ISTE 2010 reflection

ISTE 2010. So, what were my impressions. In a word, big. Really big. Probably overwhelmingly big. The scale of a conference this size (17,000 or so attendees!) really is hard to comprehend from the outside, and difficult to comprehend from the inside too. There are acres of people and it’s a struggle to get into sessions. I was shut out from quite a few I wanted to attend as were countless others. You weren’t allowed to sit on the floor to get into full sessions, although this was relaxed in a couple of rooms where the numbers occupying floor space were too many to usher out.

You need to be organised, and I have to confess, I wasn’t. I’d been occupied with reports and end of term happenings, and then spent the time before I left getting the MICDS and ISTE presentation organised. I didn’t give myself time to study the conference program, and I should have. Note to self: do this before attempting a conference of these diminsions should you ever attend another one.

Edubloggercon: A great day, and a nice way to start a conference like this. Steve Hargadon chairs the day, but sessions are determined by participants. There was a session about the changes/monetisation of Ning networks. A representative from Pearson publishing was present to discuss the free networks that are only available to North American educators. I don’t think he was expecting to see an international presence there. Both myself and Julie Lindsay (who teaches in an international school in Beijing), expressed our concerns about the lack of support for teachers outside of North America. To his credit, the representative has sent on our concerns to Pearson and has said he will remain in email contact. Let’s wait and see. Interestingly, Adam Frey from Wikispaces sat in on the discussion. I use Wikispaces all the time, and appreciate the support they give to educators with their product. He spoke to me at the end of the session and said he’d talk with Ning about the concerns we were raising. I hope he does so.

Lots of discussion at Edubloggercon about the iPad and it’s usefulness as a device for schools to consider. There were people there talking of it becoming their 1:1 computing device and a lot of push back saying that it doesn’t have the ability to be a creation tool. It seems that people are relying on the developer community to create apps that are going to make the iPad more adaptable to the needs of students. Many people spoke of the benefits of the battery life. I can attest to this. I took an iPad with me to the conference and was amazed that I could use the device all day without having to look for a power outlet to recharge. I was anticipating that I’d use it rather than my laptop. It’s great as a web surfing device and handling email, but I was hoping to be able to edit Google Docs along the way and take notes that I could access from my Mac later. I was really surprised to see that I could access my Google Docs, but I couldn’t edit them. Talking with conference participants throughout the coming days, it seems that an app called Office HD for $7.99 is something that can allow you to edit your documents. People were pretty happy with how it works, but reviews on the App site suggest there are some problems with it crashing.

The best session for me at Edubloggercon was run by Monika Hardy and her students from Loveland, Colorado. They are doing great things at their school with an innovationlab project they are running from August onwards. Students will have time in their school day to explore the things they are passionate about and will be using whatever tools they need to get their message out there and contacts made. The students were inspiring to listen to. They are in good hands with Monika; she is a passionate educator who wants to do the best for her students. She is enacting in her school what many people talk of doing. Keep tabs on Monika’s progress. I would love to see my school make some connections with this program and do a similar thing.

Dean Groom ran a session about how you go about creating an iPhone/iPad app. It was very well attended and Dean presented in a no nonsense way how you access free code out there (and something called The Kitchen sink!) to assist in creating a app for the iTunes store. He made it sound achievable. It got me thinking that something like this would be a great inquiry week project for the students at my school. I’m going to need to find time to immerse myself in the process first to see if I can get somewhere with it so that I can support the students with their learning. Hmmnn…wondering when I’ll be able to manage that!

The Conference itself: There’s a bit of ‘Razzle Dazzle’ at a conference like this. Keynote presenters are introduced with a band playing music that doesn’t always coincide with the message being transferred. In Australia, we just clap. I found myself in a couple of sessions where speakers were evangelical in their ‘call to action’. I found it a little ‘full on’; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I haven’t been to conferences here in Australia that are like this. Early in the peace, David Warlick was asking how this conference differs from Australia. I said I felt like I was at Disneyland; I felt like I was being entertained. (I feel a need to explain this; I’ve noted David has indicated ‘ISTE as Disneyland for teachers’ as a possible post and I presume he is referring to my comment). Please don’t take this the wrong way; the presenters were relaying important messages that educators should be listening to, it’s just that it was full on, and maybe that’s just their style of presenting. And that comment was based on a microcosm of the conference; at that stage I’d only attended the Keynote and a couple of sessions. Let me preface that as well by saying the the keynote speaker was not providing ‘entertainment’, but the opening music on his entry was!

It’s probably a reflection of the sessions I chose to attend (and being a Teacher-Librarian you won’t be surprised) but there was a strong message coming through that we need to focus strongly on digital literacy skills and understandings. Howard Rheingold had the best term that I’d love to be using at school, but I can imagine some would feel it inappropriate. He calls it ‘The Art of Crap Detection 101″. Thankfully, you can view this presentation online.  (and you can visit here, to see other presentations ISTE has released for public viewing) I missed it as I was involved in my poster session while it was being delivered. Howard seems to have partnered up with Microsoft, who have created a very useful guide for teachers called ‘Critical Thinking in the Classroom‘ that you can download as a PDF. You can also access lesson plans and handouts from the site. They have worked closely with American Teacher-Librarians  and students in the process of creating this, and it looks useful. Some of their examples are US centric, and I brought this up in the session. They acknowledged that they do need need to put on a Global hat when they are creating resources like this so that they can be useful everywhere, in all school systems. The session made me think more about using Bing with my students; it looks like they are doing some interesting things in their labs.

It was great having the opportunity to catch up with Joyce Valenza again at this conference. Joyce is visiting Melbourne in July and is presenting for SLAV. I would encourage you to send your staff along, and not just your Teacher-Librarians. Joyce is a dynamic presenter who has a raft of advice to offer about how you integrate new ideas into teaching and learning.I was able to help with the backchannel at the ‘Learning Tools Smackdown‘ that was hosted by SIGMS (Special interest group Media Specialists). The wiki supporting this session is a fabulous resource, as is the Twitter hastag #SIGMS where you will find the resources referenced collated as live links. It was really wonderful seeing Teacher-Librarians and Ed Tech integrators sharing what works for them in their schools. All of the presenters had put so much effort into the wikipages they have created. I can see this being a very useful resource to take back to my staff.

And that brings me to probably the most valuable resource at this conference. Twitter hashtags. Whether you were there in person or attending virtually, the hashtags supporting the conference are a veritable mine of information that can act as your professional development opportunity in the coming weeks. Hashtags to search via Twitter include #iste2010 and #iste10. You should also check out the Diigo group, ISTE 2010; many educators have been adding links there that you will find useful. One of the problems with any conference is that you are just one person and you can’t go to everything. Being able to access information post-conference like is invaluable.

I had a great time meeting people from my online community. Some I’d met before, and some were people I was meeting for the first time. Meeting Jeff Agamenoni was a highlight. Jeff is such a nice guy, both online and in person. I shared a really fun night out with Jeff, his family and Dean Groom. Thanks for your hospitality Jeff and Joanie, and for driving me back to my dodgy accomodation! I shared a great conversation and was so pleased to meet Richard Byrne who writes ‘Free Technology for Teachers’. Richard’s a very nice guy who is doing great work to support the teaching community across the world. I really enjoyed catching up with my PLP friends, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach, Will Richardson and Robyn Ellis . Once again, thanks Sheryl for your hospitality.

Sue Waters and Frances McLean were rocks for me. I loved sharing time shopping, eating and laughing with them. Frances and I even managed to see Toy Story 3 together! Dean Groom, Judy O’Connell and June Wall were also fun companions to be around. Thanks for sharing time with me. I do think we all tend to gravitate to one another because we’re Australian; you look for the common thread in unfamiliar surroundings, and the accent and shared understandings are connective glue.

I ran a poster session on the last day of the conference. I wasn’t too sure about the format, but it was worthwhile. I spoke to many people who were interested in applying Ning environments to their school settings and who seemed to appreciate the fact that I’d embedded the presentation into a wiki and had added a voiceover to help them with their understanding. Hopefully people elsewhere will find it useful too.

Denver is a beautiful place, and a conference like ISTE is incredible. It’s an experience to be had, that’s for sure!

Libraries and our changing world

Over the weekend I was in Perth with my husband and had the opportunity to meet up with people involved in blogging and Web 2.0 thanks to the organisational efforts of the remarkable Sue WatersJane Lowe, Tomas Lasic, Kathryn Greenhill  and Jo Hart and her husband were there also. There were others but I didn’t catch everyone’s names so I apologise for not mentioning you if you happen to be reading this. Thanks Sue Waters for making the effort for me – I very much appreciated it.     

The discussion was lively and my husband was very tolerant. (He was surprised that he could keep up with the discussion; that comes from him listening and being interested in what it is I’m doing. I’m very thankful for that.) It was wonderful that Kathryn Greenhill was there. She is a Librarian working at Murdoch University and she has a great job  working as their Emerging Technologies Specialist.  Towards the end of the afternoon we shared some ideas about the future of libraries and I was very interested to hear her thoughts.  I’ve been mining her blog since my return and am very impressed with her insights. This to do list of Kathryn’s echoes some of the things I have been planning to investigate this holiday break;

WHAT TO DO?

On my own “to do” list?

  1. Find out more about new publishing models and licensing structures.
  2. Find out more about reading-dedicated devices – kindles and illiads and Sony readers and screen technologies that make it easy to read in bright sunlight.
  3. Find out more about the “reading” functions on converged devices (like the iPhone and mobile phones). Is it really possible to comfortably read a whole book on one?
  4. Educate myself more about Digital Rights Management and which e-books can be read with which e-book reader software on which machines.
  5. Investigate models for academic texts that involve library-provided materials that can be read off-line.
  6. Find out more about what the University of Michigan Library is doing with their Espresso Book Machine.
  7. Think even harder about “last copy storage” projects  and whether they make sense for Australian academic libraries.
  8. Think about preservation / archive vs accessibility issues with e-books.
  9. Ask some people under 30 what they think about books vs e-formats.  (If you are under 30, please let me know in the comments ).
  10. Try reading a fiction e-book from start to finish. (I have bought two that use the Mobipocket, and have been irritated that I can’t flip the screen to portrait so I can hold my eee 1000h like a “real” book. Fuddy Duddy me. )

There are things on that list I know very little about -obviously I need to know more! I can see Kathryn’s blog is going to be a must read for me, especially considering she has received funding to visit the United States and Canada  in April and investigate alternative discovery layers and open source library management systems. Open source library management systems are very interesting and I’d love to know the viability of having them replace the systems we are using today.  Looking at Kathryn’s blog she seems to share so I will be watching with interest.

Thank you Kathryn. Already I am learning from you. That’s the wonderful thing about this network. Connections are formed that impact on your ability to understand new ideas. You don’t need to learn in isolation and you can help one another navigate new territory. As far as Libraries go, the new territory has been laid open. Time to discover what lies within. 

School’s out Friday

Yay!! I really am out from school this week. Holidays are here in Australia for some of us. Sorry Govt. school teachers- I know how hard that last week is – you have my sympathy although I don’t think that will count for all that much! 

And yes, I realise it is Saturday and I am late getting this up. I’m in Perth with my husband and we’re having a great time in this wonderful city. We’re meeting up with Sue Waters and Jane Lowe and possibly others this afternoon. I met Sue last week in Melbourne but I’ve never met Jane. Both of them have provided me with a lot of help this year- if not for them I wouldn’t have been posting from China. They both directed me to Posterous and Jane suggested Blogger as the platform that would be accessible in China for the blog I wrote for parents while I was there.   

Anyway, enjoy Charlie Todd and the improveverywhere crew as they entertain us once more. I’m looking forward to a Christmas extravaganza from them – hope they have something planned.

Enjoy your weekend.

Guest on Open PD – who would have thought!

This morning I was skyped into a conversation about blogging on Darren Draper and Robin Ellis’ Open PD session. I found out about it via a conversation on Twitter with Sue Waters, who was musing about the difficulties of waking up at 5.00am (or earlier!) so that she could take part. Sue’s an incredibly generous person (and prolific blogger and twitterer) who is always willing to champion others and bring them into the fold. I’ve only been communicating with her a short while, but already this is blatantly evident. I always admire others willing to share the knowledge around – it’s the mark of a good teacher.

I had problems with ustream and the skype call dropped out a couple of times before we finally established connection, but it was well worth taking the time before work to get involved. Things like this make me realise that I am part of an incredible network of educators who are all focused on moving us forward. I’ve said it before but it is the stand out impression I’m left with after entering the edublogosphere. It’s like I’ve discovered the staffroom I always wanted to be a part of except that it exists in a digital environment!

On another good note, I had parent teacher interviews tonight and showed many parents our blog which is set to private. I discussed the notion of moving it to public in the future so that our students could connect with classrooms outside of our walls. Mostly positive reactions to the idea with comments referring to myspace and facebook and the internet presence the kids already have. Very interesting. I sense a shift in the air.