Four Tech Takeaways from the 2013 NAESP Conference

Communicator August 2013, Volume 36, Issue 12

August 2013, Volume 36, Issue 12

Word cloud generated from this year’s conference tweets (#naesp13)

NAESP’s 2013 Annual Conference in Baltimore buzzed with great ideas and insights. One major theme throughout the conference was the ever-changing role of technology in education. Conference blogger Kimberlyn Pratesi wrote a post about the “discussion of how technology has changed the dynamic of professional learning.” But what are some of those tech-driven changes, and what do they mean for educators?

Gamification is the new normal.
Games aren’t just for entertainment anymore. Gabe Zichermann argued in his plenary session, “The Gamification Revolution,” that games are making the biggest strides in education. Gamification, in its simplest form, is applying game-like mechanics to existing content. It may involve using point systems, or creating “levels” for tasks that students are undertaking.

Game-based learning is growing in popularity with good reason. Research shows fluid intelligence increases when people seek novelty, challenge themselves, think creatively, do things the hard way, and network. All of these features can be found in games today. According to Zichermann, there are three things to remember about gamification: feedback, friends, and fun. These are the ingredients for engaging students, and they help create meaningful learning experiences.

Use your iPad to enhance your workflow.
School leadership is too complicated to tackle with pens, papers, and folders. In his two-hour workshop, “iPad Essentials for School Leaders,” Justin Baeder showed attendees how they can be more productive with an iPad in hand. With the internet at your fingertips, there’s no shortage of web-based solutions to everyday problems principals face. For instance:

  • Remembering to reply to that email you weren’t able to deal with right away is made simple with Nudgemail. Write to with a date or time in the subject line, and receive a reminder that fits within your schedule.
  • Writing, printing, and distributing forms can be a cumbersome process. Wufoo offers a quick and easy way to create and share forms so you don’t have to print them out and spend time making copies.

There is an app for that.
There are tons of apps for various devices, and many are specific to education. Find the apps that work for you. Here are a few to start with:

  • Evernote. An easy to use application that takes notes, web clippings, files, and images and syncs them to your phone, tablet, and PC. It’s an efficient way to save and store important ideas and information in one place.
  • Dropbox. A simple online storage system. Just sign up, download the app, and you’re ready to put files in it. You can access your files on any computer or device with Dropbox, and it’s all secure. If you choose, can provide access to colleagues or friends, so you can share files and improve your workflow.
  • Diigo. Another useful Web-based note-taking system, Diigo is a great way to research online. It features social bookmarking, highlighting, and annotation. It also provides free upgrades to educators, making it an attractive option for teachers and principals wanting to collaborate.
  • Skype. This app lets you make voice or video calls to anyone else with Skype. But it’s more than just a way to connect with friends and family. Skype in the classroom provides free group video calls to teachers, and ideas for lessons that use this technology. Mystery Skype offers one example of how to leverage the power of video calling. Classrooms from across the world connect via Skype, and students share clues with each other to guess where they are.

You really should join Twitter.
Why? Free professional development. Twitter is where the world’s smartest educators go to connect and share best practices. During his plenary session, Todd Whitaker pointed out that Twitter is the quickest way for a teacher to discover, say, what a flipped classroom is. If you tweeted the question, “What’s a flipped classroom?” Whitaker argued that, “by the end of the day, you’ll have 15-20 responses from people… and they’ll send you blogs, articles, and links to video clips of them doing the flipped classroom.”

It’s important to note that even though some are more active than others, users at any level have something to gain. Peter DeWitt made the point in a post-conference blog post on that, “you get out of Twitter what you put into it.”

It’s easy to make an account and follow the conversations that matter to you. You can find out more about Twitter basics and some great chats to follow here. Make sure to follow @NAESP for professional development opportunities and education news.

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