Web That Works

That was the title of the presentation that I gave yesterday.  My audience was about 60 of our elementary school principals and the setting was the incredible Elsie Perrin Williams estate in London.  It was an opportunity for the principals to do some professional development within their own group.

It was a unique opportunity for me.  With so many things that go into the management of a school (safety, literacy, numeracy, planning, …), I’ve never had the opportunity to address all of them at the same time.  So, when my friend Barb asked me to do it, I jumped at the chance.  I had all morning to work with the group.  What to do?  What to do?  I decided to go with a presentation about the web applications that our Computers in Education School Contacts have been working with over the past couple of years.

As we move towards flipping the switch to a public access network in all of our schools, it only makes sense to show that there’s more to the internet than email and Google.  All of the principals have the wireless technology and many have used various aspects of things online.  I knew going in that it was going to be a diverse grouping but that’s great; it just adds to the opportunity for learning together.

So, even the nervous person for presenting in a new location, I’m there with the caretakers to open the place.  We’re in the “Great Hall” which would have been nice on the estate for a small band and dance floor of 20-30 people.  With tables, chairs, and about 60 people, it’s going to be friendly.  No problem.  I’m there first so I carve out my own area.  The organizers show up and so I go about helping them with the table dressing and carting the refreshments and other materials in.  Our host isn’t there yet but that’s no problem.  I start to set up with a portable screen that will be set up against a bank of windows and I’m hoping that it’s not going to be an overly bright day so that the data projector doesn’t get washed out.  Fortunately, between the lack of sun and the forest that’s out back, that’s not a problem.  I wake up my computer attached to the data projector and look for the promised wireless access point.



Well, there’s nothing that can be done now so I go about helping set up and I could hear my computer attaching and then dropping from a network.  I go and look and, sure enough, there’s this really weak access point called “Netgear”.  I figure that it must be one of the neighbours so decide to wait for our host.

She does show up and indicates that that’s their access point for us for the day and it works beautifully in her office upstairs.  Now, I did mention that we were in the beautiful estate, right?  Incredible structure with lots of beams and plastered walls.  A perfect signal deadening setting!

Maybe the web won’t work after all!

I also mentioned above that I’m nervous, right.  Well, thankfully, I had tested my presentation at about 5 in the morning and had opened all of the links in new tabs before going to the location and had just put the computer to sleep instead of shutting down.  So, despite the connection challenges, I’m still able to sort of demonstrate what I was wanted to talk about … we’ll just miss out on the opportunity to work together.

The presentation had what I think is a nice collection of what has worked well and I always keep examples of student and teacher work to show when necessary.  It was a nice connection with some of the group when I could show work generated from their school and mention teachers and students by name.

For the record, we used Wall Wisher, PB Works, Coverit Live, Delicious, Twitter, One True Media, Animoto, Wordle, Guess the Wordle, Piclits, ECO Schools Podcasting, Photosynth, Bomomo, Principal Blogging, Creating a Survey with Google Docs,  Tizmos, Voki, Bitstrips for Schools, Build Your Wild Self, Jeopardy Labs, Colossal Squid Exhibition, Instapaper, Evernote, and Prezi during the course of the presentation.  I do tend to go into presentations with overkill but would rather cut the presentation short than to finish early.  The resources are all annotated and linked up in a wiki page created for the day.

The audience was great.  After one of our principals pointed out that the screen would have limited SMARTBoard functionality, we had a chance to learn together.  There were lots of really good questions and some very “I’m proud of my CIESC and staff” moments.  A number of the participants were even talking about creating study groups to get together and explore the concepts further.  I really hope that they do.  The more that all of us understand this and the potential and application for powerful learning opportunities, the better the classrooms become with increased student engagement.

It needs to be purposeful though and I always start this presentation talking about low hanging fruit.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as we get better and better with these things.

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