Friday, July 11, 2014

ISTE 2014 - Great to reconnect with everyone!

Originally posted at

This past week was the 34th International Society for Technology in Education Conference - ISTE (previously known at NECC) in Atlanta Georgia. There was a record number of attendees, over 14,000, yet ISTE still feels like a reunion for me. One of the best parts of going to a conference is the people you get to meet and connect with. I’ve been going to ISTE, off an on since 2006, and every time I go I see some of my old conference friends and make some new ones in the process. These are people I have connected with virtually, and maybe never met in person, but ISTE gives me a chance for us to have some important face-to-face discussions. One of the issues that many people have with technology is that they feel it is disconnecting us and making us less social. In fact, one of the presentations I attended at ISTE concerned dispelling myths such as these.(  I think that technology such as Twitter and Facebook allows me to have deeper connections with people in my field and stay connected with them in-between the conferences. It makes the in-person connections just that much better. 

Through these connections I get to see how other parts of the country, and world are dealing with some of the same issues and problems in my area. Although ISTE is a technology conference, and has an impressive vendor hall to attest to that, I find that some of the best sessions and exhibitors are really focused on educational objective first. In fact, one of the best sessions I went to had almost nothing to do with technology at all, but about collaboration. Matthew Kay, Diana Laufenberg and Marcie Hull gave some fantastic examples about collaboration in their classroom, but what struck me was how much their session was about showcasing how they facilitated good working relationships between their students, how they encouraged groups and collaboration in an environment that wasn’t necessarily centered around a group project. That you need to help students understand how to be part of an effective group. The technology supports these objectives and connects the students when outside of the classroom. It is easy to let the technology be the focus rather than letting your educational objectives drive your instruction.

I was lucky to present three times this ISTE, the most I have ever presented and although I felt our sessions went really well, I didn’t get the chance to go to as many sessions as I wanted to. The great thing about ISTE is that there really is something for everyone, from the newbies who are just starting to integrate technology to those that have been working with schools to go to 1:1 for over 20 years. Even though I couldn’t be everywhere, through tools like Twitter, I got to live through others experiences. I find that tweeting during sessions allows for me to take my own version of “notes” and using Twitter favorites enables me to save some of my favorite resources to use later. In fact, I have linked my Diigo bookmarks ( a fantastic online bookmarking tool) with my Twitter so that items I favorite on Twitter are automatically saved into my Diigo bookmarks.

So yes, even though I attended some great sessions, the heart of this conference is getting to connect with my once online and now in-person friends. For me to see what they are doing in their classrooms and work and think about possible connections. Some of my friends don’t even go to sessions, they just hang out in the Blogger’s Cafe and have discussions the entire time. For me, I value what these discussions can bring and I like to attend sessions that expand my vision and idea of what technology integration can be. In the end, this may be a technology conference, but its the people I go to for.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

QR Codes and Icebreakers

I am already a big QR Code fan, but I recently came across this post from Tony Vincent that
combined QR Codes with Cubes and Web 2.0 Reflection Tools. I can't wait to try it out in my class this fall. However, the opportunity arose for me to create something very similar this summer. I am working with our recent graduates from the college at the Beginning Teacher Institute and was placed in charge of the Icebreaker the first day. Now you either hate or love Icebreakers, but they can be helpful in getting the conversation flowing at a table. We knew as a team that we wanted to connect our recent graduates with other 1st and 2nd year teachers and share their experiences. We came up with two lists of Icebreaker Questions:

Current Teacher Icebreaker questions

What was the funniest thing that has every happened in your classroom?

What was your first parent/teacher conference like?

What one thing did you wish you had done differently on your first day of school?

What topic/activity are you most excited about teaching this year?

What are your extra duties like?

What does your dream classroom look like?

What was the most used supply in your classroom this year?

What internet resource do you use the most to get teaching ideas?

Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

First Year Teacher Icebreaker questions

What is your favorite “teacher” movie?

What was your favorite moment from student teaching?

If you had to pick a song as your own personal “theme song” what would it be?

Who was your favorite teacher as a student and why?

What excites you the most about the first day of school?

What were your best/worst subjects in school and what subjects would you want to learn now?

When you were in grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

Name your favorite children's story.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Name 3 things you think will become obsolete in ten years.

What is the best or most interesting class you have ever taken in high school, college or graduate school?

Making QR Codes

Now that I had the questions I wanted to make them into QR Codes. One of the nice things about QR Codes is that they don't have to be just web URLs, they can be text or numbers or geo locations. I used to generate my "static" qr codes. I then used a basic cube template and added my qr codes to each of the sides. I printed them on different colors for each set, and voila my icebreaker was born!

Why QR Codes

The advantage of using QR Codes in this instance is that a person doesn't know which question they are going to be asked, it is truly at random. QR codes are great for self-check or anytime you need to conceal an element of an activity. I brought some iPod touches with a QR Code scanning program on them, but most of the participants already had an app on their smart phone.

All in all it worked to be a great icebreaker and a nice introduction to QR codes and their applications to the group.


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Digital Divide and Using Inforgraphics as Asessment

Even though I feel the Digital Native vs. Digital Immigrant debate has been rehashed a million times, every semester I still have the discussion with my students. Primarily because it is new to them and also because the same misconceptions still come up. What I love is that Mark Prensky basically wrote about Digital Natives around the time that most of my students were born, yet 95% of them consider themselves "Digital Immigrants." It really is interest more than age. So after we get the Digital Native Debate out of the way I want them to really focus on the Digital Divide. This is what I feel is the heart of the technology divide in our country - the haves and the have nots. I also believe that education can be the great equalizer for this. I asked my students to read about the Digital Divide and we could have had another debate, or I could have had them write a paper or blog post about why it was important, but in an Intro to Education Technology class, my assessments need to practice what I preach. So to assess their understanding of the Digital Divide I had them create an Infographic to explain the issue.

Here was the set-up:

Digital Divide Infographic

infographicBased on this week's reading on the Digital Divide as well as the resources that have been gathered online (See our Diigo Group), you will create an infographic that would be used to explain the Digital Divide to a group of teachers. This could be something that you would post on your blog, or tweet to your followers to help your fellow teachers understand this issue.

There are several Infographic Web 2.0 tools available including:

Piktochart -
Has great built in features to create charts and visuals to explain statistics

Has some nice templates to chose from for you to create an infographic

Very similar to Easelly and template based

Infogram -
Boasts interactive infographics

Guiding Questions

Your infographic does not need to address all of these questions, but that can be used to help guide the focus of your project

1) Who is/isn't connected?
2) What type of technology? Phones, laptops, etc
3) How are they connecting?
4) What attributes matter? (income, education, geography, etc.)
5) Who connects how to what?
6) How sophisticated is the usage?
7) How do we overcome the divide?

Basically you need to address:
What is the Divide?
Why does it matter?
What are some solutions to solve it?

My students produced some incredible Infographics. In particular, I want to highlight this one from Shannon (used with Permission).

I gave my students the opportunity to use any infographic tool that they wanted. However, most gravitated towards Piktochart and I would have to say that the best looking infographics tended to use that tool. There was a definite learning curve for the different tools and in future I would scaffold that a bit more. However, I having students create an Infographic was a great way for me to assess their content knowledge on the subject.

Monday, March 4, 2013

NCTIES this week!

I love conferences (I think that is obvious :) but I REALLY love my local NC conference on Technology in Education, NCTIES. It just feels like one big reunion where I get to be immersed in the awesomeness that is technology integration in NC!  It will be taking place in Downtown Raleigh near the end of the week and has the theme of Game On: Play to Learn (I have a feeling Lucas Gillespie may have had some influence on that). There will be some amazing speakers this year including Mark Prensky, David Warlick, and Richard Byrne.

This year I have the honor to present with a group of amazing people.

Running your own PD: Edcamp Style 
How do you get buy-in from faculty and staff for your professional development? How do you share the collective knowledge of your faculty with one another? Use the Edcamp model to flip traditional PD on it's head!
Strand:  Professional development

Bethany Smith, NC State University
Steven Anderson, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Dorene Bates, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Marlo Gaddis, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Mark Samberg, Bertie County Schools

We will be presenting during Concurrent Session  6 on Thursday, March 7 which is from 3:40pm-4:30pm in Room 304.

I hope you will get the chance to drop by and see us!

Friday, March 1, 2013

To Prezi or not to Prezi

One of the biggest issues I run into with technology integration is the overabundant use of PowerPoint. Now my students know that PowerPoint is never an acceptable use of technology in my classroom (even with my PowerPoint Zen approach - I just don't go there anymore), but I find that many want to sneak a Prezi into their presentations. Now, to me a bad PowerPoint just makes a bad Prezi and I have issues with some of the "motion sickness" I get with a Prezi. So to be honest I just stopped using Prezi's for awhile. However, recently I gave two presentations that really lent themselves to the tool and they were better presentations because I used Prezi.


I gave a presentation on Millenials to a small group of graduate students at the Design School on campus. They wanted to know a bit about the characteristics an traits of the Millenial generation. I found that when I was doing research for this topic I used a basic Spiderweb brainstorming tool. (see photo).
I immediately realized that this looked like a Prezi and that having it in a Prezi format would really help my presentation.

NMC Horizon Report 2013

Every year the New Media Consortium publishes a report on current trends in Higher Education. They look at technological trends at universities across the globe and do a great job of providing an outlook of what to expect in coming years. Every year I present this report to a group of Higher Education graduate students and what technology they can expect to see when they graduate. In the past I have always used Prezi for these presentations because Prezi integrates with YouTube so well. However, this time I actually found a template that fit the idea of forecasting the future of technology, i.e. what is on the Horizon for the next few years.

All in all I'm happy that I gave Prezi another try, but I still feel that the technology has to to fit your goals for the presentation, not the other way around

BTW: To get a Prezi to embed in Blogger you need to look in your embed code and add an s after your http in ourder for it to embed correctly!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Digital Footprint

This week I asked my students to think about what their Digital Footprint is about online. They Google Searched themselves and used Skitch to illustrate what they found about themselves. They definitely had different opinions about how much information to post online. So I wanted to post my own search shots.

On my first search of just "Bethany Smith" only or two pages really applied to me.
Once I added "NC" to "Bethany Smith" almost all the webpages applied to me.
When I switched my search to the common username I use "bethanyvsmith" I found that all the web pages applied to me. But these are all things I want to be out there. There are no photos of my family or my personal Facebook use. If someone Googled me, I would be happy with what they found out about me.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Word Clouds

I started taking word clouds out of my Web 2.0 bag of tricks.  They just weren't very educational. Sure they were fun, but what do we actually learn from a word cloud? They are almost too easy. So I started coming across some really great ways to use word clouds in education.

Apparently I have underestimated the humble Word cloud.

So this semester I am using Word Clouds as a way to introduce ourselves in my online class. Trying to come up with key words that sum up your personality may be one of my favorite ways of using word clouds, plus it is much more interesting to read as a participant.  Every student is asked to create a word cloud and post to the discussion board (see previous post on my love/hate relationship with discussion boards).

Here is my Tagxedo Introduction Word Cloud

This allows me to introduce Word Clouds in a fun way, but also hint at some of the potential later on, without spending a good deal of time on them.

Sometimes just because it's simple, doesn't mean it's easy.