning. As an interesting transition, I had arrived early, and dropped in on the ISTE 100 Sponsor Breakfast. Having not read the fine print, I didn’t realize it was an invite only event for sponsors, and that it would last past the time the Equity Conference started. So not only did I crash the party, I left in the middle of speeches. Fortunately the event coordinator had to leave for the Equity Conference too, so I snuck out with her.

I get to the Equity Conference, and run into Vicki Davis who was set to present about Flat Classroom with Julie Lindsay. There was NO wifi at an event I hoped to live blog. Vicki was not happy about that either and we decided I would second her request for wifi. When I brought this up with the event coordinator, she noticed I didn’t have a “name badge” and said that it required advance reservations, I’d have to wait and see if there were no-shows. At that point, I lost it, and while I did not even argue with the conference organizer about it, I did send some rather sharp tweets up. I imagine that she had some concerns about SRO and the Fire Marshall (there has been a real crack-down on the floor sitting habits of NECCs past), so in all fairness, it wasn’t her fault, and she seemed to want me to get in. Fortunately my roommate, Adina Sullivan, was on the list, and couldn’t make it, so after a walk around the corner, to let off steam, I returned and explained I was taking her place. They were fine with that.

As you can imagine, I was not in a great listening mood, which was unfortunate because I almost missed some great stuff. Fortunately a friend next to me pointed out some could stuff and I started tweeting it. Here are my Live notes:

Keynote is by Jenelle Leonard, U.S. Department of Education
We’ve come very far, we have far to go
Now focused on what the new administration is planning, etc.
Scaling up proven practice, best practices, promising strategies, and innovative practice, and not be regulation focused. Those are all contradictory though.
They want to look back at past years, but to figure out both what works, and not just what didn’t. Want to “listen” to stakeholders about NCLB before changing it based on that feedback.
DOE wants to be innovative, not a compliance bureaucracy.They know the department had an image problem that is was seen as a compliance agency, rather than a source of ideas and help and they wanted to change that. Fight for better education is fight for social justice.
What you (we) are doing fits in with that.

Milton Chen from George Lucas Foundation and Edutopia
What are these young people doing while we’ve been living our lives.
New part of Edutopia site with video promos on bringing the digital to the natives (demerits for using digital immigrants)
digital generation project Sharing stories from the kids now.

Showing a video about Luis in rural OR with immigrant parents Shows his life, and also how tech Taking 4 AP classes, and uses FacBook to stay in touch with friends, and loves cnet and Youtube
School has a 4H Tech Wizzards at school, parents only use ATM. He does robotics, etc.We use video cameras, computers, etc. We use those tools like books in the group.
Did an inventory of trees for city. The best part of a trip to a conference in Chile was doing the presenation and realizing he could do that. Mentor elementary students.
Parents: Why aren’t you home? I have to help our community. When they saw what i was doing, they understood.

The table sessions:

  1. Erin Reilly: Cases-study Zoe’s Room, after-school online room for STEM skills for girls in middle school. Playing to learn.
  2. Washington D.C. set up a community computer center to develop STEM skills
  3. Mouse Squad student run help desk
  4. Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay Flat Classroom, DigiTeen to have students meeting
  5. Dennis Harper Kijana Voices peer teaching by students to help others (case study in Central Calif and another in Africa?)
  6. Edu Games with Stem content
  7. Ruth Farmer Natl ctr for women in info tech has an award to high school girls
  8. Alan Jones Imagine Us transforms eduction by customize ed for all students. Computers to dist. Old refurbished by students and dist to community

The really big fail of the conference was this, they were supposed to have some speeches, and short presentations, then there were table presentations that we would rotate through. Because the speechifying took so long, we only got to 2 out of the six tables. THAT was disappointing. Also, it seemed to be set up for non-tech based presos. No projection, no sound, lots of paper. I think that could improved. So, my suggestions would be this, keep the no charge, add some wifi and have better logistics for presenting, and a tighter adherence to schedule, and this could be something. As it was, it was a miss for me. I talked later with one of the SIG members, and she seemed receptive to my concerns and asked me to join. I have no plans to go to ISTE 2010, so I’ll have to find out what they do the rest of the year with that SIG.

Slam Dunk Projects with PowerPoint

Presenters: Meghan Jothen, Baltimore County Public Schools with Meshia Sutton

Why did I choose to go to this session? I’ve been using PowerPoint as a medium for students to do reports in. I like the large default fonts, and they see only one slide, and do only a paragraph or a question/idea at a time. It keeps them from getting overwhelmed by multiple pages in word processing. The session was based on work by Jamie McKenzie (who also was presenting at NECC).

This was a BYOL (bring your own laptop) session. They did something very wise in that they had two presenters. One did the introduction (the vice principal), the other was at the computer manning the presentation and talking us through the actual work. The presenter introducing had a very good into, explaining why this was a great idea, and had a very dynamic and engaging personality. You can’t underestimate things like that for setting the stage of a good presentation.

They then went through the model. I liked their approach which was to focus on having students answer higher order questions when they do research, not just spitting back factoids they copied off a Web site. It’s something that I had come to on my own in having students do with their reports. You would be surprised at how fact focused a lot of teachers get in their research report requests from students. This will not only not get students to “proficient” on state testing, they won’t learn to think critically in their lives.

There was one BIG miss about thie presentation. They felt you should provide students with a list of Internet resources, and NOT LET THEM USE GOOGLE ON THEIR OWN, because it’s not efficient, they don’t know what they are doing, and they will learn it later. I was once of this opinion myself, but let me explain why this is NOT a good idea. You need to teach them how to search effectively and efficiently. They need to start learning by middle school, and not after otherwise, they will pick up bad habits, and not learn how to search effectively. Then, when they are older, they will already have bad search habits.

That being said, the rest of the presentation was fine, they had a great delivery, and except for not letting students do any searches, they made their case for organizing research report assignments this way. This is for educators teaching K-8, or special education in high school, or those coaching and training them. The technical skills were definitely beginning level (she spent the last 10 minutes showing how to do interactive PowerPoints, that was the point where I left), but how they organized the projects was good for educators who are “stuck” in how they are structuring research reports which would be teachers at a lower level of instructional practice. This includes more educators than you would think.

Digital Tools for Math Education

Presenters: Joe Garofalo, University of Virginia with Glen Bull, Maggie Niess and Janet Walker

Both sessions had such potential, but each had one fatal flaw. This one was more in delivery than the underlying content (the problem in the session on Slam Dunk PowerPoints). This was about using digital tools (not just video) to improve math instruction. This was a “lecture” session, but cords had been trialed out to the center tables (which were circular).

The into started by Janet Walker was good, they discussed how mathematics classes are now structured (correct homework, lecture, do a set of problems, leave, do homework), and how they are trying to conceive of math class (Watch->Analyze->Create). They showed an Abbott and Costello video that has a series of cascading procedural errors, and asked us to think about it:

This showed one way to use video as an into and get students thinking and problem solving.
The next demo was where I, and my entire table, got lost. They set up a problem about a child riding a bike and hitting a stone. The written directions on PowerPoint described the path of the tire, but really, they wanted the path of the stone stuck in a tire tread,with the idea of students discovering cycloid periods. She then shows a way to teach this with spreadsheets, and I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand where the numbers are coming from (what’s your formula leading to the X,Y coordinates?). It involves using sine, which at the point of the day, I’m too whacked out to follow. I don’t see a lot of head nodding (oh, that’s what she means) around me, so I’m not the only one in the dark. She also showed some stuff using Geometry Sketch Pad, but I was pretty well lost at that point. Fortunately, she then handed off to Joe Garofalo. He discussed how he had pre-service teachers design digital lessons. One was a sophisticated interactive PowerPoint where students had a food budget and had to pick the best place to get pizza for a class party which scaffolded them to algebraic expression (hey I did a lot of what he showed as a banking analyst–don’t laugh). The next one was a lesson using a set up from the pilot of “Lost”, and trying to map where they are “lost” given their path, the likely jet and it’s mileage, and how far off we know they are. Used either Encarta or Expedia for research, Google Maps, and triangulation. All very interesting. I was pretty tired at that point, and still confused from earlier presenter, so I don’t think I gave it the proper appreciation it deserved.

I will warn you that because I kept losing my connection, the posts on the live blog are out of order, so that may be very confusing.

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