by guest blogger Kim Randall
What do podcasts, Java Works, filling out your star, America Revealed, chroma-key, an "Oprah’s Favorite Things" moment, Adobe Premiere, Atlas, Digital Storytelling, Audacity, limeade margaritas, G-Force, Inspiration, bowling, blogs, and more than 40 educators from across the U.S. have in common? Why the Discovery Educator Network National Leadership Conference, of course!
Representing Northern California, Discovery Educator Ed Warkentin, field manager Susan Staat, and I ventured out to the Discovery Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland for a week of technology infused excitement, learning, sharing and fun! After a preview the week before at NECC in San Diego (DEN’s birthday bash at Dave & Buster’s) I knew I was in for a treat!
Where to begin? I guess from the beginning… Monday evening started us off with something educators do best: socializing, networking, and adult beverages! I was truly amazed to meet such a diverse group of people and start putting names and faces together.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, we headed eagerly to the Discovery Headquarters and entered the awe-inspiring building we called home for the week. Our first stop, breakfast and the main conference room with its ultra-modern and high tech blue hue lighting and four electronic floor to ceiling screens. It was already setting the stage for an impressive week. Like any classroom on the "first day of school" we began with an icebreaker activity, but not just ANY activity. This one cleverly integrated technology, using Photostory to introduce each other!
From then on, the day sped by quickly with speakers (Steve Dembo and podcasting), goals for the week, bonding with our groups, and great hands-on sessions in podcasting, integrating unitedstreaming clips with Inspiration, Timeliner, PowerPoint games and Photostory. And then the moment we were not expecting, a Discovery version of "Oprah’s Favorite Things." We all had "lucky stars" on our chairs and were given a copy of Adobe’s Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements! Wow, you should have seen the happy dances in the room! It didn’t stop there! We were treated to a rooftop BBQ dinner on top of the Discovery building and a nighttime tour of Washington, D.C. followed!
Some teams began burning the midnight oil working on their projects for the week: "America Revealed", incorporating many of the tools and unitedstreaming content to create classroom resources to depict America with a focus on an event, person, geography or tradition. But in typical laid back California mentality (i.e. we can work tomorrow) some of us CA DEN members decided to check out Silver Spring’s version of margaritas. Let’s just say that they don’t make’em like they do in Cali, but that didn’t seem to stop us from an entertaining evening!
Up and at ‘em and back to work at Headquarters on Wednesday morning! The day’s spotlight: Digital Storytelling by none other than THE Hall Davidson and the international webisodes of Discovery Educator Abroad, THE Josh Wolff. Now of course Discovery wouldn’t surprise us with a piece of software without showing us how to use it! After Digital Storytelling, we jumped right into using our new Adobe Premiere Elements and the ever-clever tool, the chroma-key! I can just picture our students scaling buildings, facing large animals or walking on water in their digital stories once they learn this tool! Too cool!
Culminating the evening on a global note, after Josh’s presentation we were the proud, the few, and the only select group to preview the brand new series Atlas: China Revealed, in Discovery’s state of the art HD theater. The new series will spotlight 4 countries this fall, culminating with 30 over the next five years. Stay tuned on October 1st, this is one series you don’t want to miss! Phenomenal!
Our last speaker, Alan November started off the next morning sharing the current status of government funding for technology in education and the importance of preparing our students for a global economy. Lots for us to digest and think about, really you could hear a pin drop in the room as he spoke!
Inspired by China Revealed, we continued day four with regrouping and focusing on our project "America Revealed." Many groups took advantage of being in the Nation’s capitol and ventured off to create digital stories down on the mall. However, my group was hard at work on our interactive project "America Revealed: Pop Culture through Digital Eyes of Today’s Teens." As with any project-based learning assignment, we decided to divi up the work and each of us worked on a different task. My job: podcasting! And we’re proud to report that we made our first enhanced (video) podcast!
Day four ended with an activity that required socks. What could possibly require socks in this heat, we asked? Why, a fun evening of bowling at Strike, Betsy Whalen tells us! Tech educators and bowling? Now this was one event not to be missed! A striking good time was had by all!
Presentation Day, day five! This day was bittersweet. We were excited to share all of our hard work and newly acquired tools, but sad to leave such an incredible week with incredible people. Needless to say, all of the projects were over the top and fascinatingly unique. All revealed something important about America while integrating the incredible resource that we are all grateful to have at our fingertips, unitedstreaming. And without it and the DEN staff, none of us would have had the opportunity to attend the oustanding first annual DEN National Leadership Conference! Thank you discovery, DEN and unitedstreaming. Without a doubt we will continue to move forward leading, facilitating our classrooms, and changing the lives of our students before it’s too late.
St. Andrew’s School