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This was cross-posted on Reflections on Teaching

This conference had a rough start, as I had problems with each of the sessions/events I attended. I’m happy to report that two of my favorite sessions occurred on the last day.

Chris Lehmann on UBD

Presenter: Chris Lehmann, Science Leadership Academy

There was not reliable wifi in the room for this session, so I twitter blogged it. If you look below are my “twitter” feed, you might think I didn’t like the session based on my ending note which was critical, but that was around the edges, and complaint the presenter addressed later, and can be dealt with:

  1. Thoughtful wise passionate and kind are his goals with kids @chrislehmann #necc09

  2. U teach kids not subj elem ed gets this @chrislehmann #necc09

  3. Thinks the debate was more agreement about where we need to go @chrislehmann #necc09

  4. Ubiquitous necessary and visible tech in school @chrislehmann #necc09

  5. What’s good is more critical than what’s new @chrislehmann #necc09

  6. We shouldn’t have schools+comp but whole new school

  7. But tech can be a game changer @chrislehmann #necc09

  8. Integrate subjects @chrislehmann #necc09

  9. PBL with tests is not PBL, but may not be bad. What do we value? @chrislehmann #necc09

  10. The following common unit planning model UBD and standards based @chrislehmann #necc09

  11. Now building a unit plan with @chrislehmann #necc09

  12. UBD seems to have a big hole prior knowledge. context, schema essential 2 ell education @chrislehmann #necc09

Chris Lehmann had done a really similar presentation almost a year ago at NECC for one person, me. I was the only one to show up for a NECC UnPlugged session he did on Understanding by Design (UBD). This was ironic, because his “official” presentation that year had every seat filled and folks mad they had missed it. It was probably one of the most circulated UStreams of a session from NECC that year. The UnPlugged session was a short one (about 20-30 minutes) and we did a similar thing which was to go through and create a unit plan. This time, I got the background on the theory behind it. I like starting my own trainings this way, explaining this is WHY you might want to use it before delving into how. It gave things more context. The part that is not clear from the twitters is that they have a common rubric for the “products” that students create as part of their units so that when they grade writing, whether it is in Science or English, they are on the same “page” about the expectations. That is a very radical notion in Secondary education (see twitter 2), although I wonder if some Elementary teachers have gotten into the habit of “seperating” out their subject matter instruction. I could go into some of the problems with how “science” units in Language Arts text miss the mark, but that’s a post for another day. They also try to make the process as transparent as possible to the kids. One teacher even had a unit having students learn about UBD.

The one problem? The unit plans did not include some accounting of what prior knowledge, or context, or schema the kids would need to have to adequately deal with the subject matter. Chris assures me that was his omission, and it’s in the lesson plans as opposed to the unit plan. I like to see it in the unit plan, but you know what, I could just add a cell to the unit plan table, and voila! the need is met.

GoogleEarth for Teaching Spatially

NECC 2009 Attendees | Program | Teaching Spatially with Google Earth to Investigate Land-Use Issues

Presenter: Alec Bodzin, Lehigh University with Lori Cirucci

This was the both the best session in terms of content and delivery AND the one most likely to impact my teaching, and it was the closing for my time at NECC, as I had to catch a plane and skipped the closing keynote. I am SO glad I stayed for this. I made the decision to go to this sessions early on. It was a Bring Your Own Laptop (which I prefer for being hands-on). It was one GoogleEarth and teaching about land-use. This is directly related to the work I’m doing for my husband on walk audits at school (assessing how safe it is to walk to a school). The traffic-types use GoogleEarth extensively, so I could see a tie-in there. The EETT grant I’m helping writing has a STEM component, and GoogleEarth is an excellent tool for that.

The presenter shared a unit that had been done with high-risk, low-motivation eighth graders in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. The area includes Allentown (former steeltown) so there was a pleathora of material for kids to study about. They started out looking at their area and GoogleEarth, which as anyone who has used it with kids knows, is a highly engaging into all on it’s own. He used placemarkers and guiding questions to teach students to recognize the difference between man-made and natural places, then moved on to show students how to spot places that looked natural, but had been altered through the activities of man. They also discussed concepts like “heat islands” (places that store heat because of concrete/asphalt covering) using thermal mapping.  It was all to get them able to do the analytical work to plan the location of a mall. Really impressive thinking!

The presenter had great skills; a low-key, but humorous approach. Midway through the projector died, and he kept the pace, increasing the verbal directions, so that we could keep doing the activity while the a/v people replaced the projector.

Cross-posted at Reflections on teaching

The Great Debate

Video: NECC 2009 Tuesday Keynote: Debate and Dialog | ISTE Connects – Educational Technology

Live Blog I participated in

RESOLVED: Brick and mortar schools are detrimental to learning.

This was not much of a “debate” since one of the guys who argued the affirmative didn’t find much to like about virtual alternatives, and the lady for the opposing point of view thought that schools couldn’t go on as they are either, and should have more technology.

I started the debate favoring the negative. Cheryl Lemke had a strong, well-reasoned delivery (ex, “…distance learning has the word “distance” in it”).

Gary Stager one of those who argued the affirmative, has often left me scratching my head. I like to think of him as an ed tech Thomas Paine, leading the clarion call for change. Unfortunately, Paine was unable to participate in the “new order” when change finally came. I mean this as no disrespect, to Dr. Stager. All revolutions need their agitators, and he is marvelous in this role. He has also obviously done some fantastic work with students both young and old. In this instance though, Gary stole the show, and made me change my “vote”. Here are some “favorite” quotes…

Coup de grace: the blame is in bankruptcy of our imagination

Pedagogical emphasis is on PRODUCT vs PROCESS

Online is taking worst of bricks and mortar

Whiteboards? Focus is still on the front of the room

Gary’s argument was against schools as they are, and Cheryl’s was for schools as they could be (Gary definitely had that too, but he made the strongest anti-status quo argument). They’re both right.

Metaphor for Instruction

metaphorswithtechnology – wiki
Presenters: Vivian Johnson, Hamline University with Cara Hagen

This was one of my FAVORITE sessions. I’ve been doing my own explorations using visual metaphor with my students. It’s a really great way to teach concepts to language learners. The presenters had a different and more structured approach than I was learning, so it was a good session for me to attend. They had a wiki setup for the session, and sent out an email alerting us of this in advance of the session. They were doing a team presentation, and quickly and seamlessly handled approving all of us having access on the wiki, so the technical aspects were very smooth. They modeled what they do, finding an image/visual to show a concept, and how to embed pic in wiki. They showed using mind maps, and other organizers, and suggested having HS students work on which type (linear vs. free-form) works best for them. They had us go to the discussion tab, and share what concepts our students have the most trouble understanding. We then picked one out from the concepts, and worked on finding an image to explain it. I chose someone else’s suggestion of Main Idea, which language learners have a hard time with. They tend towards a complete recount, rather than summarizing. Here is what I came up with, which suggests that it’s an outline. They then provided a rubric since the idea is for students to do this activity. I would highly recommend this session for educators working with language learners, and special education students who need visual support.

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.

Some background for those unfamiliar with NECC, and EdubloggerCon. NECC (the National Educational Computing Conference) is an annual conference for the members of ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education). This is a conference focused on education technology and draws folks from around the world, although most are from the U.S. Prior to the start of the official NECC meeting, an informal meeting called, EdubloggerCon is held. This is the third or fourth year of EdubloggerCon. The idea of a “Con” is that it is self-organizing, and invites participation from all attendees. If you want to present, you simply post up on the Agenda wiki, and see if folks come. Here are some links related to the overall event:
The schedule: http://www.edubloggercon.com/DC+2009+Agenda.

Photos on Flickr tagged ebc09

Photos in the EdubloggerCon Pool

Blog Posts (Google)

Blog Posts (Technorati)

And here are my accounts of the sessions I participated in:

Liz Davis on Professional Development

The discussion was about Web 2.0 and professional development. We discussed what’s changed, and what hasn’t and how to make it effective. The first question was about whether or not we used back channels in our trainings. Most of us found this was either not possible, or not something our PD audience was ready for. We then split into groups to discuss matter further. This was interesting talking in our group about the different elements of a PD session. There is the physical: are you in a lab, or do participants have laptops? How is it organized: into a series or one-off sessions? What is the content: tools, or embedding their use in curriculum? Do you keep showing new “tools” or work on perfecting the use of what you’ve already shown? How does titling affect attendance: I had someone expect PowerPoint in a session titled Beyond PowerPoint, and someone had folks not showing up to a Social bookmarking session because they didn’t know what that was? Big take away quote in my group was from someone who said they told participants they could keep laptops open, and she was going to respect them as professionals, and asked they consider showing the same trust and respect for their students. We came back to discussing back channels when we got back together, which was funny because because during the live blog I received a comment from someone in a GIS session with no back channel, so she was in our live blog. Maybe a back channel there would have kept her “on task”?

Contrary to Wes Fryer’s expectations, Pearson in the person of Elaine Roberts did show up, but this time they did not bring cameras. I suggested after the introductions that we agree by consensus that all material discussed would be under a Creative Commons Share, and Share-alike, Attribution license. This would mean that anything ANYONE used outside would have to be acknowledge, and would in could not be copyrighted. This was the some of the complaint about Pearson last year, and I think made things fair, and clear. It was a brief moment and we went onto more productive discussions.
My Liveblogging at EdbubloggerCon at NECC

Twitter feed from session

Mark Wagner on Building an App

This session was about deciding on an online application to build, then hiring a contractor to do it. There are a number of rent-a-contractor services and Mark had used one in the past to do some work. The goal was to figure out an app to put out to bid, and to collect donations from participants to pay for it (micro-funding?). The back channel for this was in tiny chat, and I don’t have an archive. I will try to do a follow up if this project has life outside EdubloggerCon.

Our Project Proposal

Jon Becker on Changing School

Titled, “Where School Reform Meets Madonna: Can public schools fundamentally reinvent themselves?” This had an interesting group of educators discussing whether public education could reform itself and/or be reformed. My Liveblogging is here and I did my part to participate in the discussion ;-). The conversation started with Jon posing the question, can we change it all, and does it all need to be changed?  We discussed the state of things, with Jeff Utecht pointing out the positive; schools and education have broken into “niche” markets. Being the cheerful sort, I pointed out that we also were experiencing a re-segregation of schools by social-economic status, race, and language to such a high degree that I often found myself the only white person in the room when teaching. This cannot be a good thing. Sylvia Martinez pointed to the history of modern schooling which came out of the need to educate and socialize huge numbers of immigrant children to be “Americans” driven in large part by fear of immigrant delinquency and foreign-ness. The discussion then went onto whether choice and charters were the answer with some disagreement about whether charters “stole” money (ADA) and students, and those who were more student centered feeling that these things were not neccessarily the districts’ by “right”. I would say I agree with Bethany V. Smith when she said, that charters had not shown much promise as a vehicle of reform, which jibes with my feelings that charters are “an” answer, not “the” answer, and a lot more will have to be done to “improve” education.

The discussion went onto the divergences about basic understandings and goals. Some moments from that section were non-educator stakeholders (parents, voters without school-aged children, business people, etc.) do not share our understanding of what skills-set is needed, and what teaching methods will get students there (participatory, project based, using 21st century tools). Scott McLeod pointed out that there are some educators in rural areas he supports who do not want to have students get these skills because they fear this will exacerbate the brain-drain from farming communities. I discussed that people really do not get how crude a measure standardized tests can be, and that we should looking at pushing portfolio based assessments. Doug Johnson wisely stated that to change what we are teaching, we need to change what we assess, because the teaching follows what and how they are assessed.

My Liveblogging at EdbubloggerCon at NECC

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