Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teaching & Technology Conference

My school's teacher program hosted a state-wide conference on teaching and technology, and as lead TA I got to attend free (on a "scholarship"). I also got to run back and forth between the tech building and my department, as my advisor was somewhat inflexible about me attending a conference on our lab meeting day.

As with any conference, the workshops were hit and miss. There were some interesting discussions about Web 3.0 and Students 2.0, and sessions on what a wiki is and how to make use of it. As far as highlights go, there are two:

1. At 8:30 Wednesday morning I was introduced to Zotero, a Firefox-based reference management software. I promptly spent my free time between workshops converting my previous, insane, Excel-based managment. The bibliography export isn't perfect (it insists on including doi information on half the references), but the ability to have all the information, including the abstract, saved by a click of the mouse is more than enough to make up for this. This new productivity should go a long way to appeasing my advisor over my attendance.

2. The lawyers presented on mind mapping software, which looked interesting enough - I'm tempted to check out the freeware. The interesting part, however, was that they were demonstrating their department's product ($$), and had mentioned to the company that it was being demonstrated, and had been given a book, software, and t-shirts to give away. The drawing for the freebies consisted of one presenter throwing everyone's cards up in the air, and the other trying to catch one. It was worth jotting down my name just to watch. (I got a t-shirt for coming up with a use of mind mapping software earlier).

3. An intriguing presentation on using Second Life as an educational tool. One presenter used a Second Life location as a substition for a powerpoint (a kind of distance learning opportunity, I guess), and the other demonstrated NOAA's Island of demonstration tools for teaching about science. None of these seem to apply to my discipline, but it was interesting to watch. How soon will we be fulfilling the science fiction fantasy of sitting at computers instead of attending classes?

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