Friday, June 6, 2008

PSU TechED Presentation Debriefing #1

Gus the GorillaImage via WikipediaToday, at Pittsburg State University, I presented two technology education workshops. The first techED conference workshop related to sharing the beginning concepts of social bookmarking systems. My goal was to share how teachers use these online systems to teach research skills, including note-taking. The second was a presentation, a basic overview of widgets, tiny self-contained snippets of code that make objects become interactive within a website, wiki or other online portal.

Both workshops were well attended, and overall I was satisfied with the results. Those attending asked excellent questions, and I will write about each set for a few days.

In the session, most participants discussed how this online bookmarking would work for the stated purpose, research and note-taking. The teachers made great observations, some I am still processing. As always happens, there were issues, some of which included different operating systems, different learning rates and different browsers.

The analogy I like to use when thinking of the different operating systems is a car analogy. Using different operating systems is similar to driving different makes of vehicles. This difference in operating systems, to me, is the same as if I was driving my husband's GM pickup or driving my Saturn. There are definitely differences in placement of the lights, windshield wipers, and other important systems, but once you refocus, all cars move on down the road. I know that most people don't see the different operating systems, Mac and Windows in such simplistic terms, YET once you get to the internet, all operating systems work the same.

There is a third option: GNU Linux or Unix and its flavors. These open source operating systems appear to be gaining user numbers for many reasons, yet I don't think we will be seeing the opensource operating systems being used in K-12 education in any great numbers.

The browser issue is another bucket of worms altogether. I try never to tell people which browsers to use, but historically, MS Internet Explorer is the target of attack from various people and groups bent on creating havoc on the ordinary user. That historical note always leaves me wondering why schools insist on using MS Internet Explorer and not Firefox.

While I really had to stay on my toes and could be a bit smoother in my delivery, I achieved my stated goals for each of the sessions. Having an opportunity to earn "Service to the Profession" professional development points makes me a better educator. I enjoyed working in an environment where people asked pointed questions.

Part of this debriefing will address ways to streamline the hands-on workshop. One thing I already know is that forty-five minutes was not long enough for even a basic introduction of When people are rushed, they become pressured and may have difficulty learning new material. I don't want to do that to people again. I could have effectively used thirty more minutes.

All in all, it was an exciting thought-provoking experience, and I enjoyed all aspects of it. The participants were very gracious with each other and me. I hope they take some ideas home that they can expand on within their own classes.

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