Thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of dozens of their peers, educators who missed any portion of this year’s NECC can get unfiltered reviews of more than 200 sessions at the Conference Information Center (CIC) section of eSchool News Online.

Eighty-five conference attendees volunteered to review at least two sessions apiece as part of the Conference Correspondents program launched by eSN last fall. The program’s goal is to capture as much of the wisdom and experience from major ed-tech conferences as possible, so those who weren’t there–or those interested in learning more about topics or sessions they couldn’t attend–have the opportunity to do so.

This year’s NECC had the largest group of participants the program has ever seen, breaking the record of 52 participants, which was set at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) earlier this year.

Conference Correspondents–who included district technology coordinators, school tech coordinators, principals, teachers, and college professors–came from 25 of the 50 U.S. states, as well as Canada and New Zealand. They covered all types of sessions, including concurrent sessions, student showcases, poster sessions, PT3 sessions, and CEO spotlights. Their session reviews appear in a blog format at eSN Online.

In return for their participation, 71 of the correspondents at NECC won Neo by AlphaSmart computer companions in a drawing held at the end of the conference.

“The energy and enthusiasm of our Conference Correspondents continues to amaze me, and the group at NECC took this program to a new level,” said eSN Online Editor Dan David. “These educators were incredibly selfless. They poured hours of their precious conference time into writing reports to share the experience with their colleagues at home. It was an honor for me personally to be around so many dedicated professionals in Philadelphia, and I am proud to have their work on eSN Online.”

What follows is a sampling from some of the best session reviews. Educators can read all 200-plus reviews, and discover the wealth of information they contain, at:

Session: Free Web Tools to Enhance Access to the Curriculum (Poster Session)
Presenters: Cheryl Wissick, Jim Gardner
Reviewed by: B.J. Gallagher

Did you ever want more free internet resources to use in your classroom? This poster presentation provided an extensive selection of free resources found on the web. Sites selected contained online tools to assist teachers in the learning process. This session revolved around the demonstration of the free web-related resources, tools, and strategies that make learning meaningful, support instruction, accommodate diverse students, and enhance access to the general education curriculum.

Readplease ( is a free download for Windows only, featuring both free and for-purchase tools that can assist with text-to-speech conversations. The free version, once downloaded to the computer, can function as a simple word processor or screen reader. Any text can be copied and pasted into the Readplease window.

Another … free download shared was 1-Click ( After 1-Click is installed on your computer, you are able to create an interactive page with any document. Using a special key combination, any word in a Word file, web page, or eMail document can be hyperlinked to the definition. …

Full review:

Session: Elementary Blogging: Connecting Writers and Technology through Read2Write (Poster Session)
Presenters: Jeanne Kimball, Bridget Carvajal, Karen Conklin, Heather Dowd, and Denise Weston
Reviewed by: Laurie Fowler

How do you get elementary kids excited about reading and writing? In Warren County, New Jersey, the teachers used author visits to schools paired with online blogs to immerse students in reading and writing. This poster session on the hot topic of blogging was so popular that they ran out of their handouts in less than 20 minutes.

The Read2Write project was funded by a New Jersey Department of Education STAR-W grant. Read2Write allowed K-12 students to work together in an online blogging environment to communicate with several children’s authors. At the author’s visit, a few students were able to ask some of their questions about writing and being an author, but in the virtual environment of the blog, many more students were able to ask the authors questions. In fact, author Tony Abbott responded to over 140 comments on the blog from the Warren County students and has plans to start a new children’s series based on characters suggested by the kids. To get this writing on the web in blog form, older students in middle school and high schools in the district served as editors for elementary students whose work was being published.

The schools in Warren County found that using rather than worked better for their educational purposes. The teachers set up the blogs for students to post their writing and for them to read others’ work. Each class was able to communicate with other students in the project in a private environment, thus avoiding internet safety issues.

In addition to communication with authors, according to Jeanne Kimball, the students using the blogs increased their comprehension skills and improved their test scores by 10 percent in reading comprehension. Writing scores also improved a whole point on a six-point scale used in the 6 Traits Writing curriculum …

Full review:

Session: Building Engaged Learning Communities–Partnering for Success
Presenters: Pat Renzulli, CIO, School District of Philadelphia, and Dan Young, Nortel Networks
Reviewed by: Alisa Berger

In Philadelphia, a city of over 200,000 students, 273 schools, and nine regional offices, how do you begin to build a system that provides a solid 21st-century education for a wide variety of students?

Pat Renzulli, Dan Young, and a panel of stakeholders including a principal, a teacher, a school technology support person and two former students gave us some insight on the process and the initial results.

From the perspective of the schools, the objectives were threefold. First was to enhance learning. Next, use data to drive teaching to improve student achievement. Last, support operating efficiency.

An enhanced learning environment is a setting where learning is equitable, flexible, and pervasive. Learning is student-focused and experiential. These schools have state-of-the-art libraries with virtual access district and city-wide.

The ability to monitor student data gives teachers the ability to differentiate learning as needed to improve student achievement. Centralized Information Management Systems provide immediate access to student profiles and instructional resources–necessary information for teachers in this transient community.

The curriculum is divided into six-week sections. During week five, students are given 15- to 20-question online assessments. These online assessment benchmark tests are used across the district so data [are] easily comparable within and between schools. Grades are instantaneous, and teachers have the opportunity to re-teach or challenge in week six. Students are able to monitor their own progress and [are] motivated to achieve their own goals.

From operational efficiency emerges tech-savvy students who are able to support the technology network and teach the teachers. & Network expansion to fiber and wireless creates a speedy and mobile network. A standardized curriculum, extended school day, enriched curriculum and remediation programs, smaller classes, and a robust summer-school program are the other pieces that the [district] needs to be responsible for in creating a 21st-cntury education program.

While the school system worked to structure the learning and teaching needs, Nortel endeavored to lay the foundation for the network. The School District of Philadelphia has a converged infrastructure–voice, video, and data run on the same network. Optical network access to Internet 2 allows increased access for the school community …

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