I thought this week I would share a brief synopsis of some of the things that I learned this past weekend at the North West ELearning Conference at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. This is my first time to a conference as an instructor, and it was a great experience to rub shoulders with other faculty and see some of the developments that they are using in their classroom. I don’t know the best way to report my findings, so I think I will give you my top takeaways from the conference.
- Evernote — I have been using Evernote for a while, but it really came in handy during this conference. For those of you who don’t know what Evernote is, it is essentially a notebook application that runs on a wide variety of applications. It allows you to take notes and automatically backs those notes up to the cloud. In addition it allows you to easily search those notes and organize them by tags. I found it uber helpful during the conference.
- Open Education and Personal Learning Networks— The keynote for the conference was delivered by Alec Couros, who is a Professor of Educational Technology at the University of Regina in Canada. Alec is a heavy user of social media and an advocate for open learning. By constraining our classes to classroom textbooks and resources, we are not helping our students develop what Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). These PLNs are the tools that our students appropriate to continue their learning beyond the classroom. Alec showed a great graph contrasting the development of PLNs vs. Content Management Systems (CMS). If we continue to develop our students Personal Learning Network, then their education will continue. However, when we use CMSs, we shut them down at the end of every quarter and start all over again. He made that analogy of “What if we were to shut down facebook every quarter?” Alec encourages his students to create their own curriculum and uses wikis to run his class. In fact, he even teaches one class several times a year, which is open to the public to take on a non-credit / non-paying basis. So far the model has been successful to him. If you are interested, you can check out the materials from his presentation including his keynote here.
- I need to get better at Twitter — Several instructors were tweeting the conference…a lot. Alec tweets a lot. I tweet, I understand it, but I am by no means a power user. It’s honestly hard for me to spend a lot of time using twitter, but a lot of people talked about how its been beneficial to their careers and in making connections. Maybe I need to try again. I saw lots of people using Tweetdeck.
- There are a lot of cool tools out there, but I need to find one for my classroom. There are a lot of web 2.0 tools out there right now, and this conference covered a lot of them. Some of them do really cool things while others are cool, but ultimately unusable. Probably the best tool that I saw during the conference was Wikispaces. I know that we have discussed it before in our Elearning class, but I had a great idea of creating a collaborative document that my students could work on — a how to manual for all things video. I get a lot of questions in my classrooms, many of which I repeat on a weekly basis. I think it would contribute to student learning to have students create these documents that they can then share with one another.
Overall, I was happy to see that there are many instructors out there who are paving the way for appropriate use of technology in the classroom. This conference was a great opportunity for me to see some of the great initiatives that are happening in our educational system regarding technology — One thing I learned however is that these initiatives won’t drive by themselves. It requires instructors like me to implement and try these things in my classroom to show that they truly can improve student learning.