TETC 2014: My Take Away

Photo of a sticky note on my iPad

photo by Andrew Atkins 2014

TETC for a First-Timer

Earlier this week I had the chance to attend TETC (Tennessee Education Technology Conference) for the first time. I jumped at the chance to go because I like going to conferences and I like technology. The only other conferences I have attended have been for the NCTE and NWP. Those were big national conferences, so TETC was my first time at a state-level gathering. It also gave me a chance to see the new Music City Convention Center for the first time.

Overall I thought the conference organizers did a good job putting everything together. I never expect any of these types of events to go off without a hitch, so the 1 or 2 changes to session topics didn’t bother me that much. The first session I had planned on attending did have an unannounced change, but I just found another session to sit it on.  I guess my biggest complaint was having to wait so long for the schedule to come out–the Thursday before the conference. I was getting a little antsy by then because I really wanted to plan out what to attend.

My Take Away from the Day

As I plotted out which sessions to attend, I made a deliberate effort to avoid any vendor sessions because I really didn’t feel like sitting in on an hour-long sales pitch. I was looking for ideas I could use in my classrooms right away without having to beg my administrators to buy something. While I didn’t come away from the day with a notebook full of mind-blowing, game-changing new tools or techniques to use, I did come away with 3 or 4 ideas on a list that I felt made the day worthwhile. Here are some of the items from that list:

Google Apps

The first idea that made my list is that I need to go back and really look at, evaluate, and learn more about all the various Google apps that are available. I have been a big fan of Google since almost day 1. I even had a friend in IT hook me up with Gmail before it was available to the general public. But, for some strange reason, I haven’t used many of the other tools they offer. As I sat in the first break-out session of the day, the presenter was talking about Google Forms and some of the other apps and I decided that there are lots of ways I can use those in my classes. As she was talking about Google Docs being used for collaborative writing–which I had before and read tons about–it dawned on me that I could use it in my journalism class, along with Google Forms. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized this before, but when it came to me as I sat in that session, I decided that I needed to look at all of Google’s apps and maybe think about them again, or in new ways.

Remind101 and Celly

I don’t remember which session I was in that introduced these apps, but I immediately liked the idea. Both of these apps allow a teacher to send out group text messages as reminders or alerts for students and parents about tests, assignments, or anything else. The reason that I plan on using this type of app is that neither one of them require that any phone numbers be exchanged. All i have to do is give out the instructions for signing up to my groups, and whoever signs up will get those alerts. They don’t get my phone number and I don’t get their number. Additionally, people cannot reply back to the alerts, the whole thing functions as a 1-way broadcasting system. Celly looks a little more advanced because it allows you to alter the appearance of the website interface option. Remind101 seems like it is a little simpler to set up. At this moment I think I am going to try Remind101 for my classes because it doesn’t require anyone to make an account when they opt in for the alerts. Celly does. I plan on trying remind out with one class to finish out this year and then roll it out for all of my classes at the start of next school year–if all goes well.

My Last Take Away from TETC2014

The last bit of take away I want to address here is blogging. I have used blogging with most of my classes for the last 3 or 4 years, but I think I need to reevaluate how I approach it. I don’t think I have done a very good job with it when it comes to my students. I want their blogs to be more than just a “OK, now that we have read this story, or novel, write something about it on your blog.” I would really like for the students to have a more authentic experience of writing a true blog. I probably need to devote some of my summer break to exploring some possibilities in that area.

 

How do you use technology in your classroom? How do you use blogs with your students? As always, feel free to leave comments or shoot me a question.

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I’m Back…with an Apology

My Bad

 

Well. I’m back. I took “a bit” of a break from blogging…if you can count almost 2 years as “a bit” of a break. Why did I stay away for so long?  Hmm…basically, I think I burned myself out in a rather short period of time. At the time I was becoming obsessed with trying to post more and more stuff in order to drive up traffic numbers.  So, I started following a lot of the advice out their from “professional” bloggers–schedules, post types, post lengths, best times to post, etc. etc.  The result? I sucked the fun right out of writing. I was turning this space into a job and I wasn’t really ready for that.

Why did I decide to come back now and try again? I guess that could be chalked up to guilt. I attended a tech conference for teachers today and in a couple of the sessions I attended one of the messages was how our students should blog and how we should blog. That hit a nerve with me because that was a thought or feeling I had in my mind ever since I abandoned my blog here. I had pushed that thought to the back of my mind as best I could, but it came roaring to the forefront today. So here I am.

How are things going to be different this time? Well, the main change I am going to do is to only write and post when I feel like I really have something to say. No more scrambling and scratching to try to come up with ideas for 3 or 4 posts a week. Maybe some day–but now for awhile. My goal as I write this is to shoot for 1 post a week. Having said that, I would like to write another post this week with my thoughts about the conference I attended today. We’ll see. I’m not going to stress about it.

If there are any followers out there who followed the blog before, I truly apologize for such an extended break. I will try to do better going forward.

Tuesday: 5 Favorite Blog Posts

My clean iPad screen

My clean iPad screen

For today’s post I thought I would do a quick roundup of some blog posts that caught my attention at various times throughout the day.

Anyway, these are just a few posts from other blogs I found interesting and thought I would share. Enjoy.

10 iPad Apps Every Teacher with a Blog Needs

My iPad

My iPad

Apps for the Blogging Teacher

In previous posts I have thrown out lists of my favorite apps, apps for teachers, apps for yearbook staffs, and websites for yearbook advisers and students. So, today I thought I would post a list of apps that teachers with blogs might find useful since a great deal of teachers use blogs in the classroom, run their own blog, or do both.

When I started thinking about the iPad apps to put on the list, I decided that I would include apps I use to create posts or pages, help manage the content, or find and store ideas. So, for better or for worse, here it is:

  1. Blogsy ($4.99) There are times when I don’t feel like sitting at a desk or having my laptop restrict my positioning on the couch. So, when these moments hit–and they are becoming more frequent–I can use Blogsy to write and publish my blog posts. It is a pretty cool blogging app that supports multiple blogs for platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, and Typepad just to name a few. It also makes it easy to insert photos and videos from Picasa, Flickr, and Youtube even if you have multiple accounts at those sites. This is a pretty handy, robust little app when the full-on couch potato mode kicks in.
  2. Diigo Browser (free) A nifty little browser app that lets me highlight and make notes on material from web pages and then save them to my Diigo account. I originally set up the Diigo account to experiment with social bookmarking, but it quickly dawned on me that I could use in conjunction with my blog as one more weapon in my arsenal of tools that lets me save bits of the web for ideas.
  3. Feeddler (free for lite version, $4.99 for Pro version) Whether you follow a multitude of blogs for personal reasons, or need to keep track of student blogs, an app for RSS feed aggregation is a must in my book. This one is my personal favorite.
  4. Twittelator ($4.99) If you use Twitter in conjunction with your blog at all–be it to promote your blog through social media or to simply provide some additional, quick content, Twittelator is an easy app to use for whatever your Twitter needs may be. It is a really nice looking app and is very good at switching between multiple Twitter accounts.
  5. Dropbox (free) I’ve said it before and I will say it again now: I don’t know how I would get through a typical day without using Dropbox. I move a ton of stuff between my laptop and iPad. If you need to do a lot of file juggling, this is the way to go.
  6. Photoshop Express (free) I have been a heavy Photoshop user for years as a result of being a yearbook adviser. And I will admit the idea of using anything with the name “Photoshop” on anything other than a full-blown desktop or laptop still seems strange. That being said, if you need to do a quick crop, noise filter, or other basic adjustment to a photo on your iPad, this app easily gets it done. That is pretty handy if you want all of the photos to be yours so that you don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
  7. Pages ($9.99) As far as my blog goes, Pages comes into play because I keep a list of possible blog topics that I add something to almost every day. I started the list on my laptop using Word, but I decided to upload it to my Dropbox just so that I can get to it on my iPad. Pages lets me add to or edit the list if I don’t have my laptop with me when an idea strikes.
  8. Zite (free) The last 3 apps on the list all fall into the category of apps I use to find and store inspiration or ideas. The Zite app creates a personal magazine for me from a list a topics I choose. I read through it everyday at some point and when I find an article that strikes a chord I can either email to myself or save it using Instapaper or Read It Later. When I run out of memory on the iPad I am sure it will be because of all the articles I have saved after finding them on this app.
  9. Pinterest (free) This app is for the latest hot trend in social media. Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site that has come around in awhile. By letting members clip–or pin–bits of web sites to personal boards they share with others, Pinterest enables people to become curators of information on the web. This app lets you access your account so you can look at what you or your friends have put on their boards–another place to go for ideas and inspiration. Some experts in the Social Media field are saying Pinterest is becoming just as vital to blog promotion as Twitter and Facebook.
  10. Springpad (free) This is the newest app to make it onto my iPad. Springpad is another app that lets you save bits of the web to an account which you can access either through the app or through a web browser on a computer. The twist that Springboard brings to the game is that it tracks prices of all sorts of things–music, movies, books, restaurants, etc. It also has a built-in barcode scanner function if you need to find out prices. While bar code scanning might not affect me that much, I can see how some blogging teachers might find it useful. Oh, Springboard also has a built in audio recorder that could be pretty useful for a blogger.

Well, there it is. I have no pretense that this list is the end-all, be-all list of apps for teachers with blogs. So, if you are a teacher who blogs, what apps do you use or suggest? If you are a blogger of any sort, what apps do you like?  Please feel free to comment, like, or share this post as you see fit. Thanks.