This week, more than 500 educators from 9 systems and 5 private schools came to Sparkman High School for the North Alabama Technology Conference, expertly coordinated by Vickey Sullivan for the sixth year.
My first session Wednesday introduced iNow, the new student information system. I sat with two members of my school faculty, which made the workshop more useful.
I found the keynote, delivered by retired detective and FBI consultant Richard Love and entitled "Child Sexual Exploitation via Media and Technology," to be designed to manipulate his audience in the worst possible way. I think using a clip from Saturday Night Live (which was itself terrible dated, as were Love's references to AOL chatrooms) really brought down the tone of his whole presentation. His caveat never to post a picture of yourself online seemed to somewhat contradict his proviso that we set up a facebook account to experience what younger people are doing. I found it quite telling that his own wife had ignored his expert advice. I think Love is a Luddite and a reactionary. Sexual offenders have always existed, and I have seen studies that instances of child sexual abuse have actually decreased over the last few decades because of awareness campaigns. I resent the implication that technology has facilitated this sort of predation, when it has simply recast it. I am disappointed that the conference chose to begin on a fear-mongering note rather than focus on constructive and innovative uses of technology. I think media awareness and literacy can largely mitigate the uninformed and reactionary anxieties that Love has evidently made his career feeding.
I gave a 3-hour workshop Wednesday afternoon on the Instructional Uses of Cell Phones (slides below, but the website may be more useful). Ironically enough, we didn't have cell phone reception in the classroom, so chose to make a series of field trips in search of a signal. There was palpable excitement as the participants practiced SMS-ing Google queries, responding to polleverywhere surveys, and writing to wifitti walls. Again, twitter let us down, only a handful were able to create new accounts, but I think they got the idea of backchanneling.
I won a 500GB hard drive in Wednesday afternoon's door prizes. It only seems to work with the Mac, but I guess it will be my new Time Machine device.
Thursday morning, I decided to forgo the Moodle session in lieu of some shorter concurrent session. The first I'd chosen was cancelled, and I ended up in another on Moodle after all, this time for language arts. It discussed some really interesting elements of Moodle design. When I mentioned these capabilities to two of my Moodle-using colleagues, they told me that they aren't able to upload a picture to the Madison County district Moodle server. That is the only disadvantage I see in having so many practice-based workshops with teachers from different districts -- the local policies and technologies do vary radically.
Then the next session I'd planned to go to was cancelled as well, so I ended up in one on Glogster... I had used a glogster for the splash page for my afternoon workshop. The presenter was a librarian who had seen the poster technology at AIMA (now ASLA) in June.
There was a small but enthusiastic crowd for my concurrent session on ereading (slides below). I had a petting zoo, too, so they could experiment with Kindle, Stanza on iPod Touch, iBooks, and Tablet ereader applications.
I ended the day as the only participant in a session on VoiceThread, so it became a private tutorial. The presenter put together a VoiceThread where second graders talked about their favorite books. Instead of a series of photos with a single voice or two voices in tandem, which is how my students have always used VoiceThread, these students all spoke over a single piece of clipart. It was interesting to contrast those different uses. She helped me figure out that you can only use the doodle tool when in recording mode with a live mic, and I had an educator account, which allowed me more VoiceThreads, which was something she had only just learned about at AETC.
It was a good conference, full of sharing and rather practical tips. I was really gratified to see so many teachers from my school faculty there as well as many librarians I knew. It seems to bode well for our district.