Friday, February 25, 2011

I Killed a Dog

Yes, I did kill a dog…kind of. I stepped on one of my son’s toy dogs in the basement and it broke. Although the bruise on my foot would indicate that I actually lost that fight. With that out of the way, here is the real reason I am writing this post.


The past three days I attended the Illinois Computing Educator’s Conference in St. Charles. First, let me tell you that I was able to pull some great resources that I will share in a later post. However, I rode home each day rather disappointed in two major ways. I kept trying to get over these disappointments, but as I continued to reflect, I kept coming back to these two “problems” that I had with some of the conference sessions I attended.

The first disappointment was the apparent low level of technology knowledge and understanding among the participants and some presenters. While this may sound like an arrogant and potentially rude statement, let me explain. My view may be the result of me losing the roulette wheel of session picking. However, here is a short list of things I witnessed that gave me a bit of a pause:

• Presenter taking 15 minutes to explain how to turn on, capture, and plug in a flip camera. To me this should be common sense and does not require a chunk of a session, but clearly that was not the case.

• Very few of the masses of participants were on twitter or tweeting during conference. I know that not everyone has bought into the boom of the blue bird, but I was shocked at how few had.

• Participants were blown away by prezi.com as a “new” tool. This is a tool that I have heard about, used, and seen for nearly two years now.

• Presenter spending half of presentation talking about movie maker and photostory as groundbreaking tools in education. I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

• An entire poster session on the power of wordle.com. Enough said…

• Presenters claiming to have “cutting edge” technology that was duller than a spoon…ten years ago. This kind of goes with the previous two, but I think my definition of cutting edge is not a universal.

• Presenter claiming wikis was one of the newest, best, and greatest web 2.0 tool out there. A wiki, while a good tool, is simply one tool and a vast array of potential tools out there.

• Presenter contradicting themselves by claiming to need to give kids choice in their projects…but they must use technology for it to be a good project. This presented went so far as to call out certain projects as not good enough.

Again, I don’t mean to be rude or sound disrespectful in any way. I did go to a great workshop on Media Literacy with Joanna Marshall and sat with Jon Orech in a productive Twitter session. All in all though, I was rather astounded by the seemingly low level of technology understanding. I take this to mean one of two things. One, I am that far ahead of the curve, which I don’t necessarily think is the case. Or two, we need to do a better job of sharing resources and getting more teachers caught up to the digital age we are living in. I know I have grown so much in the past four months as an educator as well as in educational technology. Those of us that do understand technology need to do a better job of sharing. Maybe more of the “tech studs” need to step up and present next year…I know I will be putting in more than one proposal next year. :)

The second major disappointment for me was how a majority of the sessions were focused on tools and not on learning. I will not call out any names in particular but if you attended, you know what I mean. A great number of presentations took the “The Great Tools of Web 2.0” or “Must Have Tech Tools” in their approach. These sessions were essentially a laundry list of the coolest tools and hottest gadgets. Many of the tools were neat and cool. However, there was little or no connection to how they actually improved student learning. I can go to Google and find a billion tools to try with my kids. What I want to know is how they have been tried, tested, and actually shown to improve student learning. Perfect example is the trend of interactive whiteboards. Many teachers think that just because they have these tools in their classrooms, they are integrating technology. Personally, I don’t buy that. If an interactive whiteboard is simply being used to present those cutting edge Power Points, then you might as well just have them pull it down and get out your overhead and erasable markers. Tools need to be used to make a job easier and more effective. The job I am worried about is student learning…don’t show me a new hammer until you know how well it drives a nail.

Although, these “tools” sessions were overflowing so maybe I don’t know what I am talking about…
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