Tag Archive for NECC2006

Promethean ActivBoard

I checked out the ActivBoard for the first time. Promethean has developed accessories and software to complement their interactive whiteboards. They now bundle a data projector and wall-mounted bracket with whiteboard. They also provide a slate input device, which could be very useful for giving students control of the whiteboard during a lesson. The software seems to provide great value as well. For example, they offer geometry software in which a virtual compass and protractor appear on the screen for performing live measurements. This is worth a try for our next whiteboard purchase.

ActivBoard NECC New Product Announcements

MacBook: I Like the Feel

I picked up a new MacBook for the first time yesterday. I liked several things about it. The glossy screen is much clearer, although I think that people will have difficulty getting used to the high reflectivity. The wide screen aspect ratio is a nice add-on. I recall that the resolution is about 1200×800, great for an entry-level laptop. My favorite new feature: removing the battery provides access to two RAM expansion slots and the hard drive! This will provide more flexible RAM upgrade options and allow tech departments to more easily swap a user hard drive into a loaner laptop in case of hardware failure! This should be a valuable plus.

California School District Does Elgg

I briefly saw a presentation in the hands-on open source lab about a school district using Elgg to maintain personal web pages. The district tech coordinator led the group of attendees in personalizing their profiles and creating a blog post. Here is the Saugus Union School District’s open source transition page.

From 0 To 60: A New Online Community

I had a good time presenting at NECC today. Here are two presentation-related files.

One-page summary (presentation handout)

Presentation Slides (2.4 MB PDF)

Open-source packages I mentioned

Presenting at conferences forces me to organize my ideas, solicits feedback from session attendees, and always leads me to make new and old acquaintances. Today, who walked in the door but my former biology teaching mentor from 15 years ago, Sue Scott! She has also made the move from full-time teaching into technology administration, at St. Paul Academy (Minnesota). This week, I also saw Maria Ribera (formerly from UHS), Stephen Rahn (a blogging connection), and Hoover Chan (BAISNet‘s daddy).

Low-Stress Laptop Programs

Jim Heynderickx gave a great presentation on laptop program implementation tips. The most surprising fact: his school funded the entire program from within the existing technology budget — an admirable accomplishment in an age of inflating technology budgets. This makes it a very unusual program compared to those of other schools. I wonder how many others have funded their programs completely internally.

Jim also made a number of other valuable suggestions. Get complete faculty buy-in by finding solutions to their major concerns. Buy inexpensive laptops. Have the school own the laptops and restrict student system privileges. Implement one year at a time if possible.

Another interesting fact about Jim’s program is that he follows a model of family ownership of laptops in the upper school in contrast to his own middle school program. This encourages student and family responsibility for making choices and caring for the laptops in a manner that will prepare them for a college computing environment.

RSS For Teachers

Stephen Rahn offered a well-attended poster session titled RSS: What Does It Mean for the Classroom Teacher? He did a great job explaining how a teacher could use Bloglines to provide a feed of topically-specific news articles to his/her students. Nice. I wonder how this would look in Moodle? I believe that Moodle has the ability to display RSS feeds from any source, integrating an automatically updating feed from specific sources into one’s online course web page.

Student Assessment With Cmap

Wow. I had a hard time choosing among multiple options for the 10:00-11:00 session this morning. I settled on Visualizing Student Knowledge: Teaching and Assessing with Online Concept Maps. I also wanted to attend Alan November’s Teaching Zack To Think (information literacy).

Kevin’s handout, worth using later in a teacher training.

Concept maps can be used for a variety of purposes: assessment, group thinking, planning, research.

Linear, stringlike concept maps generally indicate a less rich understanding of content.

Flowcharts, organizational, and other charts are distinguished from concept maps by their lack of proposition statements that specify the relationships between ideas.

Kevin Oliver has come up with a number of scaffolding strategies to assist students getting started with concept mapping. He presents several different levels of “fill-in,” where the student begins with a partially completed concept map and fills in either the details, the higher-order concepts, or the propositional statements. He also has a number of progressively more difficult unstructured maps. This makes a good half dozen different steps in the scaffold.

This is a wonderful example of a tech content area of which the presenter has a really detailed understanding. Repackaging and presenting similar content to a teaching faculty would be a great way to instill confidence that this instructional tool has a ton of potential and depth.

Kevin has described a number of time-consuming assessment methods involving map comparison and scoring. I wonder whether any of these methods can be automated? He admits that assessing open-ended maps can be extremely time-consuming. Taking the middle of the road — asking students to map a defined list of terms — strikes the best balance between task complexity and ease of assessment.

source: Kevin Oliver

Both this and the last presentation have relegated the description of the software tool to a sidebar in the presentation. This is a great indication of the primacy of the educational application.

Kevin’s research group used a public Cmap server in the first year and then implemented their own server for the use of multiple schools.

I love the ability to attach resources to items in the concept map. Perhaps I will do this for my presentation tomorrow!

Kevin describes “knowledge soups” — a way for students to share “claims” with each other. This may be an alternative to a wide-open wiki for reaching consensus on a declarative statement.

Reminder: My Presentation

I will be presenting at NECC tomorrow (Thursday) at 3:30 p.m. in room 29C. Please come!

Zero to 60 in Three Years: A New Online Community

Open Source Making Huge Inroads

It is already clear that open source is making a larger impact than ever on educational technologists. Walking through the Sails Pavilion, I was pleasantly startled to see that a hands-on open source lab occupies a corner of the main conference hall this year! At 8:45 this morning, I walked by a David Thornburg workshop on open source software — this standing room only workshop was taking place in one corner of the main convention hall! Last year, the Linux Garden was relegated to a remote corner of the Penn Convention Center. I think a huge mass of people are getting excited about the potential for open source in their schools. I will be interested to find out what people find most promising in the open source world (Moodle? Linux?) and how much of a definite plan people have for implementing open source software in their schools.


NECC is underway! I will be keeping my session notes here during the conference. I first attempted to attend Innovative Models and Student Activities for Molecular Literacy in Science this morning. This was intended to present MOLO, a free, open-source molecular modeling environment developed by the Concord Consortium. I used to employ MacMolecule in the Chemistry classroom long ago, and ChemSense (one of my favorites), has a visualization component to it. I would love to find a more current molecular vizualization environment that has integrated collaborative network-based tools.