On Conferences and Thanksgiving

On a certain Thursday in November, the tradition goes that one must stuff oneself with as much food as possible and spend the next three days going through withdrawal and recovering from such a fun endeavor. The weekend immediately prior to that day, in New York, one goes through a very similar experience at the NYSCATE annual educational technology conference. The difference is that what gets stuffed is the brain with new ideas, action plans and friends met during the four-day event.

In an effort to unpack all the information and try to come up with an action plan, here is my “top” list of items from the conference:

Top free resource to put into action: ePals

ePals is one of the original global collaboration websites. I’ve looked at it and learned about it many times but have never tried a project. Within a few clicks of visiting the site, you can be connected with a classroom anywhere around the world and get your classes working together. There were no formal sessions at the conference about ePals this year (that I’m aware of) but references were made to it regularly.

Top pay-for resource to put into action: SMART Notebook Math Tools (currently beta)

When math teachers get a look at the math tools in this add-on for Notebook software, I think they are going to freak out (in a good way). In a brief demo, I was very impressed by the new manipulation features available for shapes, graphing, and more. There is a new equation editor built-in as well, although that tool was not in the beta version.

Top cool future tech trend: Plugintothesmartgrid.com

David Jakes won the “cool new thing” demonstration hands-down when he showed this augmented reality simulation during his keynote. What is augmented reality? In a nutshell it is where you can take something in the physical world and augment its properties by interacting with a computer. Its easier to see in action – click on the link above, and if you have a webcam, try it out!

Top thinkers & doers: David Jakes, Sylvia Martinez and Brian Smith

The NYSCATE conference is about people and making connections. There are a lot of great people involved. Some of my favorites include David, who is a technology director in suburban Chicago. His down-to-earth and direct style is very engaging and motivating. I’ve attended workshops with him let that ultimately led to the project myself and my colleague presented this year, Google Lit Trips – What an Odyssey! Sylvia is the president of GenYes, and is refreshingly focused on involving students in all aspects of learning. Brian Smith is a technology integration specialist from the Rochester area, and is a key player in putting the conference together. He has created and maintained many of the tools that make NYSCATE work.

Top presenter who has it figured out: Harry Tuttle

There are lots of presenters who have it figured out, but one that stands out to me is Harry. If  you scan the presentation page at the NYSCATE wiki for his sessions, you notice something: the focus is on learning strategies, and not technology. Harry, a former board member of NYSCATE, has been presenting at the conference for years. I really like how he has always focused on topics such as thinking skills, formative feedback and assessment, and writing skills. There will always be cool new tools and tricks, but what will never change is the need for the focus to remain on learning and strategies to support it.

My hat is off to all those involved in making NYSCATE 2009 another great success!

Top resource I’ve known about but have never put into action

Top pay-for resource to get going with
~SMART Notebook Math Edition

Top future-tech resource

Top thinkers and doers
~David Jakes, Sylvia Martinez, Brian Smith

The person who has it figured out
~Harry Tuttle – his presentations are about learning, not technology. Yes, he talks tech, but it is less important than the learning.