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Conference planning…bring your cigar

This post was originally published on the MACUL Conference Blog.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

By my estimates, the total number of miles walked by participants by the end of each MACUL conference equals 2.75 times the distance from the earth to the moon.  I mean, really, there’s a ton of walking! Unfortunately, much of it would be considered aimless wandering and meandering by participants who aren’t sure where they’re going.  I’m not talking about being lost, I’m talking about people with no destination.

In order to get the most out of attending the MACUL conference, you really need to spend some quality time planning your strategy.  Cobo Hall is too large for you to make it up as you go along.  You’ll never see what you want to see!

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”
-Source unknown

There are many resources and strategies for laying out your plan.  Here are a few from me:

Take a look at the Program Book before the conference.
It’s on the web, right here, a full two weeks before the conference.  You don’t want the first time opening it be during Thursday’s keynote.  It’s like opening a good book, once you start you’ll have a hard time putting it down.  Then you’ll miss Alan November…and he’s pretty funny.  Come back to the Program Book often and narrow down your session choices.

Use the At-a-Glance Schedule…or whatever it’s called.
The Program Book is very important, but it can be unwieldy as you’re moving from session to session.  So…once you get to the conference, dig down into your Green Bag (or maybe they’ll be Black this year.  w00t!) and dig out the single sheet that shows a matrix of all the sessions for each day and where they’re located.  Since you’ve been looking closely at the Program Book, you should be ready to circle the sessions your planning on attending.

Backup! Backup! Backup!
Without a doubt you’ll find, that for whatever reason, a session you chose to attend isn’t going to be one of the ones you’re actually going to attend.  Maybe it’s a BYOL session and it’s full.  Perhaps you discover that you already know the topic.  Whatever.  Now what are you going do?  This isn’t the time for last-second decision making!  During your planning, pick one or even two “backup sessions” per time slot.  That way, when Option #1 falls to pieces, you’re ready to act!

  • If you’re really on top of things, you’ll try to identify backup sessions that are close by your first choice.  Otherwise, you’ll waste all your time hoofing it from D3-19 to Michigan Hall.  (Not gonna happen.)

I love it when a plan comes together.
-John “Hannibal” Smith

I’m sure there are other strategies and tips that seasoned attendees could add (and please do btw), but this is a great place to begin.  With a little thought beforehand you can maximize your experience.

TechCamp 2009 is on the stove…

It’s been since September that I actually posted something besides a Weekly Web Wonder.  Somehow I just have a hard time getting the thoughts that work their way through my head out onto the screen.  C’est la vie…

TechCampIn any case, I want to make sure to start giving coverage to this year’s TechCamp.  Last year we had two great days of learning and exploration and I’m really looking forward to doing it again.  This year, TechCamp will be held on August 25 & 26.  It’s a week later, but so is Labor Day.  (It’s hard to believe that Michigan students won’t start school until September 8!)  The format will remain basically the same…participants will attend 6 hands-on sessions over the two days as well as listen to 2 keynote presentations.  Who?  Well, I said TechCamp is on the stove, not simmering on the front burner.  I haven’t gotten there yet…close though.

If you follow the link, you’ll find last year’s wiki information.  The presenters uploaded a ton of resources which many participants have come back to over the past months.  You’ll also see my lovely new TechCamp logo as well as be able to download the flyer.  (Did you notice that I’m not providing links for that stuff…I’m nastily forcing you to hop over to the wiki and check it out yourself.

New Workshops @ the Berrien RESA

Finally got around to getting some workshops scheduled for this fall.  You can see all technology workshops being offered at the Berrien RESA right here.

In October I’ll be leading a new class trying to cover some of the many, many web 2.0 tools that can easily be used by educators.  Connecting & Collaborating with Web Tools starts on October 13 and will last six weeks.  During each of those weeks, we’ll focus on a different category of tool and explore ways in which those types of tools can be used to help students gain understanding and learn by being connected not only to pertinent resources but pertinent people (for example, other students) as well.

It’s kind of unfortunate to have to divide those tools into categories, because the differences between some of them is very blurry.  But, I needed to be able to chunk the information into a week’s worth of content, so I was forced to make some choices.  Here’s how I broke down:

  • Week 1:  Get Organized…kind of speaks for itself.
  • Week 2:  Be Productive…this one too.
  • Week 3:  Look What I Did…publishing and photo sharing.
  • Week 4:  Talk to Me…communication tools.
  • Week 5:  It’s Showtime…video and animation creation.
  • Week 6:  I’ve Got People…social networks and communities.
  • I’m really looking forward to this class…one reason being that participants will have such a variety of activities to choose from.  Nobody’s experience will be like that of another.  The sharing of projects in the discussion forum should really open everyone’s eyes!

    Oh…one more thing…just received confirmation that Connecting & Collaborating with Web Tools has been approved for 6.0 SB-CEUs as well as 2 graduate credits.  That can be helpful.  :-)

    TechCamp Reflections

    It would be very wrong for me not to give a wrap-up of TechCamp, which has already slipped into the summer fog of memory even though it was only two weeks ago!  Thanks to the Michigan DEN blog for the gracious write-up.  (And thanks for the heads-up, Emma.)

    From the evaluations I recieved, it sounds like everyone had a pretty decent experience.  The biggest complaint?  Anyone?  The conference rooms were too cold!  They felt great to me, but I was truckin’ up and down the hall on various errands so was working up a sweat.  I kept thinking that the technology was going to fall to peices at any moment, but every laptop worked well as did our wireless connections.  It made it easier for participants to focus on the content of the presentations instead of, “Why can’t I get anywhere?”

    Here are some very nice comments received on the evaluations…it’s OK to toot the horn, right?

    I would love to attend another TechCamp.  I feel like I’ve been living in a cave!!!

    TechCamp was wonderful!  Like a mini MACUL close to home.  Looking forward to next year.

    I enjoyed [TechCamp] very much.  I learned a great deal and will be referencing and sharing the wiki often.  Amazing two days!

    Nice comments, eh?  But, without a doubt, TechCamp would not have been very successful had it not been for the excellent presenters we had.  I again want to thank each and every one of them for their time and expertise!  I heard many great comments geared directly to the presenters.  Both Matt Monjan and Liz Kolb, our keynote speakers, received high praise…they were great!

    So, what’s in store for next year?  Well, mark your calendars because I made sure to reserve the conference rooms well in advance.  TechCamp 2.0 will be held on August 25 & 26.  That’s a bit later, but Labor Day is actually much later so that affected the scheduling.  Looking forward to it!

    Day of Preparation…

    Whew!  What a day!  After another week off from work, I returned today for a get-everything-set-up-for-TechCamp marathon.  Now there are four wireless labs in the conference rooms at Berrien RESA and each piece is in place…well, I hope it’s in place.

    I created a quick Introduction Video for participants to watch just before the first session.  It stinks.  ;-)  However, I shot it while on vay-cay in South Haven, so my brain wasn’t working smoothly yet.  It does the job.

    A few quick thoughts…

    • I’m very impressed with the amount of time and effort being put into the TechCamp wiki by the presenters.  Awesome!
    • I just returned from picking up my son from football practice…and I happened to swing by Walgreens for some chocolate for the breakout sessions.  Sweet!
    • I’d like to develop a LoJack system for power strips…they’re at a real premium for a conference like this.

    That it…time for TechCamp!

    TechCamp Spotlight: To the Limit



    July has come and gone…I’ve stayed away from technology for quite a while now, but it’s time to move things along.  TechCamp is two and a half weeks away and I’m pleased to say that we’re booked solid with participants…filled to the gills.  That is so sweet…

    We have even started a waiting list, which makes me disappointed that we can’t accomodate everyone.  For the most part, it’s a matter of having enough computers.  You know, since it’s a hands-on event, it’s important that everyone has something to put their hands on.

    Taking another look at the sessions, I’m more than satisfied with the number and variety that we’re able to offer.  From the important basics of using MS Office apps, to exciting multimedia strategies like digital storytelling and podcasting, to cutting edge web tools and cell phones…I think we’re covering a wide spectrum.  Participants should be able to get what they need and want!

    TechCamp Spotlight: Ben Rimes…will you Read, Please?

    SpotlightIt’s not that I don’t think Ben Rimes isn’t going to read this post, but that Read, Please is the title of one of the two sessions he’ll be leading at TechCamp in August.  It’s great to have Ben at TechCamp…he’s a world-famous blogger as well as a local teacher and all-around super guy.  In addition, (if that wasn’t enough), Ben is on the MACUL Board and has been instrumental in setting up both the conference blog and the MACUL Space NING group.  He’s very busy!!

    As I mentioned in the first sentence, Ben will be leading a session entitled Read, Please which will focus on literacy.  Here’s the description:

    From software that reads text to learners to websites that have interactive stories and reading practice, get hands on time with simple tools to help emergent and struggling readers. Websites to improve fluency, vowel sounds, and make voice recordings will be explored. Early elementary teachers will benefit from this session.

    Ben’s experience in the classroom and around the state will make this session worth seeing!

    TechCamp Starting Lineup…check out the schedule

    With two months to go, the schedule for the first annual TechCamp is in place.  It seems a lot closer than two months since I’ll be off most of July, but it’s good to have the peices ready to fall together.  Rather than trying to fit everything in a narrow column, it would be best to go visit the TechCamp Wiki to see the At-a-Glance sheet of session choices.

    TechCamp Spotlight: From Toy to Tool with Liz Kolb

    This is a sweet piece of information…TechCamp welcomes Liz Kolb on Wednesday, August 20.  Liz is an up and coming name in instructional technology whose focus is on using cell phones as tools in the classroom.  Here’s the description for her soon-to-be-available book, Toys to Tools.

    Toys for Tools discuses how to enhance learning by using the powerful technology of cell phones both inside and outside the classroom. Many, if not most, educators view cell phones as the enemy. Author Liz Kolb sees them as powerful technology in the hands of students. Acknowledging the current reality-at many schools ban student cell phone use in the classroom-Kolb discusses a host of innovative and highly interesting uses for the technology that do not require using the phones in the classroom.

    You can explore what Liz’s message is all about by visiting her From Toy to Tool blog.  There she highlights new applications and strategies for using cell phones…toys tools that have become standard issue equipment for today’s adolescents.

    Liz will be speaking during Wednesday’s lunch and will follow up her presentation with a hands-on session.  I’ll be posting more details soon.  Make sure to bring your phone!!  Go online to register for TechCamp now!

    TechCamp Spotlight: Cindy Liscow is Telling Digital Stories

    I’m really looking forward to Cindy Liscow’s session, Digital Storytelling. For one thing, Cindy, who teaches at South Haven’s L.C. Mohr High School, is a great teacher who is willing to try out what might be considered weird and wacky. She’s not afraid of a challenge.

    Take this for example…this past spring she told me that her high school doesn’t block MySpace. What?! I thought everyone blocked MySpace..well, she told me the reasoning behind the decision was that it provided opportunities for teachers and students to think about and discuss Internet safety and privacy issues. If they blocked it, then students would simply get their knowledge “from the street,” so to speak. I think this is awesome and very admirable!

    Another reason for my anticipation is that Digital Storytelling is a great way for students to “show what they know.” Here’s Cindy’s description of the session:

    Engage your students in written expression through multimedia. Students write their own personal story and create a video with pictures and music and add their own voice telling the story . Students love this project.

    Absolutely, students love projects such as this one. What I’d like to point out is the phrase, “write their own personal story.” The meat of Digital Storytelling is that it is simply an updated way to encourage and develop student writing!

    If you’re interested in attending TechCamp, check out the TechCamp Wiki for information and to register.


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