Through eSN’s Conference Correspondents program, 13 volunteer educators reported on some two dozen sessions at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Conference in Austin Feb. 5-9. The result: Readers of eSchool News Online now have access to key advice culled from literally hours of conference sessions. Here’s a sampling of some of their best reports. For complete access to these and other Conference Correspondent reports, visit: http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic.

From “Painless Math Integration”

“… I am not sure what was more rewarding, to learn that [presenter Karen] Ferrell’s techniques use software already installed on our computers, or to find out that her files were already available to download. The Multimedia Tips [she] offered … were true to the KISS [keep it simple, stupid] principle: Use visually easy to read fonts and colors. Stick to sans serif fonts. Avoid all caps or title caps, which can seem like you are yelling at the students. Keep text to a minimum, and follow the 7×7 Rule (maximum seven words across and seven rows of text). Select graphics sized for distance viewing. Do not overdo the glitz; it can be distracting, especially for students with special learning needs. … “Access to Mrs. Ferrell’s samples is simple. Go to www.nisdtx.org, choose Northwest High School, find ‘Karen Ferrell–Math,’ and look for the TCEA 2007 tab to find downloads for these great math [resources]: Flash Cards; Count Down; Multiple Choice; Jeopardy; Quadrilaterals Prediction; Sorting … Her work is simply fabulous.”

–Paul Love-Kretchmer, art teacher and instructional technology resource contact, Austin Independent School District

From “Blogs and Wikis for a Collaborative Classroom”

“… Magnolia ISD wanted to move teachers to really using blogs, so presenter [Jamie] Gustin created an idea called ‘Where in America is Mr. Gustin?’ Mr. Gustin was planning a trip out of town, so he created a mystery forum where students tried to figure out where he was. The students [left questions] on the blog, and then Mr. Gustin [went] in and [answered] the questions. Two-thirds of the questions left were outside of school hours. Furthermore, the students were reading everyone else’s questions and basing their questions on what other students asked. To add another component, he took pictures on his trip with his cell phone, eMailed pictures to www.flickr.com, and set it up so they automatically showed up on his web page for the students to see as part of the project. … “[As] an example of using a wiki, a class in Magnolia got together with a class in Ohio, and the two classes wrote a book by switching off chapters. (One class wrote Chapter 1, the other wrote Chapter 2, etc.) Another way to build on that idea is that one group could have edited and revised the other’s work. Need to find other classes to collaborate with? www.cilc.org has a message board where people post that they [want] to share a class. Also, www.epals.com has tons of teachers who want to collaborate …”

–Rikki Smith, instructional technology specialist, Cain Middle School (Rockwall, Texas)

From “One Tech Person, One School! Tips on How to Survive”

“How often do you feel like you can’t possibly get everything done? James Willms, the presenter of this session, offered some valuable hints to help get the job done. To start, he gave two rules of technology. Rule No. 1 is: ‘All technology will fail someday,’ and rule No. 2 is: ‘Techies can’t change rule No.1.’ It is very important to back up one’s work and to get teachers to do this, too. …

“One ‘must have’ for a technologist would be Deep Freeze by Faronics. Deep Freeze basically returns the computer to the same state it was in before the user sat down when it is restarted. … There are several other sites that will be helpful: www.download.com, www.tucows.com, www.openoffice.org, and www.clamwin.com. The [first two sites] are great places for finding neat stuff. The www.openoffice.org site has word processing, spreadsheet, [and] PowerPoint-type software that is free! The www.clamwin.com site is a free virus checker. Another site that speaks for itself is www.techforless.com. “I just happened into this session and felt it was well worth the time spent. One of Mr. Willms’ ‘toys’ was a USB adapter kit for copying hard drives. I will be getting one of those! … Another hint was to go to www.fssdev.com, where Casper can be downloaded. Casper is a free software program that allows one to make a complete copy of [a] hard drive. No more worrying about crashing!”

–Martha Look, teacher, Dallas Independent School District