The last day of the conference proper turned out to be just as hectic as the previous days and equally as rewarding in terms of my learning and ideas to bring back for sharing with our teachers.
First up, it was time for a session with Alan November. After messing around with the audience response units (of which not everyone had one), we got into the presentation which was vintage Alan. Unfortunately, the beginning was rough with the response units and a number of people had left and didn’t hear the message. For those of us who stayed, we experienced some thought provoking messages about connecting students globally and pushing their thinking. Alan’s focus was on history and he demonstrated ideas and ways for student to explore both sides of an argument plus how to get into resources that were no longer on the internet, generating 404 errors. Using the Wayback Machine allows students to research concepts currently unavailable.
Then, it was off to listen to the successes enjoyed by the Science Leadership Academy. Principal Chris Lehmann explained the philosophy and the exit expectations for students from this innovative secondary school in Philadelphia. Inquisitive, responsible citizens prepared to lead are the goal. Chris talked about some of the major projects that the students worked on while at the Academy. It was fascinating to think that the students create individual learning plans and one of the projects involving a more efficient diesel generator now used under a license to assist others just blew me away.
Wandering throught the poster sessions between formal presentations is always inspirational. It occurred to me that there really were two areas where things were on sale. In the big vendor area, we visit companies and organizations that push stuff your way for a solution. For a fee, any problem can be solved just by buying things. At the poster session, however, students and their teachers are pushing solutions that require work, effort, thought, and inspiration. What struck me was that most of the poster sessions were about projects, web based activities, based upon collaborati
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ng with others and typically were done without extra expensive add-ons. The exception to that would be the interactive white board presentations. Here, they seemed to be used as seemlessly as the other computer technologies.
I attended a panel session featuring Steve Hargadon, CoSN/EdTechLive with Darren Draper, David Jakes, Chris Lehman, Julie Lindsay, Vicki Davis, and Sylvia Martinez entitled “Classsroom 2.0: What Is Web 2.0’s Role in Schools?” which didn’t quite come off the way that it was planned, I suspect. I think that the idea was to have one nice big conversation about Web 2.0 successes and examples of how schools can exploit this technology although I knew that at least one of the panel members would challenge us to make sure that we’re reaching higher in our efforts. To demonstrate the power of Web 2.0 technologies, a back channel was created on Chatzy to support the audience as they commented on the progress of the panel and enabled the audience to provide ongoing feedback. From a technical perspective, we know that things don’t always work perfectly. Getting the audience to create accounts and to identify the URL turned out to be a show stopper for some around me. Then, from the audience came the reality check as the impartiality of the chat moderator came into question and a perceived notion that Web 2.0 was “being shoved down our throats”. It wasn’t quite the response that the panel had expected but did serve as a wakeup call that not all solutions are equally embraced.
If you’re ever feeling like you’re dragging your heels and need a high energy session to get you moving, all that you need to do is sit in a session led by Annette Lamb. Her session was “Strong Nests, Successful Students: Skills and Strategies for 21st- Century Learning” and focussed, not only on the resources, but the logistics about how to make it all happen. Thank goodness that Annette creates supporting web resources because you’d never write it all done at the pace of the presentation. More that the resources, I really like the way that she puts a web resource together. Sure, there are links to the various internet sites that she references, but she provides all kinds of supporting materials that put a sense and direct purpose to the activities.
And, finally, the closing keynote was delivered by Erin Gruwell, from the Freedom Writers Foundation. A masterful story teller, Erin described her experiences with “unteachable students” which was the basis for the movie Freedom Writers. With a couple of clips from Room 203, Erin gave all and there were certainly a few hankies out as the heart strings of teachers were yanked and we were all reminded what teaching can be. It was an inspirational way to conclude the formal part of the conference. While there was a great deal of active tweeting happening throughout, I hope that ISTEvision puts the session online for all to enjoy.
You’d think that with the closing that the conversation would be over and people would be off in their own directions. As it turned out, that was the case for some folks as you could see that they were were twittering from the check in at the airport during the final keynote. They missed so much by cutting out early. However, for some of us, the conversation continued after the close as we put some perspective and sharing to our conference experience.
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