Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sixth Annual Tech Expo Provides Educators with New Strategies for Learning

The latest updates and strategies in instructional technology were among the impressive line-up of topics discussed at the April 27 Tech Expo, an annual event sponsored by the LHRIC that attracted nearly 300 of the region's educators and administrators.

Here are some highlights from a day filled with informative workshops.

"Transmedia: The Next Technology Flood"
Teachers overwhelmed with the many resources available to them on the Internet should fret no more, said Dr. Annette Lamb, a professor at Indiana University and a former school library media specialist and computer teacher. Dr. Lamb (shown in the picture to the left) reassured educators they could "create fluid environments for teaching and learning" by using Transmedia, the technique of telling a story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

Transmedia storytelling often involves nonlinear, participatory elements, explained Dr. Lamb. A myriad of resources are often connected to the stories, such as print materials, documents, maps, web-based clues, mobile Apps, cell phone calls, social media connections, activities and games, and media (including audio, video and animation).

"Whether you are reading a block of text or even an entire book, you can seamlessly move from one technology to the other and experience and participate in a story," explained Dr. Lamb.

Examples include The 39 Clues, an interactive and multi-platform adventure series combining books, collectible cards and an online game where readers become a part of the story. The Skeleton Creek series, the Cathy's book series and The Amanda Project are other examples of interactive books that Dr. Lamb recommended.

Pottermore is an online experience from J.K. Rowling that is built around the Harry Potter books. While it's far from being complete, said Dr. Lamb, there is already an opportunity for participants in the experience to write their own chapters to the series.

Dr. Lamb encourages educators to use all of the interactive media elements available to them, even gaming software that can be integrated into learning. "The students already have their cell phones ready and available, so let's make use of those," she noted.

Teachers might also want to direct their students to the website, We Tell Stories, a series of six stories based on classic novels that are being retold through different mediums. One story, "The Thirty-Nine Steps," the classic tale by John Buchan, walks readers through the story via Google Maps. Students can also create episodes of a new digital series called Inanimate Alice, a Transmedia project that unfolds over time and is on multiple platforms. Text, images, music, sound effects, puzzles and games all combine to tell the story of 10-year-old Alice, a budding game animator and designer.

To discover more resources for online learning, visit Dr. Lamb's popular website,

Skype in Schools: The Future is Now
In Amy Rosenstein's third grade class at Concord Road Elementary School in the Ardsley School District, children have the opportunity to learn about the world around them thanks to Ms. Rosenstein's efforts in using Skype as an educational videoconferencing tool. On a regular basis, Ms. Rosenstein connects with former students, Matthew and Josh Levy, who now live in Hong Kong.

Before embarking on the initiative, Ms. Rosenstein thought it would be a good idea if her students learned some Mandarin in the weeks prior to their first Skype session with the boys and their mother. They also used Google Earth to locate Hong Kong on a map.

During the Tech Expo session, Ms. Rosenstein talked to the boys and gave participants a chance to ask them questions about their new surroundings and the experience of Skyping with their friends in Ardsley.

Before embarking on a project such as this, Ms. Rosenstein said it is important that teachers define their goals. Are they doing this to try out a new technology or is this being done so that the children can learn something new?

"Be creative and relaxing," added Ms. Rosenstein, "and also prepare the kids for the unexpected, meaning that a connection might not work or may be lost during a conversation." Before a typical Skype session, Ms. Rosenstein asks her students to prepare questions ahead of time, which are reviewed by her. The process, she said, has taught her students the value of asking good questions that can generate a well-rounded conversation.

Interactive Textbooks and iBooks Author
Apple's latest digital textbook, known as iBooks Author, was of interest to many Tech Expo participants. Apple representative Seana Dowling explained the technicalities of the iBooks 2 for iPad and how teachers can use it to create textbooks using simple drag-and-drop mechanisms.

"The interactivity of such books will open doors for teachers who will be able to take the content they've been gathering over the years and put it into a really unique environment that's engaging for students and that's really accessible," said Ms. Dowling.

Recent examples of digital iBooks include "Life on Earth," by E.O. Wilson, which can be viewed on an iPad using iBooks 2 or on a PC or Mac using iTunes.

Other workshops covered topics such as virtual meetings using Adobe Connect, Skype, Polycom and Web 2.0; credit recovery and blended learning; Scratch, the MIT programming language; Verizon Thinkfinity; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); Ning networks; integrating Common Core with state STEM standards; and more.