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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.


Muxic, Booklets, MACUL Blog…

Weekly Web Wonders

  • This site is difficult to explain…just go and try out muxicall.  If several people are on the sight at once, you’ll be able to interact with them.  It’s very fun!
  • I just ran across this site, the BookletCreator.  Take any PDF document and upload it to this site and it will convert it so that you can print out and staple the document into a booklet.  If you can’t save your file to PDF, then use CutePDF Writer or Zamzar to convert it from Word.
  • This Bar Grapher from Marco Polo is easy to use and free, of course.  You can enter your own data or use their data sets to explore various topics.
  • The Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) held its annual conference last week.  Check out the MACUL Conference Blog to read about many of the presentations as well as to find the web resources mentioned and used.
  • Your kids can write and illustrate stories with ToonDoo, an online comic strip creator.  Strips can be saved online, downloaded, or printed.

Last Session! Hall Davidson

This post is being cross-posted on the MACUL Conference blog…Whew! What a day and what a conference. The last session is about to begin… Hall Davidson is presenting on Thinking Big as the World Gets Small. As i’m sitting here everyone is looking around for the boxes…you know, the ones you put your nametag in to win fun and fabulous prizes. I’m pretty sure I’m going to win something good this time…

Hooray for Berrien Springs Middle School teachers (and the RBS) being mentioned by Hall in his words of thanks…

There is geographic shrinking…the world is closer than it once was. There is also a temporal shrinking…

Hall has had the pleasure of connecting with lots of educators…sharing connections and experiences.

We have all these tools…but as educators we are unstoppable and we find a way.

Kids are already in virtual communities…Club Penguin, for example. The distance between imagination and reality is shrinking.

How do we teach innovation? Start with what they have in their pockets…iPods and cell phones. iPods are being used to assist bilingual students learn English…there are a lot of other examples as well. Harvard, Stanford, and MIT all have course curriculum downloadable from iTunes.

(I only have 20 minutes of battery left…oh boy…)

What if Anne Frank had had a blog? Students have stories to tell!..and you can empower your kids to do it!

That’s all the juice I have…too bad I couldn’t say more, but I suspect there will be other posts on this session. I had a great time here in Grand Rapids and am looking forward to actually reading some of the posts here!

Staggeringly Good Things Mixing Google Earth and Media

This post is being cross-posted on the MACUL Conference blog…

Hall Davidson

Joe mentioned it earlier, but Hall Davidson is very entertaining to listening to and not only that, has some great ideas.  This Google presentation sounds like one he was going to do at the 2006 NECC conference in San Diego.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t do it because there was some copyright confusion with Google.  I vaguely remember how that was soon cleared up yadda yadda yadda, but not in time for his presentation.

Google Earth is one of my favorite applications…visually it’s awesome…but besides just the satellite views, there are lots of ways to add content on top of that.

Here are Hall’s handouts.

Google Earth is a platform…one that you can add more information to…web cam, image, video, whatever.  If you’re an educator, you can get a Google Earth Pro license.  If you use it, just be aware that it is even more of a bandwidth hog than just regular old Google Earth.

Google Earth Tips

  • Type N on the keyboard to put North at the top.
  • Right-click on a placemark and choose Snapshot View to keep that same view each time you visit the placemark.

Hall highlighted the 3D overlays…there are tons of buildings, monuments, and landmarks available for anyone to use.  Same thing with Layers.  Most people probably use thse pre-made layers that are available for free.  In Google Earth, look down on the left and you’ll see them under Gallery: Discovery, National Geographic, NASA, and more…

Use a route “drive” from placemark to placemark.  It kind of looks like driving along from a bird’s-eye view.

Use the ruler to measure distances from point to point, or even along a route…and you can change the units on the fly.

Image Overlay
From any image on the Internet, copy and paste its URL and paste it right on top of Google Earth.  You can change its transparency, size, rotation.  It also will lay right over terrain if the Terrain layer is turned on.

There’s so much embeddable content on the web…sites like YouTube or Flickr or whatever that give you a URL…that code can be quickly copied and pasted into Google Earth.  It’s easy to make a multimedia presentation simply by adding content on top of maps.

Last resource from Hall:  Google Lit Trips.

Hall didn’t get through nearly as many items as he may have wanted to.  Remember to check out his handout.  Also, Ben Rimes is giving an 11:30 presentation entitled, “Google Earth for Tech Savvy Educators.”  Very enjoyable!

MACUL Keynote…Mary Cullinane

This post is being cross-posted on the MACUL Conference blog…

I’m sure someone’s post, maybe Steve‘s, gives a little background about our opening speaker, so I won’t go into the details. One thing I will mention before the action starts is that these seats are sweet! They’re soft and have a springy back…it’s going to be hard not to want to sit in here all day! Plus…and here’s a conference tip…I’m sitting in the row that in the across-room aisle, which means that I can stretch out my legs.

Rather than summarizing her presentation, here are a few of her nuggets of wisdom.

At the end of the day, all we really want is more of our own ideas.

It’s difficult to be open to the ideas of others…because, more or less, we’re pretty pleased with how we think and what we know. I think this is particularly true with educators…we think we have the necessary knowledge and expertise and it’s difficult to let go of the power.

What would be different at your school if your principal was called the “Chief Learner?”

Since I do a lot of professional development I witness a lot of strange occurances. Often as I stand in front of the teachers of the building I wonder where the principal is. Aren’t they part of the learning community? A little better are the principals who are indeed participating, but let me know that they’re behind with “this technology thing.” Where have they been? As the Instructional Leader of the building is there not the expectation that they should be held to high standards?

Be comfortable not knowing.

I just did a Google search on “new things” and got 98.5 million hits. Live Search (that’s from Microsoft) returned 588 million hits. How can anyone keep up with that? The answer is that you don’t have to…you shouldn’t try…you’ll be doomed for failure.

Lastly, and it wasn’t her last point, here are some questions that Mary encouraged us as educators to ask…

What if…We understood our customers…

We were guaranteed not to fail…

We knew exactly what we wanted a learning environment to look like…

We had resources, commitment, will, and courage…

How would you answer this? What are your visions…and should they be different even though we know we may never achieve them? (I thinking especially of resources.) Anyone want to leave a comment?