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A random collection of rants, reviews, and miscellaneous thoughts on everything from instructional technology to local restaurants.
This past week I participated in the Upstate Technology Conference, put on by the Greenville County School District. UTC has been going on for many years now, but this is the first time I’ve participated. This is time of year I’m either taking a vacation, or heading to the ISTE conference, or I’m swamped with computer upgrades. This year I made a point of attending by submitting several proposals for presentations.
Actually, I submitted proposals for four topics – Google Earth, Aviary.com, Google Apps, and one on Making Music on Your iPad. I figured they would select one or two. They picked all four, and even had me doing the music session twice. I was a bit surprised. I would be presenting in five out of the eight available concurrent sessions – one on Tuesday and four on Wednesday. I wasn’t going to have time to visit any of the other sessions.
The conference was held at Wade Hampton High School, just a hop and a skip from my house. I arrived early Tuesday to check in and scout out my room. I had the first session open, so I sat in on Cathy Jo Nelson’s presentation on using and manipulating images. She had some great ideas, as usual.
My Google Earth session went OK. This was the first time I had tried using my MacBook, and it didn’t want to play nicely with the projectors in the classroom. I didn’t have enough resolution to really show much on the program, and some of the edit boxes kept getting cut off. Then there was the problem with connectivity and being able to get out to the sites I needed. Things were a bit slow and unreliable. Again, that could have been my MacBook as much as anything. It was also hard to judge the reaction of my audience. I couldn’t tell if the presentation was well-received or not.
I missed the keynote session because I was putting away my gear and a vendor stopped by to show me a few things. I did hang out in the cafeteria until time for lunch, answering e-mail and making calls. I had lunch with several old friends from my days in Laurens 55. Several vendors were set up on the halls. Most of these were folks with whom I already do business, so I just said a brief hello.
After lunch, I attended Kitty Tripp’s presentation on iDream of iPad Learning. Kitty is one of our outstanding teachers at Wellford Academy of Science and Technology, and is doing some great things in her classroom. She reviewed several apps, including NearPod, an app for controlling student iPads or iPhones during a presentation. The devices can be used as multiple-response units during the presentation.
After Kitty’s presentation I had to head back to the office to take care of a few things, so I missed out on the last sessions.
Tuesday was the killer day. I was presenting in all four sessions. The first two sessions were Making Music on your iPad, and I had worked very hard on these. The workshops were based on the following blog posts:
As I was setting up for my music session I was doing a sound check with Garage Band and a 12-bar blues pattern. One woman stuck her head in the door and said, “I didn’t expect to see someone with silver hair making such rocking sounds.” Excuse me? “Silver” hair???
Regardless, the sessions went very well. I learned from the first one, and skipped my presentation file completely and jumped right into the apps demonstration for the second one. I think I might submit this one for EdTech for next fall.
Again, I missed the keynote because I had a TON of gear with me that needed to be packed up and put away. I had come prepared, with my own VGA cables, power cords, and even my own projector and Internet access, if needed.
Once again I was able to renew acquaintances with long-lost friends over lunch. Lori Arledge was there from our district, and she pointed out the number of registration packets that had not been picked up. Apparently teachers had signed up for the conference, but hadn’t bothered to show up. We see the same thing in our district when we offer free workshops – folks will sign up for a slot, then not show. It is VERY frustrating, and there are folks that would like to have come, but couldn’t because the slots were filled. I guess the only solution is to start charging at least a token fee.
Soon enough it was time for the afternoon sessions. The first of these was a session on Google Apps. I focused on the collaboration and sharing aspects of Apps, and the session went very well and seemed to be well-received, despite a few browser compatibility issues.
The last session was on Aviary.com, and it was a disaster. I was trying to use one of Wade Hampton’s laptops since it would be more reliable with the projector, and it there weren’t any speakers attached. That makes it hard to demo an online sound editor. I was tired, the audience was tired, and I just felt like it didn’t go well. I think I’m going to abandon that presentation.
Things did end on a positive note, though. In the last session I won a Hue document camera and animation software as a door prize.
Despite the few technical glitches, it was an excellent conference. Jeff McCoy and his crew did an outstanding job and kept everything flowing smoothly and organized. One of the things I liked most about this conference was that it seemed to be teacher driven. As far as I could see, I was the only tech director there. None of my counterparts were in attendance. Unlike EdTech, this was held at a time when teachers could attend without having to be away from their classrooms.
One last comment – at least twice I had people come up to me and say, “So you’re the one that writes on the RandomConnections blog.” I was surprised and flattered that they kept up with this site. So, if you’re reading this now, I thank you. And I also thank you and all the teachers out there that are doing great things with technology in the classroom, and those that want to learn more by attending conferences like UTC.