I went to three great sessions yesterday, the last day of NCTIES. Usually, by the time the last day (of any conference) rolls around, I am feeling the urge to head towards home - but this time I left wishing for "just one more day," which I think is a pretty good sign. As it turns out, the three sessions I attended on Friday were my favorites of the whole conference.
1. Presentation Design w/Ken Shelton. This session was amazing! Truth be told, I hadn't planned to attend it. I was already snuggled into an extremely crowded session on using interactive whiteboards when the presenter announced that, even though the program didn't mention it, her session was intended for primary grades, forcing me to quickly revert to Plan B. Boy, am I ever glad that Plan A was a bust! I've been to several presentation design sessions over the years and always come away with something new, but Ken's really stands out for me, because it focused more on communication than just design. In it, I learned about the different ways that an image creates cognitive meaning, I learned how human communication has evolved throughout time, I learned about how the eye processes information and how comic sans isn't just bad... it's really, really bad. :) It was more than just "do this" and "don't do that," it was more of a call to action - a charge to use the opportunity of a presentation to reach, affect and communicate with your audience. One of the best parts for me was near the end when someone from the audience asked what to so when people demand ppt handouts complete with bullet points and a uniform theme, to which Ken responded with a list of books and research that back up the elements of good design and effective communication. Then he said, "then ask them what research they have to prove that bullet points are effective." I *love* it when a presenter isn't just good, they're also really, really smart. My only regret is that I didn't jot down the list of research he spouted, so... if you were there and had faster fingers than me, please share!
2. Best of the Web w/Richard Byrne: In this session the author of Free Technology for Teachers went through 75 (!) web 2.0 tools that he felt were worth sharing. I really liked that he started the session by giving his criteria for sharing a web resource: "I have to be able to figure out how to use it AND how to use it in a classroom in about 5-7 minutes." I love that. If it's too complicated, it's out. If it's really cool and simple, but doesn't have a classroom application, it's out. After that, the hour long session was a blur. He went through each tool thoroughly, but incredibly quickly too. I tried to keep up, tweeting as many as I could, but my fingers aren't as nimble as they used to be! Luckily, the session slides are shared on his website for review. A couple of the resources I really can't wait to play around with more and SHARE with my own staff are twurdy: a search engine that lists results by reading level, magazinr: which allows you to bookmark and tweet resources at the same time, wikimind map: which creates search results in mindmap form (looks great for helping students seek out related topics), jellycam: a web based stop motion video editor and vodburner: which allows you to record and edit skype conversations.
3. The Game Plan: How Gaming Can Enhance Learning w/Peggy Sheehy: At a tech conference (not specifically aimed at librarians), Peggy said in her opening remarks that "Librarians are your go to people if you want to start an innovative program at your school." So... essentially, she had me at hello! Honestly, I'm only just dipping my toes into the world of gaming, but so far, I very much like how the water feels. Again, Sheehy's was a presentation that was chock full of research to back up her assertions, but what I liked most about her presentation were the stories she shared from her own experience as a high school drop out - who felt school never spoke to her - and the journey that meandered its way back to school, through several advanced degrees and to the classroom where she now works with students "who have no tribe." When she talked about gaming as "pure, beautiful, constructivist, scaffolded learning with a required, built in, cycle of reflection," and how gaming requires students to learn through failure and how video games are, essentially, all problem solving and assessment (the most hated parts of school for many kids), I could feel the goosebumps rising on my skin. For me, this is the session that is most likely to remain a pea beneath all my cognitive mattresses. I've only just begun to unpack my learning from this session, but I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me.
So, now I'm home and getting ready to tackle the mountain of work that, remarkably, didn't go anywhere while I was gone. Even so, I'm glad I took a few days off to learn at NCTIES this year. I can't wait to put the lessons I've learned to use in my school.