Thoughts from the 2009 Southern Digital Literacy Conference

I just returned home from 2009 Southern Digital Literacy Conference presented by Bill Sheskey. My attendance was at the behest of our district’s ESOL Coordinator who would like me to work with the ESOL teachers to incorporate video into their classrooms. It was a good day of learning for all involved but here are some things I came away with:

  • No matter how you wish it, you need at least 2 hours to train someone how to plan, shoot and edit video even with a simple digital camcorder such as the Flip or Small Wonder. Especially if you use Windows Movie Maker. Producing video may have gotten much easier but you still need attention to detail. Two things that always trip new users. One is the fact one needs to transfer raw video files from the camcorder to a computer or flash drive before attempting to edit it. Two is the need to save a project as a file that can be shareable such as WMA, MP4, or FLV and why. If that confuses you, how about the different types of WMA files for different situations. Oy!
  • Do not attempt to take a whole class into a lab for the purpose of editing and publishing video unless the students are very experienced. You will exhaust yourself going from group to group dealing with technical problems and might get frustrated. Have one or two groups work with classroom computers so you can continue teaching but break away if you have too. During these interruptions the rest of the students can be doing something productive. Make sure you give enough time for the entire class to complete the project.
  • Keep video projects simple. I had one teacher who wanted to create Ken Burns-like documentaries which I tried to talk her out of. She kept waving her fine arts degree in front of me and continued on. At the end she hated the project, hated the students, and is now out of teaching (for other reasons along with this).
  • Plan, plan, plan! Plan for when the plan fails.
  • I came away with a new respect for Wolfram Alpha. It looks like additions to the site do a much better job of explaining how to use it. Trying to use it was always a problem I had with the Wolfram Alpha site much like a solution in search of a problem. As I played with the site I discovered if I entered musical notes as letters the site would produce how the notes would look on a music sheet. That alone impressed me enough to make a mental note to share this with music teachers next week.
  • Skype needs to become a one of the tools teachers should learn to use but more important have. This app can and has opened classrooms to the entire world. Our district has blocked the popular audio-visual communication site because it is a “peer to peer” application. I know one thing, I have never heard of any security problems associated with Skype.
  • There are so many Web 2.0 applications to choose from it is no wonder teachers get confused. As I think about all the things I want to show teachers on my Tech Monday sessions it boggles my mind. Need to keep things simple and sometimes stupid.

I really enjoyed my time in Greenville. Now it is time to put the learning into practice.