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Be a Nerd, Geek and Dweeb

This past week I attended the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), in Austin Texas. I was attending because I was one of 1200 staff and faculty members from around the country that received a NISOD award in excellence. My award was for teaching excellence.

Although much of the conference was focused on administration development, such as how to make use of data such as retention and graduation rates there were several sessions that I found very informative and entertaining. When I got to the conference early Sunday, I was a bit overwhelmed by the 120 page conference program that I received at registration, never have I gotten such a large program at a conference, but it did provide a quick synopsis for each speaking session, I found that very helpful for deciding which session I would attend. I also liked the fact that the entire program could then be downloaded from their website via PDF, allowing me to save it to my IPad and not having to lug around the actual book. The first session I attended was the Orientation, which helped first time attendees acquaint themselves to the conference and how to read the program.

The next event was the Excellence Award Kick-off, which is where the Excellence award winners went to mingle and get their award. It was held at the Four Seasons hotel across from the Convention Center, which was on the other side from my hotel, I had the walk the distance, and lets just say it was hot in Austin. Once you arrived to the ballroom for the reception as you walked towards the ballroom doors, their was a group of individuals waiting to dawn you with your medal (award) and clap as you walked on into the ballroom, almost like receiving a lei as you enter Hawaii.  The reception was nice and I got to meet up with some of my OCCC colleagues who also won excellence awards in their subjects. After the excellence reception it was back to the convention center for the opening session.

Monday was the first full day of the conference and began with a general session where the keynote speaker was Singer/Songwriter Larry Gatlin, who now teachers at the Entertainment Technology department at Guildford Technical Community College in North Carolina. Although, it may have not been much to do with education, except how he went from Grammy winner to teacher at a community college, Mr. Gaatlin was an excellent speaker full of energy and humor, and we also got to listen to him sing.

My first break out session on Monday was one presented by Larry Miller, Chief Academic Officer of Snead State Community College in Alabama. Mr. Miller presented on Social Media and how to use it effectively for education. He talked about using twitter and how to become popular on it, after the session he went on to tweet his own 1000th tweet. He provided links to online sites that would essentially grade you twitter account such as Twitter Grader, which I tried on my own twitter account and got the following rating:

My Twitter Grade of 53
I suppose with a grade like 53, I should be striving to do more, which I hope to improve my score over the summer.The next session I went to was over HTML 5 and how it could change the education platform. This session was presented by William Zobrist, Director, Emerging and Online Product Strategy from Pearson Learning Solutions; aside from educators and administrators many sessions were presented by companies that partner with educational organizations such as Adobe or in this case Pearson Publishing. This talk was about what HTML 5 can do and how it will change the web as we know it. I defiantly see benefits using HTML 5 and would suggest if you are planning to learn web design or are a current web designer you need to learn HTML5. Although no one browser full supports HTML 5 at the moment, learning it now will give you an edge over others when it does become a standard, (which hopefully will be soon, sine it’s so cool).

In the exhibitor’s hall there were several schools and companies promoting their programs and offerings to educators. I love exhibitor halls at conferences that’s were all the freebies are! I got several nice bags and of course highlighters, usb drives, Frisbee and even a stuff monster from Monster.com. One school had a booth were you could make your own inner geek, using cut outs. It sounds a bit childish, but they were getting a big crowd, everyone wanted to make a geek of their own. Once you made a geek, you were asked to take a picture of you geek around the conference and show him off. Even OCCC had a booth, which happened to be a popular spot. Their booth was giving away an IPad and they had a nice TV running informational videos about the college. Tim Whisnehunt, who was one of OCCC booth sitters, showed me the new TV/Monitor Instructional Media has, which they were using at the conference. The TV/Monitor was not only a crisp HD resolution but also a touch screen and could be used partially like a smart board, very nice.

Later in the day I went on a session on Web 2.0 Technologies presented by Political Science Professor Monoucher Khosrowshahi from Tyler Junior College in Texas. His presentation focused that on the idea of two types of educational formats “Push and Pull”, push is where we shove information down our students throats using a lecture model, while pull is where we organize information, set goals and objectives and allow the students to pull the information themselves, from sources they find or we provide. The pull model allows students more control of the learning process, promotes collaboration and makes the teacher a facilitator and no longer the star of the show. The pull model is enhanced with web 2.0 technology primary with social media. Since the presenter was a political science instructor he gave many examples were the current revolution in Egypt was set in motion and organized through the use of Facebook and with the help of Google whom provided a means to access the internet, once the government banned certain access to the internet. I found this very interesting that these social media sites helped change and revolutionize an entire country, it makes me think are we really using this medium to it’s fullest potential?

The next session I went to was on “YouTube” and how to use it in the classroom. The presenter was Albert Groccia, Professor of Mathematics at Valencia Community College in Florida. He described not only how YouTube can add humor to a classroom but also illustrate a point. He provided some links to several YouTube videos that he used in class including one I found very useful that was about motivation . Mr. Groccia also provided some resources on how to capture video from YouTube, since as we all know the internet is not forever, and some videos can be taken down, and as presenters and teachers we don’t always have access to the internet, thus saving these videos can be useful. KeepVid is one of my personal fave sites to use to capture YouTube videos. Mr. Groccia also pointed out that YouTube videos are a great way to refocus students during a class period, since studies show that students attention drops off every 15-18 minutes, using a YouTube video in-between the lecture can help students refocus and get engaged.

The last session on Monday that I attended had to do with Adobe CS 5.5, it was a quick overview and most attendees had only ever used Photoshop. Aside from the overview I did discover that Dreamweaver now has built in HTML5, Jquery and iOS templates now. Flash also now includes mobile code snippets that allow you to quickly create actions with touch screen capabilities.

Tuesday the conference began with breakfast followed by more exploring of the exhibitor’s hall. Lunch was provided at the general session where Keynote speaker Rod Risley, Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Mr. Risley’s speech was quite inspiring. In his speech he questioned why “does our country promote mediocrity?” he also poised the question and challenge

“If liking science makes you a nerd, if your into technology your a geek and if you like school in any way your a deweb. If this is the case I challenge you to be a NERD, GEEK and Dweeb! For it will be these individuals that will make the future happen.”

Wednesday was the last day of the conference. The first session I went to was on the use of Rich Media in the classroom presented by Truman College (IL) Chemistry teacher, Joy Walker. This session primarily discussed how to create podcast, videos and even free blogs to help provide supplemental instruction to your students. For creating quick podcasts, which are just audio recordings can be done easily with Audacity which is a free audio software for both MAC and PC. For creating blogs the most used media was WordPress which one can create a quick blog from WordPress.com or host their own (as I do) by downloading WordPress package at WordPress.org, the presenter also provided more information on her website at justonly.com.

The last breakout session of the day was a demonstration of Prezi. Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint, not only can one get a free account but it is supper easy to use. The idea is to layer, rotate and zoom content, which focuses the presenter to get away from linear slides and focus only on the key points. If you haven’t used prezi you really need check it out.

The conference ended with a final general session where all the NISOD winners were highlighted and thanked for their hard work and efforts as well as their achievements of excellence. Not all of the 1200 winners appeared in the video compilation that was shown, but I was excited to see that a snip-bit of my video interview was included.

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