Last week had me attending my first “Techie” conference in full force. The TLt Summit in Saskatoon was truly an inspiring experience. I sat through some incredible keynotes by the likes of Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Brian Lamb and Rick Schwier. I attended sessions by cutting edge educators right here from Saskatchewan like Dean Shareski, Rob Wall, Kyle Lichtenwald, Alec Couros and Kathy Cassidy. I enjoyed lunch and drinks with many of these same people plus listened and learned from Jennifer Jones, D’Arcy Norman, Cindy Siebel, Donna Desroches and others who have incredible ideas and insights into the use of technology in education at all levels. I was humbled knowing that some of these same people were at my session on the second day.

Seeing several key Canadian players in the educational technology realm was important because I find that there is a difference between what is happening in education in Canada and what I read is happening in many US states.  It was a chance to spend time listening to what they had to say on all sorts of topics, from the discussion I had with George Siemens about student/teacher equality (I wish I would have had more time for this as it was a great discussion.) to the time I spent listening to Brian Lamb and Stephen Downes discuss education at the university level. Each keynote had so many great points and interesting nuances that I really wasn’t sure which way to go. Actually, I’m still sifting through the different layers, fitting together ideas from one or another session or keynote.

The one thing I did learn was that, when doing a presentation, you need to really keep track of time, spend more time interacting with the audience, less time delivering the “big message” and more time giving examples of how to bring about changes in small, but meaningful, ways. My presentation, which consisted of 10 very bland slides with key prhases on them, wasn’t really what I wanted it to be. I spent way too much time delivering the message that administrators need to be advocates for technology use, learners who start to embrace the use of technology,  researchers who examine different types of technology and skeptics who question those who are too gung-ho and those too restrictive. From many discussions that I have had, too many administrators are unsupportive of technology use and implementation. I’m not sure their reasoning but it seems that, for whatever reason, there is a reluctance to move forward with seeing how different technologies can enhance the learning of students within a school. Instead of this,

I was actually very disappointed in my own presentation but, it being my first, I’ve learned so many things from it. Having seen so many great presentations put on during the three days, I was hoping that some of what they did would find its way into what I did. Unfortunately, it didn’t.  I didn’t pace myself and lost a wonderful opportunity to show others how, as an administrator, you could help a staff to be more open to technology use and begin to make it a part of how the school operates.

As usual, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on what I did and didn’t do during my presentation and how, given another chance to do the presentation, I will shift the emphasis from the “What I think” to “What you can do” paradigm. The first really is quite common and, although moving, doesn’t really have any substance while the second, although not always as moving, is very practical which is really what many of the people in attendance wanted. In many ways, I let those in the audience down by not delivering the goods. If the chance ever presents itself again, I plan on spending much more time discussing setting up technology for integration and less time brow-beating those in attendance.

Motivational Meetings

TLt  has really motivated me to reexamine what I am doing and focus on a number of key items. The first is to reflect on what has taken place at our school this year and put together a much more concrete plan for technology use and integration. Thus far, the plan has been just sitting there, bubbling in the back of my mind. Hearing what the various keynotes and speakers had to say, I more convinced that each teacher can make much better use of tools that will enhance the learning of the students and become an integral part of the strategies they use. Kathy Cassidy’s presentation about using Web2.0 tools in the classroom really spoke to me about how teachers don’t need to be the technology experts but, instead, need to be willing to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. They are to live being a life-long learner where nothing is impossible with the help of others.

Brian Lamb’s opening to his session was incredible. He demonstrated how using various tools can allow one to demonstrate their learning by mashing together different pieces of information to create a unique and personal response to a question or inquiry. There were a few people who didn’t particularly appreciate his introduction but I found it to be exactly what I would want a student to be able to do in one of my classes after exploring a particular theme or idea. The learning was obvious and the message that Brian was able to create was his own, mashing together various sound bites through which he was able to tell his story. Thanks Brian!

I also realized how important visual images have become, especially personal images that tell a story from the perspective of the person. Throughout the three days, various people were always taking photos – D’Arcy Norman and Alec Couros have the greatest cameras! – which they then uploaded to their online accounts. They were able to access these and use them during Stephen Downes keynote – telling part of the story as Stephen discussed his predictions for the future. What an awesome idea, having these images accessible and use them to demonstrate ideas and understanding. And Stephen, to offer the use of the backchannel right during his keynote to allow participants to actually participate and interact in a real way, what an amazing idea – worthy of use by any teacher who is seeking to have studnts become learners instead of receivers. I’ve been part of the bachchannel during online presentations and know that it is an incredibly powerful tool but seeing it being used during Stephen’s presentation really brought home how technology could have an immediate impact on the receivers. I’m not sure that grade 7 or 8 students would be quite ready for this but I can see it being a very useful thing in a university setting. Can you imagine the discussions that might take place, especially if the presenter was able to adapt material to backchannel discussion. I’d really like to see something like this in distance ed classes for students.

Truly Humbled

Reality – I am an administrator in a K – 12 school in rural Saskatchewan. After my first foray in the world of presentations, I realize that my dream of wowing the crowd and being sought after is still just a dream. I have made some great f2f connections, meeting many people who are my online twitter friends. Each, by themselves, has so much to offer but the chance to meet them en masse, WOW!!!!

One highlight was hearing Rick Schwier speak on Wednesday evening after the banquet.  I  took a class, some time ago, from Professor Schwier. It had something to do with education and technology from what I remember.  His talk was about technology and  life. He reminded me that each of us has a role to play and to be  content, we must find enjoyment and fulfillment in what we are doing here and now. I don’t remember what he said but it was the feeling I had as he talked – of being part of a very special moment when someone with a great deal of knowledge and wisdom is going to let you in on some of it. I remember he focused on storytelling and how important it is to people – not just the telling but the listening. He also mentioned something about playing and having fun. The whole time I kept thinking, it’s about the people – connecting with people – bringing people together and helping one another. Thanks, Rick, for the insights!

Where do I/We go?

Alec Couros and Kyle Lichtenwald both commented that my posts were just way to darn long. They’re probably right. Maybe I need to heed their advice and learn to twitterize my posts – limit each to 500 words or something. Wouldn’t really matter because it would still take me too long to get to where I’m going which is here. For me, the conference has renewed my resolve to bringing change, if only in my school. At this point, given what I do, that is really my only option. This summer I will get another chance at presenting, hopefully, if Donna doesn’t have second thoughts! So, as I prepare for the rest of this year and begin to envision a new year, part of it will include a renewed emphasis on integrating technology, working with teachers to enhance the opportunities for the students through whatever means it takes. Jen Jones had it partially right  when she said

He’s also completely dedicated to making this world a better place for his family, one rotten student and teacher at a time, and I am convinced he’s going to do it!

It’s not just my family but all students. (Did I really call them rotten?) I don’t believe that students or teachers are bad. They make poor choices. I hope to be able to help them in whatever way I can. I want all students to come home and answer the question “How was your day at school?” with an excited conversation about the day. That’s my motivation!

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