PNAIS: Good Times, New Tricks

Today’s PNAIS All Schools Conference simply flew by. 700 attendees from northwest independent schools descended on Catlin Gabel today and were gone by 4:00. Our crack tech team supported dozens of presenters using installed data projectors, up to 50 people at one time connected to our new public wireless network, and we successfully recorded the five featured presenters (podcast files coming Monday). I organized a technology staff lunch and co-led two presentations, 1:1 Student Laptop Programs Today (with Jimi Robinson and Vicki Butler) and The Promise of Social Software In the Classroom (with Bill Fitzgerald).

I picked up a bunch of useful tips today. Jimi and Evergreen School are running a new type of student laptop program. They buy off-lease Dell laptop computers for $400 each and equip each classroom with a set. The schools owns all the machines, and students don’t take them home. If a laptop really dies, that’s okay, because they only spent $400 on it to begin with! As a green school, Evergreen takes pride in purchasing pre-used machines. Forest Ridge is in its twelfth year of student laptops! Mark Siegel of Delphian demonstrated, a (currently) free service that allows you to pick up the phone, leave a voice message, and have transcriptionists in India transcribe the message into text and send it to the recipients of your choice!

As expected, many schools are considering laptop programs, and the huge amount of resources required to pull it off is the leading obstacle. Even more people are curious about social software in the classroom, and it was helpful to encourage people to identify the pedagogical objective first and then find the tool to best support it. One school had a problem unique to Idaho — students on the ski mountain who need to stay abreast of classes happening back at school!

Cheryl from WA described an amazing children’s multimedia installation in which she participated with the support of the University of Washington. TVs mounted on swingsets in a ton of sand — it sounded great, and our media arts teacher wants to find out more about it.

Lou at OES is teaching second graders to program in Scratch — reminds me of John Newsom’s session from TechShare this past summer. It seems to have great potential to develop logic and problem-solving skills at this young age. It is also terribly fun!

I’m sure I neglected to mention a lot. It was great to host such a huge group, even if just for a day.

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