I returned from Denver last week having had a whirlwind two days at the ISTE Conference in the enormous Denver Convention Center. Although I didn’t catch the major keynote addresses in person or manage avoid all downtime by jam-packing each of my days with sessions from morning until night, I did have a good time meeting with people whom I’d only corresponded with via Twitter before and swapping ideas in person using more than 140 characters for most of our exchanges. I also saw a few presentations, notably Howard Rheingold‘s talk on “Crap Detection,” that I particularly enjoyed and helped me cement some of my ideas about the importance of emphasizing critical thinking, research, and evaluation skills in my own teaching — something about which I hope to post in the near future.
Most importantly, perhaps, is the session that David Stern and I put on about how MixedInk can be used in the classroom (for the official program description, see this link). While I’d done a small poster presentation at UT-Arlington last fall, the ISTE Conference was undoubtedly the largest venue at which I’d presented — a fact about which I was both a bit nervous, but also very excited. However, once the session got underway, I quickly realized that presenting at a conference was very much like my everyday job — teaching about new concepts, methods, and content. David and I were fortunate to have a receptive, attentive, and eagerly participatory audience who engaged with our question and posted good responses to our prompt about the value of technology in the classroom. This group asked good questions and offered interesting suggestions about how to use MixedInk — a few of which I’d never considered before, which made it particularly nice to get to learn something from the participants.
So, I’m now able to add a few ideas to my list of uses for MixedInk in the classroom based on the suggestions that attendees. A few of the most interesting were that MixedInk could be used within a school setting, but beyond the classroom to get feedback from the student body about suggested school policies or classroom rules. This use shares much in common with the original vision for MixedInk, which was established as a tool for public political participation. Therefore, this suggestion essentially uses that framework and applies it within a school setting. While time and access to the website would likely be the challenges to successfully establishing, for instance, a public forum developed to draft a suggested off-campus policy, I nevertheless can see MixedInk working well within this context to help students feel connected to the rules which affect them on a day-in, day-out basis.
Another idea was that MixedInk could be used as an individualized, yet collaborative tool for note-taking. As I read this suggestion, MixedInk would serve as the centralized place for all students to take and then post their class notes. Once this step was done, each MixedInk project would serve as a collective repository for other students to consult to see whether they gleaned the key ideas from the day’s lesson or missed something vital. While I like this idea, and think that there’s a lot of good potential and pedagogical value with crowdsourced notes (a la Brian Croxall), I’m not sure that this use fully takes advantage of MixedInk’s remixing functionality. Perhaps if the notes were over an in-class debate, or the assignment was to watch a debate and then synthesize a response about which side was more convincing and why, this approach would have more applicability, but I think the assignment, and its end product would have to be carefully considered to make using MixedInk valuable in this context.
Additionally, we also got some nice feedback (presented in reverse chronological order) in the midst of our presentation via the Twitter backchannel:
So, all-in-all, it was a successful outing with a great audience that provided some thought-provoking suggestions about MixedInk’s use that I hadn’t considered. The experience also made me excited about the potential for presenting in the future, so I’m in the midst of browsing around online checking out various Calls for Presentations. If anyone has suggestions about good conferences that are similar to (but undoubtedly smaller than) ISTE, I’d love to hear about your experiences there and which ones were good places to present and/or hear interesting presentations. Thanks again to David Stern for presenting with me, and to Vanessa Scanfeld, MixedInk co-founder, for getting me involved in this proposal initially.
For reference’s sake, I’ve included here the PPT presentation we used, as well as a few documents that MixedInk has produced about how their website can be used in the classroom.