Thursday, June 30, 2011

ISTE Day 4 Wrap Up

The ISTE Conference is winding to a close and all of us are delirious from exhaustion, but I can honestly say this was some of the most valuable time I have spent in a while. Today I only attended one session, which was very educational and engaging, and spent the rest of my time interacting with fellow cohorts, vendors, presenters, and other conference goers. The time spent interacting was tremendous and I hope I can capture some of the magic in this post.

The Session - Show Me the Money: Learn the Tips and Tricks to Grant Funding

I got to this session early, expecting it be packed - being the only session offered on how to actually secure funding for EdTech, but there was plenty of room. Boy, did they miss out! This session, sponsored by MIMIO and presented by Magen McGahee, was, like the other MIMIO sponsored session I attended, was polished, well articulated and very informative. The content was relevant, helpful and resonated, not to mention that it was presented with confidence, expertise and poise. Magen not only presented participants with a number of resources for where to find grants for EdTech (she will be posting them online and I will add them to this post, so check back), she explained some of the complex details regarding government funding and also gave very practical grant-writing pointers and skills. Here are some of the highlights:

  • There is difference between what we want and what we need. Don't write a grant asking for what you want (like an interactive whiteboard) but for what you need (like improved student achievement).
  • Always develop a plan first. Make sure the first step of your plan is identifying the need and make sure that everything goes back to that need.
  • A good grant is Clear, Concise and Unique.
  • Being unique is key, especially in the first 1-2 paragraph. 9/10 grants aren't read all the way through because grant readers aren't interested.
  • How can you be unique? Don't just talk about the short-term small picture impact, but rather show how this money will affect the community and the future of those involved.
  • The first sentence should be your goal, stated clearly and eloquently. Make sure that the rest of the grant supports this first sentence.
  • Always have only one person prepare the final copy, to avoid Frankenstein-style grants.

The most important message that was expressed in the session, however, was a the very end: don't apply for grants that don't fit! Grant writing takes time, maximize your time by find the right grants & writing them well.

I must say, MIMIO has certainly impressed me, the model they adopted to sell their products of showing educators how the products work in a real teaching environment, while teaching valuable information (and teaching it well!), as opposed to just displaying the technology while talking about the very same technology at an expo booth.

The Everything Else

I met and interacted with a lot of interesting people in the second half of my day, here are the highlights:

  • Terry Shay of North Tama County Community School showed me a technique called "Transmedia Storytelling", in which students tell different perspectives of a story using different mediums. So, for example, telling the story of a bank robbery, one group would make a video from the perspective of the security guard at the bank, a second group would make comic book from the perspective of the robbers, a third group would compose a song from the perspective of the teller, and a fourth group would create an audio story from the perspective of the police. Very cool!
  • Intel has amazing FREE professional development tools for teachers, which are available at The tools are really easy to use, intuitive and contain a tremendous amount of information. They also have an online community for teachers:
  • Cranium Core is a very cool social game-show which teaches literacy. I spoke to the creator about developing something similar for Jewish Education. Check it out here:
  • Comic Life by Plasq is a seriously awesome comic book creator and I definitely want to use it in my classroom instead of the current option. It is cross platform (even iPad), supports exporting to PDF and even to Facebook, allows for drag-and-drop content adding and has a range of art tools. It looks like a great product, even if I don't win a free copy and an iPad...
  • Thinkmap, makers of the Visual Thesaurus, have a whole host of awesome data visualization tools that can link in with a number of databases and even databases you/your school subscribe to (like encyclopedias, etc.).
  • Desmos is the maker of the amazingly cool online graphing calculator that I posted on Facebook recently. I met the Founder and CEO, who is a super-nice guy and invited me and my students to come check out his new office in San Fransisco this summer!
  • The last booth I visited (and I only did so because on my way out of the expo hall they threw a free t-shirt at me) was Spoon. Boy am I glad they threw that free shirt at me! Spoon is one of the cooler things that I saw while at the conference, it is basically like Dropbox but for applications. You install all your applications and licenses on their server and then you can run them from any computer in the world, without having to install! This is valuable for large schools because it helps them avoid having to install software on 100s of machines and updating those machines as new versions come out. It is also valuable because you can purchase fewer licenses for expensive software and only load them up on the machines being used, so if you have a 1:1 program and want to have students using Photoshop, you only need to buy 20 licenses for those who are in the class at the time, rather than a license for every machine. Also it is awesome for personal user (like myself) who want to be able to cut the cord and live in the cloud...

At some point, while walking the expo hall, I stopped off at the Google booth again for a tutorial on Android App Inventor. After having attended a session the day before on AgentSheets, I was intrigued by the idea of using Android apps as a way of teaching in the classroom and it seems that the App Inventor makes this a snap. I am definitely excited to try this out and explore the powerful features of this bad it isn't entirely web-based!

The last, and probably most valuable part of the day (and each day of ISTE) was my conversations with fellow AVI CHAI cohorts. We talked about all sorts of things, like why interactive whiteboard are so popular, and a docucam is different from a webcam (I have no idea), and of particular interest, educational standards in Jewish Education...something which is sorely needed and I hope to help contribute to in the coming years.

All in all, the ISTE conference was an amazing opportunity, I learned a lot from the sessions, the exhibitors, my colleagues and everything else that went on there, but I have to say, I think the most valuable part of the conference is what is yet to come. The relationships that I built there and the tools that I learned about have yet to blossom into their full form, and I am very excited for the future! (not to mention the fact that next year's conference is in San Diego)

To keep updated with what the future holds and for more EdTech resources, you should follow @theadamsimon on Twitter.

This post was cross-posted on Adam Simon's Blog and YU 2.0

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