Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EdCamp NYC 2010

I spent the second half of 2010 helping to organize EdCamp NYC. When I first talked with the EdCamp Philly crew, I was amazed at their ability to put together such as large event with very little face to face time. Having had only one face to face meeting ourselves, I can now say not only is it possible but it works!

Behind the Scenes
We used a lot of social media to prepare. Google Groups was our main mode of communication. Sean Freese purchases our web domain and Dan Callahan installed WordPress on the domain. I'm still very unclear about the install of WordPress, but I became an expert at using it to create the web site.

We followed the lead of EdCamp Philly and used TicketLeap to distribute tickets. It is an amazing service for running a free event. We were able to control the number of tickets we wanted to distribute. It had a series of reports that could be downloaded as a PDF, Excel, or HTML files. It easily sends emails to all the ticket holders and has the ability to survey the ticket holders, too. They are a first class organization. They reached out by phone to make sure I was comfortable with the service and to make sure I had no questions. I sent one email asking for clarification on running a report and received a quick response. As people sent in regrets, I was able to quickly refund the tickets to make space for those who were locked out of registering due to the fact that all 300 tickets were claimed.

The team worked together to approach sponsors. Our goal was to be able to provide breakfast for the attendees and t-shirts. We not only met that goal, but had funds to provide two Kindles and several Apple and Barnes and Noble gift cards. Other sponsors provided giveaways such as Ed Voicethread, SnapGrades, Simple K12 EdTech Unconference, and Starrmatica subscriptions. We had Edutopia tote bags and an Edutopia goody bag for one lucky attendee. Glogster provided several colorful t-shirts. Every attendee received a Symbaloo certificate. Webundies sponsored us by providing a very good price for printing the t-shirts and organizer polos. TEQ gave away a SMART Response system to one lucky attendee.

The Day of the Event
Saturday, December 4th went fairly smoothly. I had originally set TicketLeap up with a start time of 8am, but over time we changed the start to 9am on the web site. We had a number of folks show up at eight. They were very gracious in giving us time to organize ourselves and settled in to talk.

We quickly got the t-shirts and tote bags to the front door. Several organizers sat and welcomed our guests and checked off each attendee on the TicketLeap list. On the second floor, we had name tags and breakfast provided as a donation from Flik. At 9am, Sean gave a quick overview of how the session board would work and people started placing their session titles and descriptions on the board. Sean and I populated the session board in our Google Doc. By the time we gathered everyone in the gym to go over why we organized EdCamp, how the building was set up, and how lunch on your own would be handled the board was 75% full.

All the organizers took time running between the classrooms on the second and third floor to make sure the presenters were comfortable with the equipment. After the sessions appeared to be running well, we were able to participate. 

Although I teach computer class, I am always interested in other course content. I came away with interesting ideas for physics and chemistry class in Increasing Engagement in Science with Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) and Ms. Bethea (@21stcenturychem). I already shared their resources with my grad class and plan to share them at school and with the alternate route teachers I will teach in February.

I've been teaching students how to use Logo and Scratch. My son has taken classes at the community college to use Game Maker. I was attracted to Al Doyle's Game Design: Video Game Platform Design for Kids. I learned so much and came away convinced to give Gamestar Mechanic a try at school. Both my 14 and 16 year old sons gave it a try and found it interesting. In order to take their work to the next level, Al suggest Game Salad as a more complex program and Atmosphir for 3D games. My 14 year old has already taken more interest in Atmosphir.

Lunch was quick, but I enjoyed take out from Chipolte with Kevin Jarrett, his daughter, her friend, a gentleman named Hector (I think) and Lisa Nielsen. Outside of some time chatting with Tom Whitby, it was probably the most time I had to chat with people all day. Being on the organizing side, I expected this to be the case.

After lunch, I attended Ten Steps to Better Web Research with Mark Moran. I had looked at his Slideshare files online. It was good to take time to listen to what he had to say. I walked away realizing that I need to take more time to play with Yolink. It's a tool I want to be able to share with my students.

During the last session of the day, I spent time with Karen Blumberg making sure that we were organized for the end of day giveaways and talking with Tom Whitby and Annemarie Stoeckel

Before I Put EdCamp Away for 2010
I set up a Google Blog Search for edcampnyc and edcamp nyc. I've been enjoying reading and commenting on reflections. Over the weekend, I plan on putting together a blog post with all the reflections in one place. It was a privilege being a part of the EdCamp NYC team!

Photo Credits:
Ann Oro

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Open Office Impress in the Classroom

This month marks my first use of Open Office Impress with my students. It has been on the Windows Tablets for three years and the student have used it for other teachers. It is my first time looking at it within my room. I thought about switching all the machines to Open Office a year or two ago, but it really does not work smoothly enough on the Macs with the Power PC chipset.

New Macs/ New Software
I was able to upgrade the machines in the lab to all Intel Macs. I did not want to spend money on licenses for Microsoft Office, so I decided to give Open Office a try. It seems to be working well on the tablets we won in 2008. I have three projects I generally do this time of year with the fourth, sixth, and seventh grade. We are jumping in and the students are doing well.

Fourth Grade Math Shapes
The fourth grade students learn to control the drawing tools with a Math Shapes presentation. They are doing just fine. It was very easy to have the students insert new slides, change the layout to title only, and draw the rectangles. They practiced moving and deleting rectangles and changing the colors. Next week they will add the remaining shapes and learn to use patterns and gradients.

Sixth Grade Dinner With Famous Guests
The sixth grade students have just begun their pre-work using a paper planning sheet. In this presentation, they select a restaurant and dinner menu. They invite four famous guests. The guests can be real or fictional, alive or dead. From working with the seventh grade over the last two weeks, I am confident that they will work comfortably with the program. I've learned some lessons to pass on to the students.

Seventh Grade Something You Probably Don't Know
The students have been working on this presentation for the last two or three classes.This is the presentation that that has taught me the most for future classes. 

The first lesson came in the form of placing images into the presentation. I'm still investigating the why's and wherefore's of the problem. In some instances, students appear to be able to Edit - Copy and Edit - Paste images from the web browser into Impress. In other instances, the students just get the web address of the page when they paste. The solution is simple. The students choose "Save Image As..." and store the image in their Pictures folder after creating a personal sub folder. It is easy to Insert - Picture - From File.

The second lesson has yet to be presented to the students. It seems that there is a bug in the Mac version of the program. You can write notes on the notes page, but can't print them. It took a bit of searching to find an answer and I wish I bookmarked it, but I didn't. In order to print the notes, we will have to: go to a note page, Edit - Cut the note off the page, Edit - Paste it back in, and then all the notes will print.

The third lesson came during today's class. The students were not able to get the slide design to appear on all slides. They learned to choose Format - Slide Design and select the Load button. Once the Load button is pressed, they had to select the Presentation Backgrounds from the Categories list and click the More button for the Preview feature. They taught me a trick to see the preview of multiple backgrounds. Each time a background is selected, the Preview check mark has to be removed and reapplied.

A fourth lesson also presented itself during class. When I tested the backgrounds at home they seemed to work flawlessly. Today, students where seeming to have to apply the background to each slide. By the end of class, I noticed a check box labeled "Exchange background page". Once this is checked, the  slide background is applied to every page.

Overall I'm Happy
It will remain to be seen how Open Office Impress works in all situations, but for basic presentations it works very well. Like any piece of software it takes time to get used to unique quirks. I know over time my students will be able to create what they need. I do believe that if they use PowerPoint at home, it is similar enough that they should not have any trouble.