Taking a concept that debuted with last fall’s T+L2 Conference to a whole new level, more than 60 volunteer educators came together to report on more than 160 concurrent sessions at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) held in Orlando Jan. 26-28. The result is unprecedented access for readers of eSchool News Online to literally hours of key advice from the show.

“There’s a reason so many thousands of educators go to ed-tech conferences each year,” said Dan David, online editor of eSchool News. “When like-minded people on the cutting edge of school technology get together, valuable information is bound to emerge, and that information is helpful to all educators.”

Believing that some of the best ideas and solutions really do come up at these conferences, eSchool News initiated its Conference Correspondents program last year. The idea was simple: Find educators attending the sessions at the conference, and have them file reports for eSchool News readers unable to attend specific sessions or unable to attend the conference at all this year.

The eSchool News editors unveiled the program at last year’s National School Boards Association’s T+L2 Conference in Denver. Thanks to a big boost from AlphaSmart, which donated 20 AlphaSmart Neo computer companions for those participating in Denver, the NSBA experience was a tremendous success and raised the bar for future events.

At this year’s FETC in Orlando, the Conference Correspondents came out in full force. This time, armed with a whopping 50 Neos, more than 60 correspondents joined forces to cover more than 160 of the conference’s 200-plus sessions.

Thanks to this unprecedented effort, eSchool News Online is now able to provide readers with almost all of the wit and wisdom imparted at FETC in Orlando. The body of knowledge from FETC now is available online, along with reports from last fall’s T+L2 conference, the 2005 Texas Computer Education Association conference in Austin, and the 2005 American Association of School Administrators meeting in San Antonio.

Throughout 2005, eSchool News Online will bring readers news and information from the Consortium for School Networking meeting in Washington, D.C., the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development conference in Orlando, the National Education Computing Conference in Philadelphia, and the 2005 T+L2 meeting in Denver. (Educators attending any of these conferences who wish to volunteer as an eSchool News Conference Correspondent should send an eMail message to Online Editor David: ddavid@eschoolnews.org.)

So far, though, the bellwether for conference reporting is eSN’s coverage of FETC.

“It would take hours for any educator to digest all of this information, but all of it is truly worth reading,” David said.

To give readers an idea of what is now available to them, here are brief excerpts from two of the conference session reports. For complete access to reports from all 160-plus sessions, visit the eSchool News Online Conference Information Center web site.

    Session: Meeting Science Standards with Digital Animation
    Presenter:
    Jeff Boyer
    Reviewed by: Gaby Eyzaguirre (MS Technology Coordinator for Colegio Roosevelt, The American School of Lima-Peru)

Through making animations, students and teachers get the chance to model their learning, to show their understanding of the subject or explain a topic in an engaging way. The goal of this presentation was to show you how to use animation in your classroom; you don’t need any specialized software, no more than what you probably have, and you can learn [these techniques] today and use [them] tomorrow.

[Boyer] concentrated on science subjects (earth science, chemistry, physics, biology), but sitting there listening to his presentation, I could see how this same approach could be used in almost all the other subject areas.

Advanced planning is the key; do not skip it. Plan your resources, your need for computers, and other resources such as materials. Allow your students to brainstorm ideas; breaking into groups is a good idea at this point. Have them come up with a key question (such as “How can I model Newton’s Law?”). Have them develop a storyboard; a simple storyboard that you can find on the internet will include a sketch of the scene, music sound effects, and script. After this, you’ll be ready to get your groups to assess their needs (materials, props, images, etc.).

Once you are done with what I call pre-production, you are ready for show time! [Boyer] chose PowerPoint as his tool, because it’s something he is sure most teachers have available today in their classroom.

To make your animation using PowerPoint, start a blank slide and edit it. Duplicate the slide, move images slightly (tip: use only arrow keys), continue duplications and moving, set the slide transition (Slide Show) to move to the next slide automatically after 00:00 and apply to all. It is that simple.

With the later PowerPoint versions (Office 2000 or XP), you can also use the photo album feature …

    Session: Copyright: Your Questions Answered
    Presenter:
    Gary Becker
    Reviewed by: Carol Veierstahler (Media Specialist at Nativity Catholic School in Brandon, Fla.)

How times have changed. It used to be so simple. You could always say you did not know recent changes in copyright law, so you could plead ignorance. Today, that is no longer an acceptable excuse.

Mr. Becker brought us up to date on various laws that have affected educators:

  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    This law protects other media besides books. The law also prohibits the user from breaking safety measures embedded in media. If you have a machine that “cracks” a protection on a video, CD, or DVD you are breaking the law.

    The law further prohibits tampering with copyright management information–you cannot take someone’s web site and remove their name and make it your own. There are also limitations on liability by online service providers, such as schools. The service provider must tell subscribers about copyright laws, and then the service (school) is not liable. However, the provider must open files if requested by legal entities.

    The law permits one copy of the software in the course of repair, but it must be destroyed after use…

    See this related link:

    eSN Conference Information Center
    http://www.eschoolnews.org/cic