Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Season of Conferences

7 days and 3 conferences.

  Good thing I took my vitamins!


This has traditionally been my favourite pro-d of the year, and this year it did not disappoint.  John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver played host to one of the busiest, most jam-packed conferences I have attended.  This year, I had the pleasure of helping to organize the conference as part of the executive, however Ian Jukes was a compelling keynote speaker.  I really thought he did a great job of using data to support his views.  I am sure the teachers in the Okanagan and other districts that streamed the keynote found it equally riveting. 
Gary Toews of Abbotsford did a workshop on the iPad in Abbotsford classrooms, and somehow 60 people managed to jam their way into the room! But, for me my one big take away was the presentation by Carolyn Durley and Graham Johnson on the flipped classroom.  The flipped classroom doesn’t mean using technology as the focus of the class; it’s about using technology like screencasting to change the way you spend your face-to-face time with students.  If students spent their time at home watching your lessons in video form, how would you spend all that time you used to spend lecturing differently?

Microsoft Connected Learners Conference

This is an invitation only conference for Canadian educators and IS staff that takes place once a year.  This year it was in Woodenville, Washington, near Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.  I was really glad it was so close, as I was able to hitch a ride down with our manager of IS, Brian Kuhn.  The conference was in a great hotel, and I don’t think I saw the outdoors for 2 days.  I just went from my room, to the conference room, to the sitting lounge for meals, and then back into the conference room.  The content was mixed between educational uses of technology, to much more technical issues. 
Some of the take-aways I have from this conference include
a)Students in Washington state have access to a statewide Microsoft certification program for applications, such as Word and PowerPoint.  This is something a lot of industries want, including the application from Google for an analyst position!
b) Windows 8 looks great on a tablet, and decent on a desktop. The windows RT does solve some problems we have with using the iPad in schools, such as supporting multiple users, having conventional hdmi and USB, and I like the interface.  The apps aren’t there yet, but I think they will come in time.
c) Kelowna is the second district to leverage cloud computing with Office 365.  This means their teachers and students can take advantage of a lot of great apps and storage – free.  They informed their parents with waivers, and things seem to be going well for them.  I hope our district can follow suit.

ERAC District Contacts

This was a great conference where we discussed the difficulties around using cloud services, and I am of the opinion that waivers will satisfy FIPPA requirements for using services in the US.  BC has the strictest laws against privacy, and in some ways I am very glad about that.  However I think that informing parents and students should be enough to make educational use of some great services such as Office 365.  I know many teachers want to use Edmodo, but what if our district could offer Wordpress/Buddy Press websites hosted on our network?  That might offer an easy to use, aesthetically pleasing alternative to SharePoint.  This is what Delta school district is doing, as you can see at DeltaLearns

Having been through these great learning experiences, I am excited to think of what I can bring to my learning teams now that meetings are underway.

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