NECC: Day Three

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • Jul
  • 07
  • 2006

Starbucks count: a total of 12 and I’m not covering very much of the city. “Meet me by the Starbucks” has as little meaning in downtown San Diego as in downtown San Francisco or downtown Portland.

Leslie Fisher started my day with her workshop The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Taking Digital Pictures Effectively. Fisher is a good presenter and keeps this funny, the common thread between all the presentations I’ve been to and enjoyed. She told lots of anecdotes and jokes, still managing to give us some good reminders

Don’t Throw Away The Manual

A few weeks ago, I glanced at the manual for my digital camera, the one I bought about 3 years ago. I had to tear the manual out of its plastic bag because I’d never looked at it before. Holding the manual in my hands, a shocked expression on my face, I discovered that my camera can do some pretty cool things I never knew about. Still, I can rarely capture a photo that represents what I saw or that even looks cool enough to take note of (hence the reason I’ve never posted any photos here).

Funnily enough, Fisher’s first point was to read the manual. “There’s so much that your camera can do, you’re just not taking advantage of it.” She called the friend of all digital camera owners “Manny,” the manual.

Some Tips

Several of the things she pointed out I’ve discovered on my own over the last few months. I haven’t been taking a lot of photos, but I’ve been putting my camera on manual instead of automatic and have been getting much better results a lot of the time. But it was nice to see a professional photographer explain a few things and I can always use the reminders. Here’s the quick list of her tips for the rest of us (I’ve put together more explanation, though not a whole lot more, in a Word document in order to keep this posting short enough to actually read):

  • Not close enough
  • Not in focus
  • Camera shake
  • Boring composition
  • Ignoring the background
  • Missing the moment
  • Too much flash
  • Too little flash
  • Why not vertical?
  • Digital zoom
  • Wrong settings

Look for natural light sources. In sunlight, the light source should be behind the subject. Use a reflector to bounce light onto a subject. Ah, so many cool things to do and I need to get doing them. I also feel like I need a new camera now. I’d like to step up the megapixels and get a camera that’s smaller, making it more likely that I’ll use it more often.

Explanation Of A Grant

Enhancing Student Learning Through The Use of Technology, Part I was my next stop. This is about Potter Junior High‘s EETT grant, how they put technology to use at their school. Beyond just using the technology, the plan was to become literate with technology. It’s one thing to use for a class assignment; it’s another thing to move from that to using for whatever you want.

Potter only had two projectors on the entire campus during the first few years of the grant (since that time, they’ve figured out how to get more). Teachers, faced with a mandate to use technology in daily instruction, had to find ways of sitting students down at one of the six computers in each English classroom. It’s easy to project on the screen and say that’s how you’re using technology and that’s what I’d like to do an awful lot of the time. That’s not student centered and still puts students in a far more passive mode. Also, it’s doesn’t really mean much in terms of integrating technology with what you’re doing; it’s often just a replacement overhead projector or whiteboard. When students sit at a computer and control what they see, that’s when you know the students can really use what’s available to them and that’s what forces them to be active consumers of information.

Every 7th grader had a technology elective. The planners knew that if they waited for the teachers to become proficient until they started to teach the kids they’d wait far too long. In other words, since the teachers knew that the students would come to class ready to implement technology and the teachers knew that the school required them to use technology in the classroom (I’m not sure how they dealt with union issues around this), that pushed teachers to learn and be ready for the skills the students will come to them with. There was summer training, workshops, mentoring, conferences, and an action plan to help make all this happen.

Collaboration was the most effective part of the implementation of the plan. That’s a no brainer! I learn the most from other teachers when we have time to sit around and talk about what we’re doing in the class. It’s one of the biggest reasons I keep this blog going, because I learn so much from readers and from reading other blogs.

Just Use It

The teachers reported that they have standards to address and that they can’t teach technology, too. I hear that all the time. The response at Potter JHS was, “We don’t expect you to teach technology; we expect you to use it.” An excellent response, I’d say.

I wonder if that can work on all campuses. Can there be an after-school lab for working with students to learn the technology, whatever it may be, and the teachers can then just be responsible for implementing the technology? Or maybe each content area has one type of technology they focus on, social sciences focus on how to use PowerPoint; sciences focus on how to use blogs; art focuses on how to use Inspiration; English focuses on how to use student-built Web sites; math focuses on how to use LCD projectors; world languages focus on how to use email.


Another piece was teachers relying on students who know how to use technology that can be the experts for other students to turn to. Teachers knew what students they could send other kids to if there were problems with how to use the technology they had in place. Again, teachers don’t need to teach technology, they just need to use it.

What if that becomes the new standard with regard to technology? Then the professional development becomes an introduction to what the different technology options are, teachers are free to pursue things further, and students can come to a lab to learn more of how to use the system to complete the course objectives. After all, when I have students use Blogger, I’m not assessing them on how well they make use of Blogger; I’m assessing them on how well they read and write. Their proficiency with Blogger shouldn’t enter into the grade at all. Blogger’s just a delivery system.

Both groups focused on the importance of staff development, and implied the importance of staff buy in, making me shake my head in shame. My school doesn’t have much in either of those two categories with technology implementation.

I hoped this presentation would have covered exactly how technology was integrated into classroom instruction, specific projects or maybe even case studies, but it was all really general. I must have misread, because the session was split with other groups talking about their EETT grants.

If I was writing an EETT grant or even interested in doing so, these presentations might have been different for me. As it happened, they didn’t give me enough detail or enough ideas to really be worth my time. I mean, I’ve clearly thought about a few things because of this session, but I wanted more detail about specific plans. It wasn’t a complete waste, but not quite what I expected.

Cool tools worth a look: InterWrite, Elmo document camera, PHPSurveyor, and Moodle.


1. Sharon Cooper says:

[8/3/2006 - 4:09 am]

I understand all you’ve said regarding the mandates and resistance to get on board. My own resistance stems from lack of skill on my part. This summer I attended a workshop that jumpstarted my willingness, if not my skill level! I teach 8th grade language arts, and decided that a starting point for my using the technology this year will be to have students posting original writing on a blog. THIS is my first response to anyone via a blog! I don’t know enough to start out using it next month in the classroom, but am willing to try!!!! Basic suggestions?????

2. Todd says:

[8/3/2006 - 8:33 am]

I’m glad you responded! See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? You should comment more often.

What’s the blogging project you’re thinking of for your kids? What do you want to do? You can always contact me so we can think about this more. You can imagine that I’ve got all kinds of things to say about this.

If you need to, have your students type out their writing, send you the document, and then you can post it to a blog. That way, you’re focused on how students can make use of the blog in the end – the blog is a delivery tool. Show the students the final result and, to an extent, they will be thrilled (even if you’ll be exhausted).

That’s what I did for my students last year when we put together a student anthology of writing; they emailed me their rewrite of a piece from the final semester, I posted it to a blog to show them what we’d created.

Are the reasons for student blogging clear in your head and is it more than just a gimmick to get kids writing? Assuming that you have a solid pedagogical reason for kids blogging, it’s really a matter of carving out some time in a computer lab and walking your kids through the process. Create an account, name your blog, write an entry. If you use Blogger, Blogger help has articles about all those things. And you increase your comfort level with this the more that you do what you’re asking your students to do (hint, hint: write more!).