Sunday, May 22, 2011


Plots of quadratic equations with discriminant...Image via WikipediaI overheard someone say they thought it was amazing that teachers would give up a Saturday to go to a home grown professional development. I don’t think so. I thought, cool free conference, free breakfast, and free lunch.

Having never been to an unconference I wasn’t sure what to expect. My wife asked me if I wasn’t going to dress a bit better as I was walking out the door. I would have looked pretty silly in a suit and tie.

After the free breakfast, (courtesy of Lenovo I think) we all got together in the auditorium to create the schedule. If you want to lead something or learn something put the idea on a piece of paper and put the paper on the big board, the only requirement is if you create the session you must show up. I didn’t create a session, it kind of caught me by surprise (why I don’t know). With the schedule made we were off.

My first session was the future of the book. When will publishers get the idea that the e-book needs to be more than a paper book. It starts with shared note taking, then continues with animation (a math problem being solved for example), but that is just the beginning. Technology doesn’t just look cool, it gives us the ability to connect, to interact, to change, and to create. If a publisher isn’t going to do that, than it is high time we started doing so. I thought of the amount of work some of our teachers did in adding to the math textbook the high school just bought and I thought, “Would it really be that much more of a stretch to make your own book?”

My second session was on Standards Based Grading, SBG. I’m a big fan of SBG. What is better feedback, Student A scored a C on the last quiz or Student A recognizes the shape of a quadratic graph, recognizes the the standard form of a quadratic equation, but not the factored form, and student A cannot find the solutions to a quadratic equation. It seems like a no brainer, but I suppose some folks will disagree. For some interesting reading of a teacher using SBG in the classroom check out this blog. The best part thought was that the founders of ACtiveGrade, Riley and Michel, came from Iowa just to participate. (I love when these former teachers trying to improve education keep in touch with educators). They also gave away a free 1 year subscription but I didn’t win.

The fourth session for me was “Bringing Google Apps to your district/school”. I love my google stuff, all my documents online, multi-users editing stuff at the same time, email, etc... It seems that google even goes so far as to create a special education only user agreement if a school wants to add Google Apps. The money savings on IT work alone is amazing. Not to mention the free archiving of every email. I created a list of the the links shared during that session.

Session 4 was learning to program for the iphone (really I’d rather program for android, but whatever). I don’t really know anything about programming, but I keep some ideas for apps on a little list so if I every figure out how to program I’ll have something to do. We had three people in that group on none of us really had actually programmed for a phone before, though the other two did at least some experience in programming. They shared some resources which I compiled into a list here. The app inventor looks a bit like Scratch so I think that might be about my speed.

I missed out on the “what to do if you don’t have any technology in the classroom” however our own Mathew Foster attended that one. I have the video which I uploaded to youtube. He tells me he is planning on creating a few flipped classes for next year.

Near the end of the day some folks got together to have what they call a smackdown. As I understand it this is where a bunch of people get together and share some of the web 2.0 tools they are using in their classrooms. Someone took notes and the list of tools can be found here.

The day ended with the prize giveaways. A bunch of t-shirts and stuff from Intel. Some free online conference subscription from SimpleK12, a one year subscription to ActiveGrade, a document camera from Aver, and a touch screen computer from Lenovo (They have given a bunch of these to edtech bloggers to give away, do I get one, nope. that’s alright I didn’t win an iPad either, when they were hot and everyone was giving them away).

All in all a great day. I got breakfast, lunch, a couple of cases of left over juice, and a whole bunch of learning all for free. Well sort of I made the name tags for everyone and that ran a few bucks, but if I had remembered to turn in my receipts I could have gotten some money back from that.

I can’t wait until next year, unless of course if all those (so called lazy, over paid) Wisconsin educators who invaded our conference will organize an EdCampMadison.
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