The Virtual View

A Couple of Recent Experiences

The way we attend conferences has greatly changed in the last couple of years. More specifically, I think of two recent conferences, one of which I attended in person, and the other I attended virtually. The one I attended in person, the Midwest Educational Technology Conference, this past February in St. Louis had a very strong presence of in-person attendees. METC also had a very strong online presence as well. While not all of the sessions of a conference so large can be streamed, all of the sessions in one of the main ballrooms were streamed for those that would like to attend virtually. A list of all the sessions that were streamed can be found here. Sessions by David Jakes, Scott Meech, Angela Maiers, Wes Fryer, and more will be available on-demand in the near future.

This past Thursday and Friday there was another conference happening in Nashville, Tennessee called TeachMeet. This was the inaugural TeachMeet for the state of Tennessee. TeachMeet was started in the United Kingdom by Ewan McIntosh. In a nutshell, TeachMeet is an (un)conference created by teachers, for teachers, for FREE. You can read more about what a TeachMeet is and how to start one of your own here.

The TeachMeet in Nashville last week was created and organized by Jason Bedell. Be sure to read Jason’s thoughts on the conference here. It was two days of presentations by awesome educators such as Steven Anderson, Melissa Smith, Adam Taylor, and more.

TeachMeet Nashville was made very available to those of us that wanted to attend one or more sessions virtually. Jason created a wiki for the conference and on it he published out the daily schedules and Ustream channels for all to access that wanted to. Also, be sure to read Jason’s post on how TeachMeet Nashville Started and How to Start Your Own.

Talking In The Back Of The Class

The backchannel was very active at both of the above conferences. This was conversation happening via Twitter centered around a pre-determined hashtag, or Twitter search term. The hashtag for METC 2010 was #METC_CSD. The hashtag for TeachMeet Nashville was #TMN10. To participate in any discussion regarding or during any conference, simply include the appropriate hashtag in your tweets so that they appear to others searching on the conference hashtag.

I would say that standard practice now is to have a conference hashtag for any educational technology conference. I’ve even seen presenters who use the hashtag actively during their presentation to answer questions and receive comments about topics presented. What a great practice for engaging and understanding your audience!

What have been your virtual conference experiences? Did you find them as beneficial as being there in person?

If you have never attended a conference virtually I strongly encourage you to do so. Will there be glitches? Of course there will be. Will you be able to attend every minute of every session as if you were physically there? Probably not. I encourage you to try it. Start with the traditional “sit and get” by viewing the live stream. Then jump into the middle of the conversation with the conference hashtag. You won’t be sorry at the level of engagement and learning you experience.

Thanks for reading.

Why I Do What I Do – Thoughts on EdChat

Yesterday’s EdChat focused on the topic of passion in education. Specifically, finding your passion and sustaining it. How it affects our schools, our classrooms, and our students. This week’s EdChat was a warm-up conversation for the evening Elluminate session with Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. The full video recording, mp3 file, and chat log can be found here if you missed it.

The conversation during EdChat helped me to go back and think about where my passion for education originated, and how it has evolved into what it is today. I’d like to share some of those thoughts.

Where did my passion to be an educator originate? I credit this to two very important teachers. One is my mom, who is a retired teacher, and the other is my 5th grade teacher who also was my mentor teacher during my student teaching. These two women were (and still are) incredible role models for countless teachers and students.

When I was teaching elementary school, and began to soak up all the instructional technology resources I had available, I felt compelled to share this newly gained knowledge with anyone that would listen.

After getting my Masters in Educational Technology, I was fortunate enough to become an Instructional Technology Specialist for a great school district, which is where I am today.

I have been in my element for the last 6 years. I am passionate about sharing instructional technology resources, tools, and strategies with K-12 teachers. My passion is continually refueled when I hear about and see teachers getting excited and passionate, which ultimately impacts student achievement.

In October 2008 I came across a new resource that quickly became another great way to continually renew my passion for educational technology. It’s a little thing called Twitter. You probably haven’t heard of it. 🙂 Twitter quickly became my Professional Learning Network, or PLN. I am now connected with other like-minded educators all over the world. These people have an incredible passion to share how technology is having a positive impact on education. Not only within the walls of our schools, but also bringing the world to our classrooms through tools like Skype and Twitter. These people are change agents, lifelong learners, advocates, leaders, classroom teachers, administrators, college professors, and educational/instructional technology specialists. It is 24/7 professional development. That’s free. Yes, FREE! We teachers hear the word free and we are like a moth to the flame are we not?

I am passionate about instructional technology and the impact it can have on students. Whether it be a tool or strategy used inside the classroom, or making global connections to bring other parts of the world to us. No, the technology is not designed to make us better teachers. Does it help us? Sure it does. The ultimate goal should be its impact on students.

Steven Anderson talked about this today at TeachMeet Nashville during a panel discussion. He also talked about the impact that the real-time web and social media is having on our teaching practices. Steven said, “How many of you have your lesson plans go perfectly the first time? Think about what having a Professional Learning Network via Twitter has done for education. Let’s say I teach my lesson plan the first time during 2nd hour. Then during passing period I could send out a tweet to my PLN asking for suggestions or resources that would help me improve the lesson being taught. I am changing my teaching practices in real-time. This was unheard of previously.”

I then immediately tweeted the following after hearing Steven talk about bringing Tom Whitby into the panel discussion on the fly via Skype and being able to change your teaching in real-time:

I’m passionate about the Power of the PLN. I’m passionate on the impact it can have to enhance our instruction and positively impact students. I’m passionate about sharing instructional technology tools and resources with teachers. My name is Kyle Pace, and I’m in my element.

Thanks for reading.

The Other End of The String – Thoughts from this week’s EdChat

Some thoughts and tips from this week’s EdChat, having a positive digital footprint

This past week’s EdChat was about best practices for increasing parent/teacher communication. Lots of great tips, resources, and ideas were shared as always. How effective is the digital communication between school and home? How great is the digital divide in your school or district? I need the proper PD to do this well, I don’t want to do it half way. These were just a few of the topics that came up during the evening edition of EdChat. If you weren’t there or haven’t yet had a chance to read the archive, check it out here.

Teacher ambition is always so high during the infancy of  implementing a digital communication tool. I know some districts, such as my own, offer teachers space on the web server to store their classroom/team/department/grade level web site. I realize this is not the case in every district. If you do have this option though, I recommend taking advantage of it and invest in the initial training necessary to create a web site for your classroom. Not only is it an excellent way to communicate with parents, but it can also provide resources for review, remediation, and enrichment to supplement the instruction that occurs in the classroom.

No matter which way a teacher chooses to communicate digitally with parents, choose one tool and stick with it. Consistently update it. If you post something that’s relevant for November, don’t still have it posted in February. Decide how much time you want to invest up front. Quite often the ambition quickly fades to update and maintain a classroom web site. Which, of course, easily happens with the one million other things that classroom teachers have on their plate at any given time.

If a district hosted site is not an option, blogs and wikis can be of use nicely and are easier to maintain when it comes to content and overall design. There are also many free web services that will walk you through building a professional looking site. I recently tweeted this resource, “45 Web Builders to Create an Insanely Awesome Free Website“. Definitely check out the tools there.

Our students also need to know about creating and communicating a positive, professional presence on the web. I call it “having a positive digital footprint”. I spoke this week to students at the Missouri FCCLA State Conference about this very topic. I wanted to help students understand that the way they communicate on the web now can either have a positive or negative impact for when they enter the workforce after college. I shared with them tools and strategies that will help them have a positive digital footprint. Universities are starting to look at a student’s web presence when determining whether to accept or deny entrance into the school. Potential Employers are certainly looking at a job candidate’s web presence when deciding whether to hire someone or not. I shared this recent study by Microsoft in regards to why your online reputation matters. Be sure and check out the statistics and watch the video “What does your Online Reputation say about you?” Whether we like it or not, teacher or student, Google is quickly becoming one of the “silent references” on our resume.

Creating any kind of classroom website, blog, wiki, or Twitter account can be a great way to keep in communication with parents. Some of those allow for two-way communication, but some don’t. The teacher has to evaluate and plan exactly what type of information and resources they want to provide to parents via the web BEFORE any creation starts.

Thank you for reading.