Monday, June 27, 2005

NECC in Philadelphia PA

The 2004-2005 school year ended and our team flew to Philadelphia to attend NECC. We were presenting our classroom webpage project at the ISTE showcase and had a “Birds of a Feather” presentation to present also. Originally, my principal and our tech coordinator were going to be the only two of our four member team to attend due to the fact that they were presenting the “Birds of a Feather,” and they had signed up to attend an all day workshop titled “Integrating PALM OS Handhelds Into Your Curriculum.” Of course, my principal couldn’t leave it at that and she found funding to enable the whole team to attend together. Whoever said “money doesn’t grow on trees” may be correct, but my principal is capable of pulling it out of thin air more often than not. Since I would be one of the individuals who would actually be integrating handhelds into my classroom, we chose to switch who would attend the full day workshop that Monday. It would now be the only male member on our team, a fifth grade teacher, and me. Of course by now we should have realized that our best laid plans always encounter some obstacle which requires us to “be the willow” and change our course. Upon receiving all our NECC badges and paperwork, we learned that only one member would actually be able to attend the workshop since it had filled up so quickly. Since I would be the ONE to use handhelds in the coming school year, I was the person chosen to attend the workshop.

The workshop was AMAZING! It was presented by Mike Curtis from Go Know and was run the way a workshop truly should be run—totally hands-on. From the first thing in the morning until the final moments late that afternoon, I was taken through each of the Go Know programs and shown HOW they could be used. In addition to seeing what other users had created with the programs, I was able to create a little project in each one. It was GREAT! The other wonderful aspect was that my team planned on purchasing Go Know software to use with our handhelds in the fall. I learned a lot about the 10 programs we were “playing” with that day and learned something else about handhelds. They keep their charge unbelievably. I had both my Tungsten T5 and my HP iPaq with me, along with a wireless keyboard. Mike Curtis beamed the Go Know demo programs to my Tungsten T5. One thing I quickly realized was that I wouldn’t be able to play with the programs and take notes on my T5 at the same time. What did I do? I pulled out my iPaq and hooked it up to my wireless keyboard. From 9:00 am until 4:30 pm, I was using both handhelds continuously. By the end of the day, I had decreased my battery to about 55% on both handhelds. What laptop has that capability? None that I have ever worked on.

In addition to beaming the Go Know demo programs, Mike Curtis also beamed some freeware math game items, Summing and Math Wiz. We didn’t review those games at the workshop, but they were on my T5. I will talk more about Summing later on. If you have it, then you are already an addict. If not, I’ll be more than happy to beam it to you if we meet up at a technology conference.

Late that afternoon, I called my team as I exited the workshop so we could meet up. Do you know what they were doing while I was WORKING all day? That’s right, they weren’t working. They had been PLAYING! Without me! They went out to lunch, took a tour, went on the DUCKS, and had a grand old time. I must admit to some hurt feelings, since I wouldn’t be able to experience what they did. Then I realized that they wouldn’t have the experience I did either. It worked out fine in the end, because they got me a duck bill to quack as a souvenir.

We continued our journey at NECC, attended some sessions, completed our presentations, and visited the student showcase. That was a wonderful time because we were able to ask students about their experience. The group that was there had utilized various freeware programs the teacher found. One of the programs was Summing, the game Mike Curtis had beamed at the workshop. I had no clue how to play the game so I asked a young student for assistance. She explained that I had to look at the target numbers down the left side and try to add combinations of numbers on the grid to get that number. Okay, her explanation wasn’t that clear, but it started me on the path to figuring out how to play. Starting out, a player needs to beat a score of 999 to clear the board. The first time I played, I cleared the board in over 300 moves. Obviously, this was a true beginner score and the sign that I had no idea how to play. I quickly became addicted and continued to play late into the night. Before calling it a night, I was able to get my score down to the mid-80s.

NECC came to an end and we began our journey home and the beginning of integrating handhelds into the classroom.

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