My NECC 08 Brief Report

If you’re interested in the field of education and use technology, try to attend the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). It’s an incredibly well-organized conference which does a good job balancing academics, corporate promotion, and hands-on learning. NECC is sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE’s mission is to:

Provide leadership and service to improve teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in education!

NECC is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues whom I collaborate with online over the year.  I also enjoy the chance to learn about emerging technologies and software updates.  A few examples are:

  • ISTE unveiled a new tool authored in Moodle to help teachers assess effective technology integration using videos.  The session, NETS•S in Action in North American Classrooms, featured video from the Ferryway school and three other HP Leadership grantees from 2007.
  • Tablet-based computing can be enhanced with learning management software that allows the teacher to exercise control over a classroom.  I attended the session, What Impact Can Pen-Based Technology Have in Your Classroom? Some interesting features of the DyKnow software was the ability to have the instructor collect student work, randomly assign partners in a classroom (students don’t know who their partners are), create on the fly polls, and turn Internet browsing on/off.  The instructor taught Spanish using a set of graphic organizers that we completed with the tablet stylus.  Participants were encouraged to attend the  Workshop on the Impact of Pen-based Technology on Education (wipte) October 15-16, 2008 at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
  • Second life is starting to garner much more attention as an educational research and instructional tool.  Quite a number of conferees wore name tags with their Second life personas.  During the Pearson Foundation reception I spoke to a devoted Second Lifer who convinced me to give it another try.
  • Adobe’s floor presence emphasized how the multitude of software products support one another using Camp Adobe.  As an Adobe Education Leader (AEL) I worked the Adobe booth answering questions and distributing camp stickers.   Major software releases included Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat Connect Pro 7.

This year I marked my fourth NECC by presenting a session called Digital Investigators: Using Digital Media for Project-Based Learning. I shared presentation duties with Dianne Stratton and Elizabeth Tousignant.  Visit our  wiki page for session content.

Instructional Changes with a Student Response System

Return the lost vertebrates with a SRSThink of how many times you have given PowerPoint presentations and had to stop to ask the audience if they understood what you were presenting.  Maybe you just trudged through the presentation just to finish in time to beat the clock.  What if you could capture the audiences thoughts and understanding?  Would it change the way you present?  Would your students connect with your content?

Student Response Systems (SRS) have made a major push into the educational world in the last year.  Last year at NECC 2007, I had the opportunity to test drive a few of these systems on the exhibit floor.   A SRS consists of a set of remotes that wirelessly communicate with a receiver attached to a computer and projector.    Coincendentally, I was involved in writing a Technology Enhancement grant proposal to the Massachusetts Department of Education focused on 1-to-1 laptop computing.  One grant outcome was to evaluate changes in student use of classroom technology and whether it would aid in the acquistion of content knowledge.  We decided that a SRS would be a useful tool for assessment.   We chose the Qwizdom system with Q4 student remotes and the Q5 teacher remote.  The system uses Radio Frequency (RF) technology to transmit meaning that you don’t have to be in the line-of-sight of the receiver.

Poster Q&A sharing student resultsTeachers participating in our Laptops in American History grant experimented with the Qwizdom SRS in a high school history classroom.   In preparing the PowerPoint presentations, teachers had to consider the effect of asking questions that probe student background knowledge to ones illiciting student opinions about an image.  The analysis of political cartoons and posters from the World War II era became a highly interactive and assessment rich lesson due to the SRS.  Every student’s response was recorded and displayed with summary graphs on the computer projector.  One especially powerful teacher outcome was the ability to assess student understanding of isolationism versus interventionism during the lesson.   The teacher was surprised that students had not mastered the distinction between the two concepts and choose to review the concepts at the start of the next day’s lesson.

What biome do I live in? Poison Dart frogAnother group of elementary teachers used the SRS to teach a new grade 4 science unit on biomes.  Students enthusiatically embraced the SRS and teachers were excited by the increase in student engagement.  In order to drive home the student inquiry nature of the biome unit, it was critical to capture student misconceptions about the world’s land biomes such as where they are located and their climatography.  The SRS enabled teachers to visualize these misconceptions and encouraged students to discuss their written observations.  Students also learned to use observational skills to predict which biome an unknown animal belonged to based on the their physical appearance.  Which biome do you think the red frog to right calls home?  If you said, Rainforest, you are as smart as a fourth grader.  Teachers were so impressed with the ability of the SRS to support student-centered instruction that they applied for a Qwizdom Educational Grant.  Good Luck!

Multimedia and Citation Resources

Laptops in American History banner

These resources were provided to project teachers following our first workshop on November 13, 2007. Teachers were interested in learning more about using Adobe’s Presenter software that converts PowerPoint presentations into web-based media using Flash. There was also a great deal of interest in copyright and citation guidelines for high school students.

Engineering Multimedia Presentations
Created with Adobe’s Acrobat Presenter (formerly Macromedia Breeze). Produced to support fifth graders as they learn to calculate the torque of a waterwheel during the Saugus Iron Works Project-Based Unit (PBU).

Waterwheel I

Waterwheel II

Copyright Article

The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use By Hall Davidson

Davidson gives teachers permission to photocopy and distribute his article. It also include a 20 question quiz. I’ve given this quiz as pre-assessment activity to both teachers and college students prior to handing out the article. No one has ever received an 100% even though they thought they knew the rules.

Citation Website Tool
Son of Citation Machine

Supports all major formats. Teaching your students how to cite resources will help them become good digital citizens.