RJ Stangherlin is a Language Arts teacher at Salisbury High School in Salisbury Township School District. She is PA DEN’s representative at this year’s T+L2 conference. She will be providing us with insights and happenings at T+L2 through her daily blogs.
Call me partial to Pennsylvania, but show me anyone who does an interactive workshop better than Scott Kinney. No one can make an hour fly faster. Forget that he hails from the sweetest place on earth and brings chocolate prizes–Scott makes learning fun. He knows his audience well and admits we are the survivors of the lecture method and do not want to learn that way. Scott’s session, Differentiated Instruction: Using Digital Media to Create Multiple Paths to Learning, began with teams taking a “diversity quiz” using Instruction. From identifying classroom diversity we moved to creating a class profile—six representative students needing differentiated instruction. By using the simple and advanced features of unitedstreaming, Scott showed us how we could meet our students’ needs.
Because unitedstreaming has multiple functions, it can be used for multiple intelligences. An average student needing repetition can download a clip and play it back, controlling the needed repetition using Windows media player. A hearing impaired student can watch videos in closed caption. ESL students can watch videos in Spanish, and many of the Spanish-language videos also play in closed caption format. A bright but bored student can be moved up several levels by carefully chosen and previewed upper-grade videos. An energetic visual learner can click “Articles” and read print media because unitedstreaming is partnered with Funk and Wagnall. Yet another partnership with Inspiration allows a self-directed learner to view a concept map with imbedded hyperlinks. A quiet, reserved student can create his own video using “Advance Search” for editable clips. Let’s face it—our classrooms are diverse in many ways—and unitedstreaming makes differentiated learning tools that are only a point and click away.
Because Scott is always a hard act to follow, some of us decided to work the vendors, and for that experience we followed the lead of DEN SC member Danielle Abernethy. Danielle is a veteran conference presenter and makes knowing and working the vendors an art form. She was a Best of the Best at NECC two years ago, and gives guided vendor tours you want to take. Alan Engle, DEN TX and I met vendors with products and services we liked: Inspiration, Intel, Tech4Learning, Net Trekker, and Atomic Learning. Visions gave me The Best Web Sites for Teachers but my favorite is Inspiration because it is a great mapping tool and they gave me the entire package free. Best of all about this conference: its size. T + L2 is larger than PETE & C but smaller than NECC, so everything is well spaced. You do not feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of what you need to cover, just conflicted when three great sessions create conflict in the same time slot.
That segues into the next session, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, and that just did not work for me: too summative and too simplistic. The room was packed but unpacked by the time the presenter lauded the merits of Word’s thesaurus tool. Enough said.
But then there was John Kuglin. As DEN members, we were given a special presentation just for us and our DEN leaders. Having tomorrow’s luncheon keynote speaker today—and all to ourselves—it just doesn’t get any better. Cutting edge—you betcha’. And more. John pioneers High Definition Learning, combining 2+ seemingly unrelated technologies into one new product or service to form a new high-impact solution for educators. Older examples of HD Learning include the first cell phone, email, Mosaic, and Microsoft. Newer examples of HD Learning—and a visual mindblower—are combining and layering GIS and Google Earth with geopositioning Digital Storytelling and/or photos, videos, and articles. You just have to see this cutting edge use of technology because it is “beyond words.” After this incredible presentation, Hall Davidson, the end word on copyright and fair use law, interviewed and videotaped our impressions as DEN members. If you know Hall, you can imagine the fun we had with our interviews.
Dinner at Beppo di Buca’s—a wonderful hoot of a time—unpacking from a wonderful but long day. We have really bonded, truly formed a network of lifelong friends. This time next year some of you will have the good fortune to attend as a DEN scholarship winner, and nothing I can say will ever adequately convey the honor, the privilege, the learning curve, and the fun you will experience as a member of Discovery Education Network. It is beyond words.