I promised that I would spend a few moments and share my thoughts about the recently concluded Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium 2008. Keep in mind, though, that as Chairperson and Ringmaster keeping folks on our timeline, I’m spending my time focussing on what’s next as opposed to what’s happening now!
Keynote speakers: David Warlick and Amber MacArthur
For the night before the event, we hope to have the keynote speakers “in the house” so that we don’t have to worry about travel plans, etc. This worked out nicely and we enjoyed the company of David Warlick and Amber MacArthur with fiance Chris at supper. For me, that’s always a highlight as we get a chance to talk about topics of the day without worrying about timelines and audience. Over supper, David was curious about our vision for schools in a Web 2.0 world and seemed very interested in Amber’s stories about life and production of regular web content in a contemporary environment. For me, I was interested in Amber and Chris’ perspective on editorial content and just how things are chosen to air and how assignments are given to reporters. I was surprised to find out that “The Boy’s” current employer had been a member of the CHUM / CITY group.
Then, after what seems like a quick nap, it’s time for a shower and it’s showtime.
David Warlick went first with his presentation “Our Students – Our Worlds“. Eyes were opened for many as David took us inside the minds and lives of today’s youth. His famous tentacles diagram affirmed that students aren’t “human” by a traditional view! It does drive home the message that they are indeed connected at levels that we suspect but don’t totally know. (at least until the texting bill comes in…) Rather than ask folks to turn off electronic devices, David let me know before the event that he would welcome a back channel through his presentation. Gulp! What to do? Fortunately, I knew that TheCleversheep, Rob DeLorenzo, Quentin D’Souza, and Michael Redfearn would be in the audience. I snagged a quick conversation before David started and we got some access codes so that they could provide some of the chatter. However, they knew people who knew people, and a back channel was borne. At the end, David moved it to his wiki and interjected his own comments. What a way to get feedback from your audience than to monitor their play by play while you’re talking. I’m also sneaking some side glances at the tables where the Greater Essex folks are sitting and see some principals frantically taking notes. This is a good sign. To top things off, Linworth Publishing had donated some of David’s new book, Redefining Literacy 2.0 as door prizes to some lucky attendees. David spoke with his famous passion and sense of a need for immediate action which so motivated the group. We could have left then and had our fill but certainly didn’t.
David’s Knitter wasn’t the only place where chat was ongoing. There was a great deal on Twitter itself.
As happens when you don’t have guards on the door, a keynote speaker will take more than his share of the audience with him. This was the case and it was SRO in David’s breakout. But, that didn’t stop participants from attending the other eight great hand picked sessions.
I stuck my head into each of them and there was professional engagement happening in all locations. I did linger at the session given by Greater Essex educators Lisa, Charlotte, Debbie, Lise, and Margo. As part of our ELTIP initiative, they wanted to show a model for administrators in the Western Region. Their fast paced presentation had the audience riveted and wanting to know of the possibilities. In advance, they had decided that it was going to be a session of ideas and excitement and not one of “click here and this happens”. As I predicted, there were numerous requests for the Notebook that they had created. They did post their information here to show what online resources they incorporated into their classrooms.
After lunch, it was Amber’s turn on the stage. This was her first presentation to educators and so we had been conversing back and forth about the issues of the day. What was most powerful was her modelling of how to effectively use the new media in a presentation. It’s only a short trip to the classroom. Let’s face it, we live in a YouTube world. There is so much that is appropriate and useful. In her presentation, Amber showed us an early Peter Mansbridge report, which is a keeper. You’re going to want to book mark that. Also, this for those hard texting days. Beyond the humour, Amber noted and identified the various skills that a teacher needs to go forward and reach students. Even a Greater Essex principal came up on the stage and very quickly created a video podcast.
Ruthven Principal creates a video podcast in front of 400
After her address, Amber participated in a podcast with Rodd Lucier (thecleversheep) where she recapped some of the salient points from her presentation.
The last part of the day is a final breakout session. Would you think that people would leave early? Not this group. The learning continued.
Again, I stuck my head into all of the rooms to make sure that all was running well. I did spend some time in Amber’s breakout Q&A session. While I was there, we discussed student safety while using the tools of Web 2.0. Warlick’s Class Blogmeister is an example of the very best to create a walled garden for students. There was a good discussion about how to teach students to be participants in such a world when we’re blocking these resources in the first place.
I also spent some time in Greater Essex’s Johanna’s session. She had partnered with other folks to talk about innovative ways to reach all students with technology. As a Teacher-Librarian, she explained how she incorporates the best of Partners in Action with technology. Rather than using traditional software tools in a less than motivating environment, she uses the SMART Board to engage students in literacy discussions. It’s a technique that’s enjoying huge successes.
At the day’s end, Amber interviewed David Warlick and we hope to see the interview on commandN really soon.
Then, we were done. Has it been a full day yet? Yes, my fatigue is starting to take over but there’s still a few things left to do…like drive to the airport to pick up Leslie Fisher for the Professional Development session tomorrow. But, that’s for another day and another blog entry…
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Thanks to David Warlick for the pictures. You can see all of his photostream here.