Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can You Present at a Tech Conference Without the Tech Being Your Main Focus?

 At the Midwest Education Technology Conference I presented a session called Differentiating Instruction Using Basal Readers. Here is a link to my presentation. As you can see it isn't very flashing (heck it isn't even what I would call engaging!) The presentation was made this way on purpose, I didn't want to make my session about tools, examples, or flash.

I think that there is way too much focus on tech tools at technology conferences. If we truly believe that the goal of school is student learning, tools would be ubiquitous (including hardware and software tools). Exposure to these tools are important, but not the most important thing we can share. While we do need these types of sessions, we really need sessions that model how learning is happening in classes with those tools.

I new that my session title would be very noticeable. There was no word in the title that suggested technology or tools. Here is the description of the session:

"Are you required to use a basal reading series in your classroom? Would you like to find ways to integrate technology and help students differentiate their own learning opportunities? Join William as he describes how his students used digital tools such as bogs, Paint, Audacity, iTunes, and iPods in reading class. Learn how to let go of teaching and have your students engage in learning."

The focus of my session was to show how I allow students to choose the tools they need, digital or analog, to help themselves learn. I did share a few tools that were used regularly by my students including Visuwords for vocabulary but I did not dwell on them. I intentionally kept the discussion on the ways I helped the students learn how to learn vocabulary, skills, and comprehension.

After the presentation I reviewed the evaluations I received from the attendees. I did receive a couple that had the technology parts marked down, including the less than engaging slides I created. Overall the evaluations were very good. I even had one comment that said it was the most useful session for their classroom they had attended. So, I guess you really can give a presentation at a tech conference without the focus being on the technology.