Yesterday and today I attended the Upstate Technology Conference sponsored and hosted by Greenville County School District (Greenville, SC). My friends and I presented a hands-on session that promised sandbox playtime to learn one or all of the tools we presented. Here is how our session read in the conference booklet:
There’s An App for That: Using Web Apps to Organize, Simplify, and Enrich Your Life
Come learn about web applications and 2.0 tools that help educators both streamline and enhance their professional (and personal) lives. See real examples and learn tricks and tips as Cathy, Heather, and Fran take attendees through a tool showcase (including Evernote, Dropbox, and iGoogle). Leave equipped to “organize, simplify, and enrich” your life knowing “there’s an app for that!”
I had a great time networking with friends that are a major part of my PLN–ones I see only on a conference basis for the most part. We had fun spending time with the vendors, the other presenters, and conference attendees.
I’ve been presenting at conferences for many years, so one would think I had this down pat. But as I reflect tonight with my copresenters Fran Bullington and Heather Loy (in a Google shared document no less) I am disappointed in some major issues we had.
Our session was scheduled for a lab (as requested) so that we could give attendees time to sign on, open, and “play” with the tools! We purposefully planned to spend 30 minutes or less of our time showcasing, demonstrating, and giving examples of use for the tools. The remaining 30 minutes was supposed to be so attendees could get in the mix and have three people available to answer questions. Our past presentation experience tells us that attendees want to get in the tool. Will Richardson says before educators can have a vision for engaging learners using tools, they themselves must embrace and learn them. Our goal was to indeed provide opportunity and be available to answer questions or offer help.
It was a good plan. Only we ran into a few snafus–ain’t Murphy’s law so much fun?
- The day before I heard in Chris Craft‘s session on presentations how IMPORTANT it was to have a “Plan B.” We did not have a Plan B, and with three minutes before go-time, we had no Internet connection. WHAT!!?? Thank goodness Heather had her aircard. Whew!
- We were in a standard school lab (estimated thirty workstations.) When we learned this we were so happy!! But we quickly realized after getting in there we would not have a lot of extra room to move around to help folks. It was a tight little room VERY crowded. We were not going to be able to easily move between attendees to answer questions or help –and remember there were THREE of us.
- We had given thought to presenting it twice, but nixed as selfishly I told my copresenters it would limit us in what we could attend ourselves. So when our room was full, every seat taken, we still had attendees piling in, bringing chairs from other rooms. I did not want to tell them they could not come, and thought maybe (hopefully) when the hands on time came, the ones without a workstation would leave. This did not happen. So providing the one on one time to help or answer questions was extremely limited and difficult.
- In our quest to be digital, I suggested we make our handout a wiki or online document. Fran Bullington had even created a handout to go with her part, but I frowned on it (sorry Fran!!!) and convinced her to embed it as a pdf that attendees could download. And she did it. I forget though that there are many educators who are not at the point where they can give up that physical handout, and when many of the attendees found out we weren’t offering one, their displeasure was noticeable. As we presented the “sit and get” part (uggghhh), we had many interrupt numerous times to ask us to read out URLs. Totally NOT their fault.
- We had business cards made to give out that included contact info and URLs they would need, but in our brainy planning, since we were in a thirty workstation lab, we only brought thirty. That wound up being a not so great idea. BUT the business cards were BEAUTIFUL (thanks to Heather!!)
Is that enough snafu info? We had our share. Im sure I could list other issues, but I’m trying to focus on the ones where I have yet again learned a lesson. So Here are the game plans for this presentation that will happen again at the end of July at the SCETV Summer Workshops:
- Despite my general dislike of handouts, make one that minimally has URLs. Sigh. Maybe a postcard like the one Doug Johnson used at SCASL a few years ago. And HAVE MANY!
- Make one web portal too with all the necessary links, and in the lab setting we will be in, have that page fully loaded and ON the screen for the attendees. We had three separate pages, and so had to share these URLs frequently during our presentation and sandbox time. I’m sure this was very frustrating too our attendees (as shared in our exit survey.)
- In our lab setting, once all the computers are taken, CLOSE the door and don’t allow anyone else in. I really felt bad that we had so many in our room without access. But after today’s fiasco, despite how bad it will make me feel, I know this is a MUST to have attendees have a good experience.
- Since apparently our topic was pretty popular (dare I think we as presenters drew such a crowd??) we should have done the session two times. I have already contacted the SCETV workshop organizers and let them know we can do it twice there if needed. (And the SCETV workshop folks were there, so they know how it was!)
To leave on a positive note, I must thank Fran Bullington and Heather Loy for working with me and collaborating to have a really dynamic (and apparently very popular) session for UTC and SCETV. We will do SO MUCH better next time ladies! We are, afterall, the media muskateers!