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ACTEM 2013

Last Friday I attended the ACTEM Maineducation conference in Augusta.  I look forward to this conference every year and always come away inspired and rejuvenated.  This year the conference felt especially relevant as I eagerly await the arrival of student iPads at the elementary schools.

ACTEM organizers always seem to do an amazing job choosing keynote speakers. This year’s choice was Kevin Honeycutt.  He was incredibly charismatic, funny and engaging and his passion for teaching is apparent.  Like all great speakers at technology conferences, it seems, he didn’t really talk all that much about technology.  Instead, he spoke about the importance of relationships and stories.  Technology can be used to enhance both of these, but it’s not the end all be all.  Kevin describes himself as a “digital dumpster diver,” meaning that he’ll use any technology or tool that he can if it means reaching a student in a real and meaningful way.  One of his mantras was “Kids are doing this; are we role modeling?”  He also questioned the idea that using technology is somehow “cheating” (the example he used was Dragon Dictation for writing), asking “Is using a wheelchair ramp cheating?”  Of course not!  For Honeycutt, technology is a means to an end and in his hands it is an extraordinary tool.

The first session that I attended was “My 10 Different Difficult Search Problems… and How You Can Solve Them Easily” presented by Dan Russell.  Russell is, let’s just say, a Google wizard.  He can find the answer to anything and he shared some of his strategies and resources.  As an elementary school librarian my need to do “deep searching” is fairly limited, but I was nevertheless pretty amazed and impressed by what he could find online.  His presentation is available here and if you’re interested in testing out your searching skills, you can check out SearchResearch, his blog.  Each week he posts a research puzzle and then the following week shows you the steps to find the answer.  As a little personal challenge, I’m going to follow his blog and see how I do.  This week’s question is:

1. What’s the name of that style of hat?

2. Who is she?

3. Can you find another image with the same kind of hat?

Tricky, no?

The second session that I went to was “Using iPads for Content Creation.”  I was familiar with many of the apps highlighted in this session, but it was great to see how other teachers and librarians are using them.  The Using iPads for Content Creation document is a really useful tool that I will refer back to when our iPads arrive.

After hearing Kevin Honeycutt’s keynote, I revised my plan for the afternoon and attended his session “Designing Your Digital Legacy.”  This was a free-ranging discussion about the importance of kids and adults managing their digital legacies for which Kevin had some great examples and strategies.  My favorite quotation from this session is “Secret lives breed sociopaths and politicians… kids shouldn’t have secret lives online or off.”  His suggestion was to “tame the tools” by using them first personally and then teaching them to kids.  He also advises that everyone set up a Google alert on their name and that kids should be taught to think of their names as their brand.  He shared a number of projects that he has done with kids that use technology to improve the world using Tunecore, Shapeways and Ponoko.

Finally, for the last session of the day I attended “Infographics for Libraries.”  Infographics are all the rage and I was curious to learn more about them.  Essentially, infographics are a way of sharing data visually, so they are useful for reporting and/or sharing information.  For older students (and possibly younger students, although I need to ponder the logistics of this a bit more), infographics can be used for both process and product.  The tools that were highlighted are:

So, it was another great ACTEM conference!  As always, the sessions were enlightening and the opportunity to network with other educators was fantastic.

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