Thursday, March 31, 2011

NCTIES:The Experience

I know that I may be a little bit behind on this post but I was lucky enough to get to attend the NCTIES Conference at the beginning of the month of March. While there I got to see a number of people that I have not seen since last years conference. I also got to showcase a couple of years of work on my part into concurrent and technology fair sessions. For the better part of the past three years I have had a little side project within our school district separate from my normal everyday activities. This side project has been on Document Cameras(doc cams).
How it all came about was that one day while at a school I was teaching a workshop at one of the teachers came to me and said that her doc cams was not working and would I be willing to take a look at it to see what might be wrong. Well with it being me I said sure why not I will take a look at it, I know a few things about doc cams. When I went into her classroom I immediately realized that I was not as smart as I thought. The reason was that the doc cam that she had was not one that I knew about. You see our district has normally used Lumens doc cams, but this was one by AverMedia. I knew nothing about AverMedia products so I spent some time in there working on the issue she was having all along making mental notes about what I was doing along with saying how many other types of doc cams are in out there in our school system.
It turns out there are many different types of them in our schools. If you want to get really technical we have doc cams from four different companies and almost 15 different model types. It took me a while but over the three years I have learned as much as I can about these products and what makes them tick. I have contacted companies and technical departments regarding issues that I have come across. I have researched many different ways that you can use doc cams in Education and for instructional use. Well armed with that knowledge, a comprehensive Livebinder and another member of our Instructional Technology Staff I came to NCTIES2011 to present "The Three C's of Document Cameras." This was a culmination of three years of collaboration, getting dirty, tweeting, blogging and talking with as many technicians and people that I could.
Now I have to admit this was the second conference I have ever presented at. The first one was about two weeks earlier. Although both made me nervous the NCTIES one was more nerve racking than the first. I kept wondering if I had everything, if the preso would be enough, if I was going to be able to get the points across to the attendees and most of all I was worried that when I turned around in the room to present there would only be a handful of people made up mostly of my co-workers showing their support. To my surprise there was close or maybe more than 50 people in the room. I immediately started sweating and all the fears of what might happen flooded into my mind. So it was time for the session to start and it was time to put up or shut up. Well in my normal ADD fashion I started off with asking the audience what types of doc cams they had by asking what the colors were of the units they had in their schools. Of course I got responses for all of the colors I asked about and even a few colors that I did not ask for which made me kind of laugh a little bit. That was enough to break the ice and make me feel just like I was back in one of my schools teaching our in district teachers. Then I began to think, hey this isn't so bad, oh and what made it even funnier was that my boss was snapping pictures from the back of the room while we were teaching and I kept wondering if I was moving around to much.
So all in all my experience at NCTIES was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be an of course I also know that it could have been far far worse. So will I do it again and take that plunge into the conference presenting realm? Sure, now that I have gotten to see what it is like to be a presenter I no longer feel of it as something that I have to do but rather something that I look forward to doing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Gaggle of Gadgets

I had another great opportunity this year at NCTIES to attend a session with Leslie Fisher on tech gadgets. For me it seems to make a great start to my conference happenings when I get to have the ADD-Geek moment and get it out of the way first thing.

As usual we had a packed house in the session room and there were people sitting in the aisles, standing along the walls and sitting on the credenzas in the back of the room. I don't know but I think that Leslie seems to be a big draw at the NCTIES conferences, "I'm Just Sayin."

Since I am unfortunately not on the Mac bandwagon I usually tune out when talk turns in that direction. Maybe someday I will be there it just has not happened yet, so I will review some of the PC related items shared in the session.

Rock Melt seemed to be a great tool for the Social Media conscious person. It allows you to round up all of your frequently visited sites, whether Facebook, Twitter, etc. and bring into one location. Almost like you would have in an RSS feed.

We talked about Google Voice in that it allows you to create one telephone number that will route all of your other ones to. So if you have a cell phone, house phone, fax number, another cell phone, a business number you can route them all to that one number. You also have lots of additional features similar to your home telephone but without the hassle of the phone company.

EventBrite allows you to Publish, Promote, Manage events. You can find events in your area or where you are going to be.

Primary Pad which is what use to be called Etherpad, so for those of you that are familiar with the product will easily be able to use this new website.

Don't forget about Twitter and the fact that you can create Widgets that you can embed onto your website. Whether it is your personal page, blog, wiki or even your school so that you can event.

Evernote allows you capture everything, all of your notes, sites, information and puts it into one area so that you can find it fast.

Dropbox allows you to utilize cloud storage for your resource materials and provides you with access to them anywhere you have an Internet connection.

uStream allows you to broadcast yourself over the Internet with the need of very little equipment. All you need is a webcam and a microphone and you are ready to go.

Weebly allows you to create websites on the fly, with or without the need of a domain. They offer premade design templates. Drag and drop capabilities. Auto creates your CSS. Can setup multiple pages on the fly, has an education version that offers security.

Mozy is a cloud based storage site. You get 2GB free then $5 for more. Amazon is also offering their own version as well.

Pogoplug is a piece of hardware that is cloud based, best description is a cloud storage. Load it to the pogoplug and then upload to the Cloud, works similar to dropbox.

It was a great session and I always enjoy the opportunity to hear her speak and she has many more resources that she shares for both PC and Mac and if you have the chance to check out her sight here is the link to her sight

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A "Muse" for Blogs

I have to say that I am very lucky that in my school system I get to work with a great group of people. We are able to work both collectively as well as individually to strive for the goal of educating our students.

We have many different personalities that make up our collective group. We have myself whom I fully admit to being the problem child as the one with ADHD and being the geek of the group. We have our big picture thinker who is always challenging us to think differently. We have our organizer who keeps us on our toes and in line with how things are to be done. We have our techno savvy person that is keeping up with what is coming down the pipe. We have our "guru of the airwaves" so to speak that is always finding new tools for us to use.

And then we have our action oriented member of the team. The team member who is ready to do what it takes to make things happen. Whether it is bringing us up to date on new gadgets, training, software and resources. She is always there to lend not only an ear but a helping hand. But mostly she seems to be a Muse for our Blogging as of late. I know for me, I have at least four to six topics down on paper that she has turned around on me in conversation to say that I should write a blog about this or that. For me it usually comes out of some rant that I am on at the moment where I never even considered writing it all down until she mentions it to me. Most of the time I will get it all out and then forget about it, but she gently nudges me to keep jotting down the topic headings to create my blogs.

So here I sit writing down a blog that has nothing to do with my job, technology or even just random thoughts. I am writing a blog to thank you for keeping my focus where it should be and not out there randomly ranting without a cause.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Need Money for Technology

Are you sitting in your classroom wondering why you do not have the same technology products as the other teachers have in their schools? Are you wondering how you can get those technology items for the students in your classroom.

Why not try Donors Choose. What is Donors Choose you are asking.

" is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need."

So what do you do to get funding for your technology needs. Well all you have to do is to start with an idea, then take that to Donors Choose and then sit back and wait. Well it is not that easy but its pretty close. The process is very simple and easy to follow and will have you online and going in just a few minutes.
So what do you have to do? First you have to create an account with Donors Choose. You can find out more About Donors Choose from their webpage. This page gives you a broad overview of all aspects of the website from how it works to partners to affiliates and many other areas which will provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision as to participating in the program.

So what you have to do is to set up your account by providing a small amount of information including your school email address and location, which you pick from a list of locations in the area in which you are from. Donors Choose will only send supplies to your school location they will not deliver products to alternative addresses. Then of course you have to check off that you agree with the terms of the agreement for using the site.

What else do you have to do? You will need to keep them apprised of the progress your students are making while using the technology in the classroom. This can be shown through video and pictures of the students interacting with the technology. You will also need to maintain your account and update any information that needs to be changed or modified.

Once a project is accepted, "fully-funded," you will be notified and will have a predetermined amount of time to respond with a Yes or No to the materials. Once that is done you will be required to send feedback on your project. This can be in the form of video, photos, letters thanking the donors for the funds to make your project take shape.

Go take a look at the site, sign up and get started with that project idea you may have set aside because you or your school did not have the money to purchase the necessary technology to complete the task.