Attending Conferences Virtually

(Recent article I wrote, published in Access regarding potential use of vidoeconferencing in education.)

Example of Eluminate screen

Example of Eluminate screen

Recently, I attended 2 fantastic conferences. The National Education and Computer Conference in Washington DC was held in July, 2009. In June this year, I participated in an Eluminate Panel Discussion: “Is There a Place for Media Specialists Who Don’t Know Social Media, held in various locations in the USA. All I spent was my time and I am still processing all the great material learnt. But, it is not too late – you can still attend. Such is the world of online virtual Professional Development.

Before taking you on a virtual PD trip to the USA, it is worth pointing out that vodcasting lessons is an important direction yet to be pursued in Australian schools to any substantial extent. Universities have taken this up, but they are often criticized for doing so. The criticisms seem to be based on the notion that students miss out if they do not personally sit in a lecture theatre. This is despite online lecture notes allowing replaying of lectures to facilitate learning, and that most students miss lectures at some point for various reasons, so online lectures are much better than having to borrow notes as was done in bygone eras. Also, the reality is that most lectures are one-way delivery, so the benefits of being personally there can be minimal. Hopefully, this virtual field trip will reveal the massive potential of using online delivery technologies to deliver teaching and to enhance learning outcomes.

Firstly, I will point out a few choice morsels to whet you appetite for further exploration of NECC 2009.Please visit the following site to discover a vast array of presentations that demonstrate leading teaching directions .

To begin, you really have not virtually lived until you have watched Tammy Worcester Tammy is a magician of the internet and shows favorite tips, tricks, and tools that offer simple and effective methods to enhance teaching and learning. Her blog is at the following site, and all her presentation notes from NECC 2009 and others are stored here as well. You can subscribe to receive email tips from Tammy. Tammy uses blogs in amazing ways to enhance learning opportunities.

Secondly, Jonathan Bergman reveals exciting ways to use video podcasting to improve student achievement. Jonathan explores how teachers can better utilize class time to work with students individually and in groups, rather than standing at the front of a class giving the same lesson taught the year before, or to many groups. This is very relevant to teacher librarians who often teach skills such as referencing, over and over again. Jonathan will have you thinking about whether there are better ways to do this. Jonathan will show the magic of how to do more with class time.
Thirdly, for fans of Will Richardson try “Here Comes Learning.” He presents with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and they explain how we can help our students move from simple sharing to collective action in the world through use of online technologies.
The handouts, papers, powerpoints and links to discussions from NECC 2009 can be found here NECC 2010 is in Denver, Colorado from June 27-30, so pop it in your diary and reserve some time for what is likely to be a wonderful virtual trip.

Now you may have missed the Future of Education panel discussion, “Is There a Place for Media Specialists Who Don’t Know Social Media?” but all is not lost. Click on the following link which will provide the option to view the full video. panel is lead by Buffy Hamilton , Joyce Valenza , Cathy Nelson
and Carolyn Foote who are amazing American teacher- librarians.

To provide another taster as to why these ladies are so exciting, visit During the recent Iran riots the mainstream media was slow to provide coverage on the election results. However, Joyce shows how Netvibes, a free Web 2.0 tool can be utilized to manage information from social networks brimming with the latest news. Joyce uses Netvibes to construct a pathfinder that includes YouTube videos, Flickr photos, Tweets, delicious bookmarks, and Google News. These Web 2.0 tools show new and exciting ways to collaborate with other Library professionals around the world, to manage our own profession learning; and also to assist students with research.
The Eluminate technology used in this panel discussion also deserves mention. Video-conferencing tools offer ways to link students and staff to our global world. Eluminate is interactive and participants attending the virtual conference at the time it is held can send messages to the presenter/s from any capable computer. The presenters can respond to questions throughout their presentation. Eluminate can show where people are logged in from all over the world, and even how warm it is there. Virtual attendees can vote live during the presentation to share opinions, and use emoticons to show reactions and hand icons to clap. Viewers anywhere in the world can even take over the microphone and participate live in the presentation. This is not an advertisement for this software, as there may be similar products, but it reveals exciting learning opportunities for the future and not so distant future. The School Library Association of Victoria has recently been offering training in this software, so the future has already made its way to Australia.

Anyway, all trips come to an end, even virtual ones. However, these new Web 2.0 technologies allows teacher–librarians to keep abreast of best practice, to collaborate with colleagues all over the world, to gain cutting edge Professional Development at no expense except time, and even better to attend conferences from the comfort of our own homes, even in pyjamas if we so desire; although I have heard that Denver is particularly nice in June.

Published in Access (Journal of the Australian School Library Association), Volume 23, Issue 3, 209, pp 25-29

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