ALA and ISTE: Attending Conferences Vicariously

Cold Light

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in?  It’s not a bad thing!  If, like me, you are not attending either of the “biggie conferences” this weekend, you can still keep connected to those who are and learn vicariously though them.

Getting Live Feeds

First, you need a Twitter account.  (If you have never used Twitter, now is the PERFECT time to see this powerful learning tool in action – promise!)

Have no idea how to get started?  Visit David Wees’ “Eight Videos to Help Teachers Getting Started Using Twitter.”  He includes information on not only how to sign up for and customize your Twitter account, but also videos on how to use Tweetdeck, an application that simplifies and organizes your Twitter experience.

The Twitter client I use is HootSuite which is an online application (you don’t have to install anything on your computer).  There are many YouTube tutorials to help you get started with HootSuite, but I’ve embedded one below you might want to watch.


Using Hashtags

Once you have chosen your Twitter client, you want to set up columns, or threads, based on hashtags.  Then either Tweetdeck or HootSuite will do all the work of finding the conference tweets for you and you can sit back and let all the conference updates come to you!

American Library Association Conference – #ALA11, #ala11

International Society for Technology in Education – #ISTE11, #iste11

HootSuite Conference Columns

Let the Learning Begin!

Some of the best professional development of the year is about to begin.  Are you ready?

Image used through a Creative Commons license

“Cold Light” by Scott Ripton (Quasic)

Conferencing Vicariously

This week I am attending the Education Business Summit in Greenville, South Carolina.  Although the program includes many interesting, informative sessions and motivational keynote speakers, I continue to check Twitter to see what is happening in DC and Denver.  Many members of my PLN have traveled to these cities to attend conferences I’ve only dreamed about:  ALA and ISTE.

Twitter allows me to experience some of the excitement and innovation occurring at other conferences by following hashtags.  For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines a hashtag as “a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching.”


To simplify my Twitter use, I have installed Tweetdeck on my laptop and iPhone.  Tweetdeck is the equivalent of a social dashboard allowing the user to customize to suit her needs. The hashtags I have been and/or will be  following are #iste10, #ebc10, #sigms10, and #ala10.  Check here for a list of other ALA hashtags for various interest groups.

The above screenshot displays several of the columns in my Tweetdeck dashboard.  If you’ll look closely at the last two columns, you will see that they are labeled “search #iste10” and “search #ebc10.”  All tweets tagged with those hashtags are displayed, allowing me a glimpse into what is happening concerning those two events.

@AuntyTech (Donna Baumbach) has begun an archive of the #sigsms10 tweets here.  This hashtag will really pick up tomorrow as the SIGMS forum (with the now legendary “Learning Tools Smackdown” lead by Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones) gets underway in the morning.


In case you haven’t been following these hashtags, I thought I’d share just a few of the jewels that I have found through them.  Perhaps seeing these will whet your appetite for more!

  • List of smackdown tools shared at Edublogger Con – and a blog post discussing them
  • Free download of book Teaching with Netbooks by Brad Flickinger
  • Blog post on Edublogger Con session on student blogging  – includes great links to guidelines, Web 2.0 Code of Conduct, and a pdf on setting up blogs as electronic portfolios
  • Readability, a tool that removes the clutter from web pages, making reading more enjoyable
  • HP Teacher Experience Exchange – teachers sharing lesson plans
  • DEN Summer School 2010 – great professional development on digital storytelling, professional learning networks, and project based learning

What exciting, innovative ideas have you come across either through attending the conferences, or following the tweets of those who have attended?

AASL Reflections: Opening Keynote

Earlier this month, I was among one of over 2800 school librarians attending the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC. From the moment I picked up my nametag and conference information until the moment I left the closing celebration, I was totally captivated by the experience. It has taken weeks to try and sort out all that I learned and all the goodies I picked up from the vendors. I will try to share some of what I learned here through a series of posts.

Opening Keynote

danah boyd delivered the opening keynote address at AASL’s Rev Up Learning national conference.  According to Boyd, social networking sites play a strong role in teen culture.  Teens use social networking much differently than do adults.  Teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to share their creations as well as keep track of their favorite celebrities.

When we go online, we are by default just an IP address. Teens want to share themselves with their intended audience so they write themselves into being through the  profiles, comments, and creations they share.  Teens do lie about themselves online, but they have been told to do so by adults in order to protect themselves.

Adults often wonder about the inane comments teens (and others) make online.  Why would anyone share what they had for breakfast with the world?  Boyd says this is a form of social grooming.  Through status updates, teens can see the patterns of life in their world.  What is important to those important to them?  Just as adults of my generation would get together to hang out and “shoot the breeze,” today’s teens  do so but often do not have the mobility they would like to hang out face-to-face.  Social networks have become a place to hang out with friends.

Boyd describes three categories of teens using social networking sites based on the number of “friends” they had:

1.  Teens with 40-50 identified friends are using social networking sites to stay in touch with face-to-face friends

2.  Teens with 400-500 identified friends are using the sites to keep up with school classmates

3.  Teens with more than 500 friends are considered “Collectors”

Teens actually use social networking sites as a form of social hierarchy.  Many social networking sites allow you to identify your top friends.  Because your online popularity can depend upon how many others identify you as a top friend, teens might say or do things to ensure their staying power as a top friend.

Teens need an online space to be with their friends, but because they don’t often understand how online information is organized nor the repercussions of their online actions, media specialists need to assist teens in learning the skills they need to operate in their online worlds.

Boyd’s keynote address was riveting and included so much information that it was impossible to take notes on it all.  You can read more about her research in her dissertation.  Boyd’s keynote underscored the importance of media specialists taking responsibility for their professional development in the area of technology (as Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson discussed in “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.”)

Want to read others’ thoughts on Danah Boyd’s keynote?  Check out:

Buffy Hamilton’s Cover It Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza’s Danah Boyd on the Importance of Being Present in Kids’ Lives Online

Upstate Technology Conference – Day Two

This post is sorely overdue!  It has been two weeks since the Upstate Technology Conference,  but I don’t want to let what I learned slip away before capturing it here. 

The keynote speaker on Day Two was David Jakes.  His presentation, The Global One Room Schoolhouse: Creating Learning Communities in the Digital Age, was inspiring. 

Obviously, this conference focused on technology, but Jakes insists that it takes a backseat to our curriculum. Although we are often attracted to all the bells and whistles of  Web 2.0 tools, he stressed that we not use technology for technology’s sake, but use it to enhance learning.  Rather than find a tool and wonder, “Wow!  How can I use this in my classroom?” we should examine our curriculum and determine the best approach to achieving our instructional goals. Certainly not a new idea, but one that needs to be stressed as we plan instruction.

Jakes recommends a scaffold of four questions that educators should use to determine which technology, if any, is appropriate to instruction.

I attended several sessions today. Carlton Greene of Greer Middle School shared “Free and Open Source Software.” He focused on educational software and shared a document that can be accessed here that gives descriptions of dozens of programs. Some interesting programs he shared were Celestia (a space simulator allowing you to travel through the solar system), Stellarium (a planetarium for the classroom), Abiword (an easy to use word processor), KMPlot (a mathematical function plotter), KVerbos (helps with learning Spanish),  and Jodix (a movie converter that converts most popular movie formats to iPod video).

Especially useful to me in the media center is Abiword.  Many times students will bring in work from home on a flashdrive hoping to open and print it out in the media center.  But alas, it was created with WordPerfect and we have been unable to help them.  Abiword will write and read WordPerfect documents.  Hooray!

Another interesting session was “Flip for Flip Recorders!”  I have blogged about the media center’s Flip camera before and attended this session hoping to get some ideas for using our camera.  Amanda Leblanc, Media Services Coordinator for Greenville County Schools, did not disappoint me.  She divided us into groups and had us use the camera on a scavenger hunt.  You can find directions for the scavenger hunt on this page.

Elizabeth Kohut of Richland County School District 1 presented “Podcasting with GCast.”  She demonstrated how easy it was to create and post a podcast using just your cell phone. You can then embed a player on your site so that you visitors can listen to the podcast. 

The final session I attended was “IS Your Life Chaotic? Simplify it with Technology!” Cathy Arnold, Technology Facilitator for Greenville County Schools, shared several tools to help organize your life.  I was already familiar with the tools she presented but her explanation and demonstration of Jott inspired me to try it once again (I had been using Reqall to send notes to myself).  Jott is now on my speed dial!  I have used it to send notes to myself and have added events to my Google calendar with just a phone call to Jott! Cathy converted me, I helped my husband set up his account, and I WILL be sharing this with my teachers when school begins. 

Kudos to the Greenville County School District and the staff that finely crafted this awesome professional development! Those who attended came away with multitudes of ideas to try in their schools.

Image attribution

The Need for Professional Development

One of my hobbies is gardening.  I love to watch my flower garden as spring arrives; the drabness of winter is replaced by a lush green and then various hues as pasqueflowers, daylilies, yarrow, butterfly bushes, bee balm, and purple coneflower (among others) paint its surface.

Each year I purchase hanging baskets to adorn my front and back porches.  Their very presence not only calms me, but brings me joy.  Plants are nature’s way of reminding me that nothing lasts forever. Their beauty is temporary and requires nuturing.

South Carolina is in the second year of a drought. This June has also brought us more than our usual share of extremely high temperatures.  Heat, combined with the lack of rain, stresses my plants. They will quickly remind me of this, too.

My hanging baskets and potted plants have required daily watering the last few weeks. On Wednesday, as I prepared to head to Greenville to attend the Upstate Technology Conference, I forgot to water one of my hanging baskets.  When I arrived home Wednesday evening and went outside to check on my my flowers, I found the basket of purple million bells dry and shriveling. I quickly brought it up on the back porch to water it and shield it from the relentless sun it receives by the pool. 

As I watered it and pinched off dead shoots, I realized that educators are like those beautiful hanging baskets.  When the school year begins, we burst forth from our dormant season and are eager to meet each day.  As each week passes, we tend to lose the enthusiasm with which we started the year as we settle in for the growing season.  The year quickly heats up as we are enundated with papers, duties, meetings, lesson plans, and more.

If we do not nuture ourselves with professional development, we tend to get stuck in routines and our grand plans to make this year different shrivel up.  Every educator who has attended a convention or conference realizes the immeasurable value it provides.  We return from these sessions invigorated and ready to try newly learned techniques or tools.

However, most educators do not have the opportunity to attend such conventions or conferences often.  That is why it is imperative that we take professional development into our own hands. We must seek ways to learn that do not require professional leave. 

Each of us needs a mentor (or mentors) to inspire us and encourage us to continue to challenge ourselves. Today’s educators have opportunites for professional development that did not exist when I first began teaching.  The internet provides us limitless possibilities to improve our understanding of our subject matter and the needs of today’s students.  Some examples:

  • online courses
  • educational blogs
  • lesson plan resources
  • tutorials
  • streaming video
  • databases
  • ebooks and ejournals
  • wikis
  • nings

 I am, of course, preaching to the choir here.  If you are reading this, you have already taken responsibility for finding ways to continue your professional development beyond graduate courses, workshops, and conferences.  You are to be applauded for this, but unfortunately, you are in the minority.

I challenge you to encourage the educators in your building and district to do the same.  Tend to the garden where you bloom and your students will benefit.  If you already have ways in which you do this, I would love to hear about them.

Upstate Technology Conference – Day One

Today was the first day of the Upstate Technology Conference sponsored by the Greenville County School District.  J.L. Mann High Academy is hosting the conference in their new and spacious facility.

I attended the keynote address, given by Ewan McIntosh entitled “Publishing, Play, Purpose:  Three Elements that Must Change our Teaching and Learning.”  He addressed the state of U.S. education by renaming No Child Left Behind as “No Child Moving Forward.”  Funny, but it does point out a major weakness in our system:  we are so concerned with mastering material to pass a test that we forget that the process of learning should be our focus.  He shared that in Scotland, their students are not tested before age 13.  Interesting.

I also had the opportunity to attend several hour long sessions.  My favorite today was “Creating Virtual Field Trips with Google Earth.”  Sandra McLendon accomplished quite a bit in under an hour.  She not only introduced some newer features of Google Earth including Google Sky, but also taught a roomful of educators how to create placemarks, insert hyperlinks, insert images, and how to apply overlays.  The possibilities of using Google Earth in the classroom boggle this mind.

I attended a session at the 2008 SCASL Conference on Google Lit Trips, but was overwhelmed with the information there.  With the hands on approach that Sandra McLendon took today, I feel like I have a grasp of how to start a virtual field trip using Google Earth and am excited about it!

Two helpful sites that were shared during this session:

Google Earth Resources for Educators This site includes information covered in today’s session. Also included are tutorials, files, and helpful links.

3 D Warehouse Searchable database of 3 D images, many of which are ready to open in Google Earth.

 Although I would love to create lots of virtual trips and other lessons using these resources, I realize that I am limited by time.  So, like any other time-deprived educator, I googled the topic and came across some great sites:

Google for Educators  This site contains ideas for using many of the available Google tools including Google Earth.

Juicy Geography A small collection of Google Earth lessons.

 Constitution Trek (kmz file)

 Google Earth Community You must register to use this site.

Google Earth Lessons  This site has how-to’s and a variety of lessons, both teacher controlled use of GE and student controlled use of GE.  Definitely worth checking into.

Postcards from the Past  Great lesson using historic photographs, a digital camera, and Google Earth.

 Who can help me by sharing other Google Earth lesson sites?  Please add your favorites in your comment. Thanks!

SCASL Conference: PowerPoint Sidekicks and Desktop Learning Spaces: Practical Engaging Project Starters

On Thursday, I attended this session conducted by Annette Lamb.  She shared with us the idea of using PowerPoint to create  mini-projects to use with students as a way of getting them to interact with text and pictures/graphics.  All of the information she shared can be found on the Eduscapes site here

Students are often overwhelmed when given a full sheet of paper or a full wordprocessing screen they must fill with their thoughts. As educators, our job is to ensure they have mastered the content we have chosen for them. Annette Lamb uses the concept of PostIt notes to encourage students to organize their thoughts and understandings.  Several of the templates she shares on her site have the look of the yellow lined sticky note which is much less daunting than a full page of paper or full screen. Scroll down the page this link takes you to see her example of Novel Notes.

Annette Lamb and her husband Larry Johnson understand the pressures that teachers are under to help students perform well on “the test” and wanted to help them create engaging activities in which students can prove mastery of content.  PowerPoint Sidekicks are essentially electronic worksheets, without the worksheet feel.  Students can interact with text and graphics to create a product that takes mastery of content to a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Because teachers already have too many demands on their time, Lamb and Johnson don’t expect teachers to reinvent the wheel.  They provide a plethora of templates at their site that teachers can download and make their own to match their curriculum.    

As a media specialist, I can not only share this site with my teachers, but also help them create their own Sidekicks that will create higher level thinking activities for our students.