I was lucky enough to get the chance to attend this year's Midwest Education Technology Conference, at least for a day, and I came away with some valuable experiences. I facilitated two sessions and attended a third, and each had something great to offer.
The first session I attended was "Utilizing SMART Notebook II: Transforming Then to Now." The session was hosted by Missouri Baptist University Adjunct Professor Sharon Sumner, and assisted by MBU Professor Amber Henry. I had Dr. Henry as an online instructor, so it was nice to meet her face-to-face. It was great to meet Ms. Sumner as well, since she will be teaching the Diversity class I will be taking in the second 8 weeks of this semester.
I am unfamiliar with SMART Notebook, II or I, so much of the content of the presentation was over my head, but I must say that SMART Notebook II looked like it had a lot to offer a teacher for classroom technology innovation. There was a long list of features to SNII, but the ones that stood out for me were Sound Recorder and Digital Ink. Digital Ink allows customized drawing options that can be used to create art that can be incorporated into whatever activities or documents you create, and you can even use the drawing tools on the fly with already existing documents. So, you can highlight and circle points of emphasis and such. The auto-fade function clears your doodles automatically, which saves you the trouble of selecting and deleting your doodles. And Sound Recorder allows you to record voice-over to a presentation or activity and/or attach it to an object like a picture. Sounds can be played by clicking on the object.
The second session I attended was "Transition a High School from a Traditional Model to a 1-1 BYO iPad Model. The session was hosted by Principal Jonathan Bernhardt and other faculty from Lutheran High School of St. Charles County, in St. Peters, Missouri. LHS is a school of just under 300 students, grades 9-12, and a few years ago, as part of their accreditation process, began to rethink the way they operated. The end result was a move to a 4x4 block schedule and an iPad model where every student would bring their own iPad to school. The iPad became the primary conduit through which learning happened.
All classes make use of the technology, although there is a great deal of latitude in how teachers adapt and use it in their classes. Most use Drop Box to provide lessons and assignments, which students retrieve, complete with something like NoteAbility, and return to the teacher via Drop Box.
Faculty, students and parents were all trained on use of the iPads through a series of small group summer training sessions. iPads were leased, with an option for students to purchase them after two years.
It was truly impressive to see how the transition can happen in the real world, as opposed to a hypothetical textbook reference to transitioning. Teachers demonstrated how they use the iPads in their classes, and the audience could post questions to the panel as the presentation went along. I was impressed.
The last session I attended was "Video Creation with Free Online Tools," with presenter Don Goble, who teaches video production at Ladue High School. He began his presentation with a look at the theoretical foundation of why we teach video production in the first place, and then followed up with a look at free online tools that can be used to make videos. Unfortunately, I had to leave before he got to the applications and how-to part of his presentation, as I had to get home to meet my granddaughter's bus and to let my grandson's home nurse leave for the day. I can understand why he wanted to build a theoretical framework before getting into the nuts and bolts of video production, but I didn't personally need theory. I've taught that stuff myself for years. What I wanted to see was the new technology, and I'm afraid I couldn't stick around for that.
Final reflection on METC 2013: Next year I really want to attend both days and take greater advantage of all the options. I feel as if I barely scratched the surface, and next time I want to dig deeper. This convention is an amazing resource for educators who are focused on the use of new technology in the classroom.