Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Trip to Toronto

Well, I only went virtually, but still...

Background first. I was invited several months ago to give a presentation at the International Reading Association's annual convention in Toronto. It was to be a part of a day long preconference institute. Try as I might, I could not find the $ to get me out there for a couple of days, and I was extremely disappointed. In sending my regrets to the organizers, I threw out the idea of presenting virtually, kind of as an afterthought. Well, that afterthought became reality.

Last Sunday I gave the presentation, via a DVD I produced. There is/was a wiki, we had a live Seattle/Toronto Skype chat after the presentation, and it was just a huge thrill. And an incredible learning experience.

I started my presentation a couple of months ago, writing an abstract and laying out what I thought would be an informative presentation. My travels through producing a 30 minute piece took me to three of my third graders' homes, where I interviewed and filmed them while they were blogging. It took me through the ins and outs of filming myself, trying to figure out what looked good (not much), what sounded good, and then learning that I just had to stop SOMEtime, for goodness sake, and finally learn to live with what I had. It was quite a journey.

Then there was all the incidental learning - pbwiki, which I had not used nearly as much as wikispaces. I learned the basics of Camtasia, a very slick program to to produce all sorts of A/V presentations, in pretty much any format you want. I learned tons more about compression, file sizes, video displays. The dvd I sent out for the conference was over 4 GB - that was interesting to learn about, too, burning one of those puppies. Afterwards I even put up a couple of pieces from the presentation on teachertube.... then of course was embedding those videos here and there... it never ends.

Ah yes, but what about the message? It was all about blogging with my third graders, of course. The biggest problem was that I just had way too much to say. How to condense the message and at the same time make it meaningful for an audience I knew nothing about was a challenge. I'm afraid I got a little scattered at times. What I ended up showing was the world of blogging in the elementary classroom - what it is like for my kids and me. I decided that was the important message to give - just to show people exactly what it is like for my kids and me. The audience saw and listened to three of my kids blogging from their homes. This was an eye opener to me, too. I also just talked on camera, as somebody might do at a conference presentation - from my back yard and from my classroom.

And then it was 15 minutes too long. But most of the material from the cutting room floor ended up on the wiki - along with the presentation itself. Here are the main bits and pieces:
  • Technology and Literacy: Perspectives from the Classroom: precon1small.wmv (63 MB, 30 min) - the main presentation.
  • Family Internet Night: familyinternetnight.wmv(28 MB, 8 min.) - one of the cuts, but stands well enough on its own. It's a PowerPoint presentation with commentary.
  • SSR 2.0, the Podcast: ssr1.wmv (4 MB, 6 min, podcast/screencast) - blending of a podcast done some time ago with some still images - just seeing if I could do this in Camtasia
  • The wiki for the preconference institute
  • My presentation page on the wiki

Many thanks to:

  • Janice Friesen, for mentioning my name to the conference organizers over a year ago.
  • Jill Castek, for encouraging and guiding me though the process, and for hosting my session in person.
  • Don Leu, for his "Miss Rumphius Effect" and for his leading the search into new literacies.


Sarah said...

How exciting, impressive.

Developer said...

Outstanding -- and I haven't even seen the video's yet.

-- dave --

Anonymous said...

It is just SOOOO cool that this worked out. After I passed your name on to the planning committee I didn't hear anything and I was guessing that it hadn't worked out... and yet it sounds like it worked out much better than either of us could have imagined!

I hope that there are lots of reading teachers out there trying new things because of it!

Wesley Fryer said...

Great work, Mark! I think your challenge for teachers to help students read and develop skills in reading informational texts is VERY important. Super job, thanks for sharing with IRA and with us!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting all of this and for doing all of the work. I really enjoyed the video presentation, but it did make me think you need to change the picture on your blog! ;-)


Mark Ahlness said...

Janice, thanks. I keep telling myself my beard will go any minute, so why change the picture... we shall see, as the warm weather comes... maybe a morphing portrait?