Saturday, June 27, 2009

Teach Tomorrow Today! 2009 Upstate Technology Conference

This was my second UTC conference and it was a good one just like last year. I was still recovering from poison ivy after doing too much geocaching the week before, but I tried not to let it get me down. These are a summary of the sessions that I attended:

Keynote Address by Chris Craft
Superpowers for Everyday Heroes
I have been tweeting with Chris the last few months so I made a point to go up and introduce myself prior to his presentation. Chris is a Spanish teacher in Lexington/Richland 5 at Crossroads Middle School and is a genuinely nice guy. Because he is still a classroom teacher, he brought a down-to-earth feel to how he approaches education and gave some great examples of inspiring uses of technology in the classroom. Because my descriptions would not do it justice, you really need to see his presentation found on his blog Crucial Thought.
Chris got the geocaching bug at UTC 2009 so I may have to call him up when I am forced to go to the mall and show him how to find benchmarks.

Cool Free Tech Tools For Teacher Use
This was my own session to show some PC apps for classroom use. I had over 50 participants in this session. I also did a repeat on the last session of the conference and had 30 participants. Because I used Mediator to create several of these PC tools, many thanks to Dave Hamilton of Matchmare for giving two copies of Mediator 9 to give away as door prizes. Other than the three commercial programs, the other programs I created using Visual Basic. A description and download instructions for each program may be found at:

Don’t Read to Me: A Presentation on Presentations
Chris Craft

After seeing his wonderful keynote address, I thought I would see what Chris had to say again and I was not disappointed. After giving some background information on Cognitive Load Theory, he gave several specific examples about presentations. Here is the basic summary about using PowerPoint:

PowerPoint backgrounds are generally bad
Transitions are generally bad
No bullets
Comic Sans is not your friend
10/20/30 No more 10 slides/No more than 20 minutes/No less than 30 point font
Graphics need to be focused (A carefully selected image can go a long way)
Graphic Sources:
Creative Commons

This session may be found on his blog Crucial Thought.

Are Intel Thinking Tools For You?
This was my own session to show these great free tools for classroom use. This last session of the day was not well attended, but I think it went well. The three thinking tools Visual Ranking (used for prioritizing lists), Seeing Reason (used for determining cause-effect relationships), and Showing Evidence (used for developing good arguments) were shown. Also the Assessment Application was demonstrated so that teachers could organize and find various rubrics and checklists. Each tool has a tutorial section, instructional strategies, and sample projects to get the user started. Items from my presentation may be found at

Hot Potatoes Interactive Web-base Program
Michelle O’Malley

This session showed how to use the free set of Hot Potatoes programs. Each application allows the user to create activities and then export these as javascript enabled HTML pages that may be uploaded for student practice and review. The programs are:
JCloze – creates gap filled exercises
JMatch – creates matching or ordering exercises
JQuiz – creates question based quizzes including multiple choice and short answer
JCross – creates crossword puzzles
JMix – creates jumbled sentence answers

The program may be downloaded for free from but must be registered to fully function. Sample activities and the presentation may be downloaded from the presenter’s webpage at:

An Augmented Reality Check
This was my own session to show the work that we had done this year in our pilot of augmented reality. This session was not well attended, but it may have been too ‘bleeding edge’ for this conference. Frieda Foxworth was there to offer support and answer some questions about the World War II – Pacific Theater activity that she helped to create. The Augmented Reality we piloted used an iPAQ Travel Companion with integrated GPS to track student movement. When the students reached a designated point, they were automatically provided with appropriate documents, images, sounds, or videos. Information from my session may be found at:

Place Based Stories
This was my own session to show the work that Priscilla Kelley and I had done this year in preserving some of the local history near our school. This session was better attended. Kristin Magee was nice enough to attend to offer support. I also got to meet a Twitter friend Heather Loy. This session was designed to show how Google Earth and an iPod in ‘museum mode’ could be used to store and present local history projects. Google Earth allows the user to see the location of a place and find out the facts and see and hear the local stories from a computer. The iPod includes the latitude and longitude measurements and allows the users to truly visit the locations and experience the stories for themselves. The presentation, product files, and the help file links to learn how to do all this may be found at:

Creating Online Pools and Self-Grading Quizzes
Kim Pauls

This presentation showed how to use Google Forms (a part of Google Docs) to create quizzes and polls. This seems to be a powerful way to get feedback in the classroom using the free tool. For the data analysis, knowledge of Excel was necessary so I am not sure how much the teachers at my school would use it. While I watched, it occurred to me that if the forms were downloaded to the user computer, then maybe I can write a little visual basic app that would read the Excel spreadsheet and automate the process for the creation of the data analysis formulas.
Sample forms and the presentation may be downloaded from the presenter’s webpage at: