Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reflections on NCTIES

Last week I attended the North Carolina Technology In Education Society's Annual Conference. For 3 days almost 2000 educators from across the southeast gathered in Raleigh, NC to share, produce and learn about technology in education and have a little bit of fun. I spent the weekend reflecting on each of the sessions (both formal and informal) that I attended and I wanted to share my learning with everyone.

My conference started with a half-day session with Julie LaChance (
@ejulez) and Rob Muhlestein (@mohax) learning about Second Life. Previously I had tried to learn Second Life 3 times but never could get anywhere with it so just gave up. This was a perfect opportunity for me to learn from 2 of the best Second Life Educators in the business. They got us all set up with avatars and a special Second Life browser and helped us get to Edtech Retreat Island (@edtechretreat), a place that Julie and Rob have built to offer Professional Development to teachers and as a place to call home. There we were able to see the Virtual Conference they had set up and learn some basic movements. We also looked at ISTE Island and learned about the Professional Development opportunities they have there. Second Life is amazing! There are so many places that kids can visit like NASA, museums and more. Schools do shy away because they can not control content but there are other options worth exploring that we talked about like Reaction Grid which is also a virtual world you can create for students. Virtual Worlds are definitely being embraced by more and more educators and institutions so we all need to have a basic understanding of how they work.

Edtech Retreat Website
Mohax's Avatar Tutorials

Thursday's sessions started with a great friend of mine Bethany Smith (@bethanyvsmith). The Instructional Technologist for NC State University College of Education, Bethany has a vast experience in technology in education. Her session focused on how to take your PLN beyond the tools.

She had a great infographic on the Power Law of Participation. When we are engaged in our PLN and move beyond the tools amazing things happen....

The conversation in the session was amazing. People talking about what their PLN's did for them and how to foster engagement. There was even a great discussion about

Bethany's Beyond The PLN Presentation Links

My learning continued in a session entitled Baby Steps: Guiding A Traditional Staff To Online Collaboration. don't think there are too many people in a technology leadership position can say they have never had trouble with this. I have a wonderful staff of teachers who constantly strive for what is best for our kids. But helping them move to be a digital educator is tough. This session from Eric Cole (
@ericcole) and Keith Ledford (@keithledford) offered real ideas on how to help a staff move to the digital world. Using simple services like Google Docs for meeting notes and agendas and Ning for collaboration, it really was baby steps and there were tons of ideas that I can take back and try with my staff.

The lunch Keynote was delivered by
Ron Clark, author of The Essential 55. I had seen Ron Clark speak before and this time he was no different. Full of energy and great stories about his career and how to be an inspiring educator.

More important than Ron Clark was the announcement of Technology Educator of the Year. Sam Walker (
@swalker2) is an Instructional Technologist at Kimmel Farm Elementary, just down the road from me. He is doing amazing things with Problem-Based Learning and technology. I could not think of someone more deserving than Sam. Congrats!

The afternoon began with an amazing educator Kelly Hines (@kellyhines). She spoke about how to Go Global With Elementary students. Now, I don't work with elementary students, however, the ideas she promoted work at any grade level. She talked a lot about her Flat Stanley project and other similar projects kids could do to help learn about the world. One of the best projects she highlighted was the Skype Around The World project started by Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) which aims to bring classrooms closer together through Skype.

She had a great acronym for planning Global Projects:


P - Prioritize your curricular goals

L - Locate resources

A - Align yourself with other educators

N - Notify administration, parents & students

I - Integrate the learning opportunity cross-curricularly

T - Take time to celebrate your accomplishment & reflect for the future

Check out her site for more great ideas and projects.

During the next 2 sessions I presented on my Administrators Technology Toolkit and Why You Need A PLN. You can see all my presentations and resources and the awesome Voicethread on Why a PLN at the wiki I created for NCTIES.

Friday started off in a session with another great friend of my Emory Maiden (@evmaiden). His session focused on not how to Twitter but why Twitter. It was jam packed! He had some great examples of why educators should Twitter, like for the conversation or simply the resources that were shared. We also talked a lot about how to organize those resources we get from Twitter using the Read It Later option in the Diigo toolbar or what I use, an application called Read It Later.

His presentation was full of links and ideas so be sure to check it out and be sure to look at the stuff he has posted on his wiki.

Evan Maiden-Why Tweet

For the next session I headed back to Bethany to learn about Ning. I had created some Nings in the past but felt like there was still a lot to learn. Boy, was I right. She told us about so many tips and tricks to help get more out of Ning. One of the coolest was the RSS feature. On each group page and forum page at the very bottom there is an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. So instead of getting all those emails when when someone starts a discussion or responds to a post you can just subscribe to that feed in your reader. Finally a way to organize! Love it!

She had lots of other ideas so be sure to check out her presentation and her wiki for more great stuff.

The last session I attended was with Sam Walker and Walter Carmichael (@wcarmich) where we heard about how the entire staff at Kimmel Farm Elementary is using Problem-Based Learning with their kids. They have spent every Thursday from 4pm-8pm learning and refining their practice and it shows. We saw some great videos of a Kindergarten class using PBL. As I said before they are really doing some great things at Kimmel Farm, we all could learn a little from what they are doing.

Be sure to check out his presentation and subscribe to his blog. He offers great insight into the world of technology in an elementary school.

Kimmel Farm Elementary Blog

While those were official session I attended the learning continued online. The backchannel was alive and kicking all during NCTIES. Do a Twitter search for
#NCTIES and you will see what I mean. There were also Skype chats and notes passed, all sharing ideas and resources. Like when I was in the PBL session I was able to follow along to a Google Earth session because a colleague was tweeting out info. So cool!

I was so honored to present at NCTIES and so happy that I was able to finally meet, face-to-face people who I have gotten to know through social media. And that was one of the last conversations I had before I headed home. When I met these friends of mine there wasn't any of that getting to know you awkwardness that sometimes comes with meeting new people. I felt like that when I "met" someone at a session or just walking the convention floor I already knew them. There were of course opportunities to further our discussions after sessions and get to know each other better but it was a seamless transition from the social media world to the real world.

If you are an educator, in whatever field, I encourage you to go to your state conferences. If you state does not have one, look at surrounding states. The opportunities to learn are out there. We just have to find start looking!

NCTIES 2010 Wiki has links to all the presentations and links that were shared during the conference. Definitely take some time to look through that for lots more resources and learning.


  1. Steven,
    I enjoyed reading your post and notes on the conference sessions and also appreciate your kind words about the twitter session on Friday. Another great benefit to having educators like you in my PLN is getting to share the knowledge you take away from session I didn't attend (thanks for posting them). I'd also echo much of what you said about the value of the conference and the importance of these events for education.


  2. Your review of NCTIES is outstanding! It helps me go back and see what I missed, catch up and share with my colleagues at Kimmel Farm. Thanks for the kind words about my award. Truly it's the result of a collaborative effort with people who have a positive vision for public education - just like you. I appreciate your work and friendship! Thanks for highlighting Kimmel Farm Elementary!

  3. Great post!! It is wonderful that we have educators so willing to share what they learned to better their peers! Thank you for taking time to organize and share your NCTIES experience for us!! Rock on!

  4. Wow! I'm just now getting a chance to catch up on ncties posts and tweets. Really thankful for your easy to read informative reviews of your sessions. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. Since I was working with the conference, I didn't get a chance to see sessions . . . thanks for sharing so I can still "attend" and learn . .