Tonight was the night of my talk at Missouri Western State University. My talk was entitled: “No Mean Feat: Taking a Nuanced Response Approach to Digital Tools.” (flyer). There were about 50 people in the audience, which was a nice size. I think I was able to make eye contact with all of the different sections, although I think my voice was a little hoarse when I first started. I felt like I was out of breath until I got into the first couple slides.
I talked about some of the challenges facing teachers, staff, and students because of new media, Web 2.0 tools, especially social networking with MySpace and Facebook. I argued that the adults in students’ lives–administrators, parents, teachers, librarians, and IT professionals–all want to make sure that students are safe, but because there is a shortage of knowledge about social networking, administrators are forced to react to situations when it would really be so much better if we could move to a more nuanced approach to how we address this situation.
More knowledge, learning situations, and community building approaches need to be developed. Teachers and staff can develop their action plans by first acquiring more knowledge about social networking and Web 2.0 tools, then they can help students learn to communicate more appropriately online, before finally developing a more comprehensive approach to the situation.
I talked about assignments and gave lots of examples for using Flickr, Blogs, Wikis, Del.icio.us, RSS and News Alerts with Pageflakes, Podcasts, Videos and Games.
Then, in the last half of the event, a panel with faculty, administration, IT, a student, teacher, and a librarian answered questions from the audience about their opinions and uses of technology. This discussion was really beneficial. I think one of the biggest points to emerge from the discussion is that administrators and IT really need teachers and librarians to come to them with plans (here’s what I’d like to do, here’s how I need to do it and why, and what it will cost). Then, they are much better equipped to make more informed decisions instead of getting all reactionary.
It was really a fun event, and then they took me to dinner! It’s does my self esteem good to be treated as an expert for an evening. Plus, they encouraged me to look for more educational consulting or IT/education opportunities. They said schools need more people like me. 🙂 I don’t want it to seem like I’m talking myself up and all that, but schools really do need people who can focus on emerging technology and literacy issues. For example, one of the panel members said that even in two years she didn’t think curriculum would be able to change as much as was needed because they can’t keep up and/or recognize when something will be significant. I need to think more about that…how to help educators respond more quickly to changes in media and get out in front of the learning curve. The Chair of the Education department said that the processes that students are using with one application can be applied to other learning situations and later on in life. That’s a big part of it, but we need to be able to talk in meaningful ways about what those processes are.
Minor tech issues — I need to figure out how to better work with slides on a huge screen. The screen was so huge that I had a hard time using my displayed powerpoint as a guide as I talked. I could have stayed behind the lecturn and looked at the monitor occasionally, but I hate doing that. Instead, I tried to stand in front and move side to side a bit to engage the audience and then move back to the lecturn to switch slides. They did have a wireless mouse to advance slides, but it was a little awkward to use. I need to invest in a wireless remote that is easy to advance and backtrack as needed. Also, I need to get better at popping in and out of slide view. There were times when I could have jumped to live Internet sites, but instead, I saved all my surfing and showing to the end. Oh, and the YouTube video that I wanted to show was blocked by the site’s filter! It worked out though — there was enough time to answer questions and get feedback from the audience. Next time I’ll put it on a CD or DVD.
On the schedule for tomorrow are two writing and technology workshops. I’ll lead two hour long workshops with an audience of teachers and students in both sessions. It’s a little more challenging trying to develop a plan to work with both teachers and students. Since I only have an hour, and it’s hands on, I need to be very focused. I’ll try and post more about that tomorrow.