Thursday at MACUL

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the MACUL Conference.  Either Michigan or Ontario planning or both put the event during our Spring Break and so other things had got in the road.  This year however, it was in Detroit at Cobo Centre and so I decided to hop the Tunnel Bus and go over for the Thursday events.  MACUL is one of the great conferences and I encourage you to take one in.  Cobo Centre is also such a terrific place.  Often when you get into big conference centres, finding rooms is difficult.  I’ve always been able to navigate Cobo with no problems so that’s a real plus.

I get there in lots of time (clearing customs was a breeze) in time to get the lay of the land and get registered.  Piece of cake and that’s always a good sign of things to come.  I go out to the lobby to grab a coffee and am in such a good, pay it forward to the lady behind me in line.

I did Twitter through the day as did many folks.  See the discussion here.  I had my iPod and started the day frustrated with how many keystrokes it took to get to the # key to tag my comments with #macul. For Alan November’s session, I was so riveted on content, I twittered without that tag.  For the rest of the day, I did play by the rules.  MACUL also has its own Ning available here.

The morning keynote is by Alan November.  We’re all handed out electronic voting devices as we enter and I’m looking forward to seeing it used in the hands of an expert.  I’ve always be suspicious of this type of technology with its wild claims of engagement.  Often it takes away from the flow with its constant need for attention.  My thoughts were confirmed.  Between switching cables from one computer to another and the time taken to conduct votes, not to mention the simple questions, I estimate that we wasted over 10 minutes of time that could have been spent listening to Alan speak.

Alan’s presentation really put things in context.  He’s best when he tells stories and we got to enjoy many of them.  He speaks with such passion when it comes to kids and classrooms.  There were some really salient points.  For me, the most important one was “Adding technology in the class is not enough to motivate, add jobs”.  Technology by itself isn’t as big a motivator as creating content and posting it for others to learn from.  Now, that’s really playing at the highest of levels. Alan’s a big fan of the Jing Project and showed how easily a student could create a Screencast and post it for others to enjoy and learn from.

Then, it was Mr. Steve Dembo‘s turn.  I actually took in two of Steve’s sessions today.  “Learning to Speak Native” and “Extreme Makeover”.  While the content was different in both sessions, the message was the same.  If we’re not staying on top of things with respect to the use of tools for students, we’re becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Steve really drove this home with his use of Prezi as a presentation tool and the ease of use of various other web based resources.  However, when someone uses my favourite, Crappy Graphs, I know that I’m in the right place!  I’m still amazed when he asks if anyone’s not heard of Twitter and hands still go up.  Maybe in the regular world, but this was a technology conference!

No visit to a MACUL Conference is complete without attending at least one Leslie Fisher session.  If there is a flagship presentation in her repertoire, it’s her Gadgets session.  She didn’t let us down and took us through a whirlwind of new things to try (and buy) to up our geek level.  It was Standing Room Only, and to prove it, Leslie took this picture from the stage.  If you’re interested in the presentation, she keeps her handouts here.  Make sure that you abide by her terms.  If you’ve ever been in her session, you know that a great deal of time and effort has gone into the presentation.

A blog entry doesn’t do attendance at her session justice.  You’ve got to be there to truly enjoy it.  I’m happy to report that I did have an opportunity to chat with her and she’s confirmed as a speaker for the Western RCAC‘s Symposium 2009 in December.

You also need to spend time in the exhibition hall at these events.  Lots of things caught my eye and will rob me of some sleep over the next few days.  I’ll undoubtedly end up adding to my Delicious collection so watch for happenings there.

This had to be the shortest 10 hours that I’ve had for some time.  The Tunnel Bus stops right across the street from Cobo and it’s a short hop under the international boundary line and I’m home.  Exhausted, but I see that the excitement from MACUL continues to inspire Twitterers into this evening.

Day 2 goes tomorrow.

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Advanced Immediacy

It seems like for every possible happening, there’s some resource your can use for research.  Yahoo! or Google or any of the other search engines in the online world provide wonderful and not so wonderful resources.  Most include an advanced search option that many people tend to ignore.

On our Student Reference Portal, I actually have a whole page devoted to search for students and, instead of the simplistic search, I send those that use it to the advanced page.  It serves you well to scrape through web resources and content to find what someone has already created.

In order to be effective, the search engine has to find and index the resource somehow to make it findable.  There are all kinds of algorithms to determine what result is posted first.

More and more, I’m finding myself intrigued with finding a resource right now.

For that, you can’t beat a Twitter Search.  But, even then, you’ll be buried with all kinds of results.  In a little link off the side, you’ll find that even Twitter Search has an Advanced Search to help you find immediate results with relevancy.

This opens up a whole new world.  Immediate results have not be categorized or ranked at any level.  But, their value lies in the immediacy. You can even prime the results by sending out a comment to Twitter and watch the results come rolling in.  It’s another new and important literacy that has huge potential when you use it and realize what the results actually mean.

This is another incredible tool to add to your searching toolkit.

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links for 2009-03-18