At last week's Technology Advisory Council meeting, Dr. Peasley invited folks to attend a David Warlick conference on Personal Learning Networks and Web 2.0 technologies. Sponsored by the Kent County Intermediate School District, hosted by Calvin College, and taking place at their lovely Prince Center, with breakfast, coffee, and an ample lunch included.
I have attended one of Mr. Warlick's presentations before, and there were some redundancies, both thematically and in content: a joke about his North Carolina accent and how he fails to fit in the Midwest to open up the session, and the concluding We're not Afraid slides were content I had seen previously. Mr. Warlick's web and technological literacy is certainly broad and impressive, but as my seatmate exclaimed, "Ours would be too if all we had to do all day would be to prepare for our lectures."
In addition to his role as lecturer and presenter, Mr. Warlick has developed web tools that supplement classroom instruction, with the Education Podcast Network, Class Blogmeister, Citation Machine and Rubric Builder, hosted on his Landmark Project website. Mr. Warlick's presentation style is amiably disorganized, as we were nowhere near the agenda that was presented to us, and we spent an inordinate amount of time on Second Life as an educational tool; this may have been the point in the late morning that he lost the audience, as teachers simply aren't going to spend the time to build an online simulated classroom to deliver instruction, especially since it's a fee-based service. An innovative aspect of the day did occur with the unveiling of KnitterChat, a chat program made available to all event attendees, with text limitations not unlike Twitter. The KnitterChat content was later made available as a sort of record of the conference content (which was a helpful assist to those of us who took notes via Blogger, but for some reason, lost the content). Some of the other tools introduced included (much thanks, Seth, this is the content I lost due to Blogger's fail):
- Backchan: "A tool for involving audiences in presentations by letting them suggest questions and vote on each other's questions."
- BackNoise: "Lets you create conversations on the fly, in meetings, watching TV, during class, on the train, anywhere and anytime."
- ClassTools: "Free flash templates for educators."
- FlowingData: "Explores how statisticians, designers, and computer scientists are using data to help us understand more about ourselves and our surroundings."
- Tag Galaxy: A Flickr visualizer, where photo searches are organized in a celestial display.
- Twitscoop: "A real-time visualisation tool which enables users to 'Mine the thought stream' provided by Twitter."
- Wordle: "A toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text."
Finally, another tool introduced to us was Prezi, a presentation web tool that doesn't use slides, but spinning concept maps, a new method of communication that would appeal to students and in which I will look to invest myself and my lectures.
The event was well attended, with most of the name tags listing school districts, understandably, from the west side of the state. There were 3 projectors used to facilitate audience viewing, although the main unit went down for a time, the wireless broadband worked seamlessly, and the bathrooms were spotless, and curiously, provided candy. An iPod Touch was even given away, along with some other, less flashy swag, and all of the attendees lustily remained to see if our names would be drawn. A day away from the work isn't what it used to be, my overfull and varied schedule as librarian, book deselector, tech supportist, audiobookologist, and teacher leaves me with much to catch up upon my return, but I was glad for the time with my colleagues even if all the content wasn't new.