I spent two very hectic days at the eTech Ohio conference last week. I'm so happy the conference even took place, considering much of its funding had been cut. We also experienced the major snow storm just a couple of days later, so it's a good thing the conference was at the beginning of the week!
David Warlick was one of the Featured Speakers, and it was invigorating listening to his presentation. I read his 2¢ Worth blog regularly, and so should you if you are at all interested in ed tech. Mr. Warlick's presentation had a great title: A Gardener's Approach to Learning. The metaphor is apt. As teachers, we are sowing seeds both for our students and for ourselves, and we must become self-directed master learners in order to be 21st century teachers. He continued the metaphor by comparing today's information environment to an ecosystem, in which each of us has a place and purpose. It's our job to cultivate our own gardens in the ecosystem, that is, our own personal learning networks, so our own seedlings will continue to grow. Information and links are available at: David Warlick Wiki handouts. Mr. Warlick opened his presentation with an idea that I love: Start your class out by presenting students with evidence of something you just learned, something you didn't know the day before. It doesn't have to be class-related, just something that, through your travels around the web, you picked up and packed away in your brain. We model for students that we are always learning, and that we are cultivating our own gardens.
Alvin Trusty (best name EVER, right?) spoke about developing a professional digital footprint. And he used Seinfeld clips to emphasize his points, which apparently is his trademark. His premise for this presentation is: When creating content online, use common sense. Use your real name when blogging, when leaving comments on blogs, when creating content. You want your name to be associated with good things on the web, so create that association yourself. Don't allow others to do it for you! If you develop your own positive digital footprint, you can teach kids to do the same. I did as Mr. Trusty suggested and googled myself with quotes around my name, and the search came up with more than 1500 results. That's not a huge number compared to many people, but the point is that this is how I am represented on the web. This is what my digital footprint looks like, and I have to be alert to how it changes and evolves. I have to be active in that evolution! Mr. Trusty's Delicious eTech conference bookmarks are available at: Alvin Trusty bookmarks. The presentation was educational and eye-opening. Read his stuff!
The final presentation I want to talk about was made by David Huston of Kenyon College (Kenyon Academic Partnership) and the Laurel School in Cleveland. Mr. Huston spoke about guiding students through the research process in a 21st century way, and he presented a toolkit of applications to help both students and teachers. He emphasized that conducting research means: knowing what to look for and where to look for it, collaborating and sharing, thinking logically about organizing your data, and presenting results. Knowing that students may work on multiple computers during the course of a day, we need to approach research with a system that's connected to the Web,is browser and platform neutral, is always available, stores data in the cloud, and is free or very cheap. Mr. Huston's iCyte project of research tools is available at: David Huston research tools.
There were several other interesting sessions, including one on using Google Sites in the classroom (http://www.kentschools.net/ccarman/etech/). The teachers that presented this were supposed to talk about using Google Sites for e-portfolios, but they ran out of time. However, there are links in their presentation to help with e-portfolios.
The most profound lesson I learned from eTech this year was not actually about any particular application or piece of software. Instead, I found myself pondering much larger issues as I sat in on these presentations. I spent a great deal of time considering the mind shift that must take place in schools now, the paradigm that we have, as Will Richardson has said, no choice but to embrace. Now that I feel pretty comfortable actually using a lot of Web 2.0 tools, I am a lot more philosophical about the why, when, and how of their usage. More on this in an upcoming post.