Thursday, March 23, 2006

FETC 2006 in Orlando, FL

I admit it, I am OCD! I like having things organized well ahead of time and I like knowing that I have everything set up the way it needs to be. Dealing with FETC this year, taught me that I don't have to be completely OCD ALL the time. Our team knew we would be attending FETC at the start of the school year in August. Knowing that I would have months to utilize the handhelds in my classroom and collect information to share at FETC along the way was always in the back of my mind. Our team met a few times prior to FETC to plan our presentation, but nothing really needed to be done until after January 2006. I was very happy living in my FETC free world. Then the New Year came, along with report cards, conferences, FCAT Writes, and the FCAT test. Meeting about FETC was also moved to the front burner. Our original plan was to include my students in the presentation at FETC, since they are the users of the handhelds and would be able to give an unbiased truthful account of their experience. Unfortunately, the "powers that be" at FETC did not feel that having students attend their conference would be appropriate.

Needless to say, our presentation had to undergo a dramatic change. We wouldn't be having students set up at different tables offering insight into various aspects of the handhelds. As a result, the pressure of presenting slowly started to build up in me. Did I mention that I have NEVER presented at a conference before? Put me in front of a room full of students and I'm fine. But in front of a room full of adults, colleagues-NO WAY! The plan for our presentation developed during lunch at school one day. The idea was hatched to create a TOP TEN list of things we learned during our experience. Actually, it was more like a TOP TWENTY-FIVE list when we started. I actually had the notes we made written on a napkin. The funny thing was, when we met to start the "official" planning of the presentation, we couldn't truly remember what the notes on the napkin meant. Anyway, our Technology Goddess put together a PowerPoint presentation that listed out Top Ten Tips. We also wanted to offer a time for questions to be answered, but we had some questions we definitely wanted to answer. Our result was to have three of my students respond on video to the 3 major questions we wanted to have asked. It was adorable! I can only imagine what it would have been like with all 20 of my students providing answers to people who spoke to them.

Well, as I write this entry, I can reflect back on our presentation. It went well, and it wasn't as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. My principal, Pat Donovan, and our tech goddess, Rhonda Drum, were up at the podium. I was at the end of the table near the presentation screen with a lapel microphone, and Paul was at the doorway distributing our information sheets. We had fun and tossed the "speaker" back and forth to each other. My students via video were a big hit! We got many laughs, too. I did have a question for the attendees prior to starting. I wanted to know who they were made up of. To my surprise, we had teachers, principals, school technology personnel, and district personnel attend our session. Afterwards we had several people approach each of us to ask more detailed questions.

Our presentation at FETC was listed as follows:

A Beginner's Guide to a Handheld Classroom
Barbara Preziosi with Patricia Donovan and Rhonda Drum

Cutting edge technology shouldn't draw blood! Learn through the experience of others as they share their journey through the handheld minefield. Practical advice and tips!

I really feel that we fulfilled our purpose. We shared our experience and it's been a great time with the handhelds. Attendees had some great questions, above and beyond the three we planted in the audience. Paul from Palm and Walt from GoKnow were in attendance and I was able to point them out to our audience, so maybe some other class will be able to benefit from our experience and get started on their own journey.

Now, all that's left for me to do about FETC is uploading our presentation and notes to my class webpage so attendees can access it. Unfortunately, I am unable to upload the file. Please email me if you would like our slides and presentation summary sent to you.

Plus, we're waiting to hear if NECC wants us as one of their "Birds of a Feather" sessions in July in San Diego. I guess the fun never stops. This experience has enabled me to travel more in the past two years than I have in my entire life. It's so exciting!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

FETC 2006 Our First Day

As we drove from our school to the Convention Center in Orlando, we planned on what we would do once we arrived. First, we had to get our registration documents and badges, then we wanted to go to the exhibit hall. We had people to meet! We needed to go to the Palm village and meet "Paul Palm", the representative who has been remarkable since he was "assigned" to us. Paul was in as we stopped by and we had a chance to speak and look over some new handhelds that were on the market. Since my principal is interested in getting another class up and running next year, we wanted to compare models and cost. Palm has a new handheld out that has wireless capabilities built in. That means the users won't have to deal with the wireless cards like I have. That hasn't been a big issue with me, since my classroom isn't allowing us to hook into the wireless network at our school as of yet. We have an airport (lovingly named Lazlo) sitting in my classroom, waiting to be installed and set up.

Then we walked over and saw Tribeam, the company that provided the charging station for for my class. They also have a new product out in their charger line. They have an 11-dock charger (that can be attached to more chargers) that also completes the synching when you schedule it. This is a wonderful upgrade to a great product. The teacher who has this won't have to worry about having a student synch the handhelds, since it can be scheduled at a certain time of day, after the handhelds are placed in the charging station. Unfortunately, I won't be able to upgrade my model. But then, my charging station holds a total of 30 handhelds with two extra slots.

We returned to the Palm neighborhood and I found the GoKnow booth, being watched over by Walt Coatsworth and Dara. I can never say enough positive things about GoKnow. They are a people company, and they offer such customer service to their users. Walt mentioned that he was planning on stopping by our presentation on Thursday. As I was introducing myself over there, I heard a voice calling my name. It was Nancy Kokat from MathAmigo and she was in the booth next door. I was in heaven. Here I was in the midst of my favorite companies. It was so exciting to be able to speak to these wonderful people, and put faces together with their names and voices. After talking with Walt and Dara at GoKnow, I walked over and spoke with Nancy. She explained some items on the trial software she sent me that I can't wait to look at when I return to my classroom.

It's really a different type of experience when you can speak to representatives about their products. I had a very enjoyable time speaking with Paul, Walt, Dara, and Nancy. I felt more comfortable and confident since I had experience with products and could ask questions about what new things were in the works.

Now if I can only get through the presentation tomorrow without freaking out!LOL