Friday, May 09, 2008

The “No-Strands-Or-Tracks-Tags-Only” Conference

This year’s MOREnet Instructional Technology Conference or MITC will be held October 5-7, 2008 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Lake of the Ozarks. The conference theme is “Teaching and Learning 2.0” and will focus on (any guesses?) Web 2.0. Although the theme and the focus are not exactly original, the organization of the conference’s presentations is, if not original, definitely 2.0. From the conference web page:
"This year we're trying something new at MITC. Rather than try to force conference sessions into a few broad tracks, we've borrowed a concept from Web 2.0 and will be using "session tags." Select any of the following tags that you think apply to your session:

21st Century Learning
Authoring tools
Blended learning
Course Management
Critical Thinking
Digital media
Distance Learning
Interactive learning
Multimedia content
Network management
Online Resources
Social Networking
Student Management Systems
Technology Integration
Virtual Field Trips
Virtual Learning Environment
Virtual Worlds
Web 2.0

I like this idea. I think it will make searching for presentations easier for participants. As I am preparing my presentation proposals I am not making decisions on which strand my presentations fit in best. Strands can be very obscure even with a description and oftentimes a presentation could easily be placed in more than one strand. If you take a look at the same conference from two years ago, the strands or tracks were:
  • Instructional Technology Integration: This strand focuses on the incorporation of the various technology tools and resources available to teachers to enhance instruction. Look for information about interactive white boards, hand-held computers, blogs, podcasts, web quests, virtual libraries, instructional / educational software, and digital multimedia.
  • Administration & Management: Look for topics that address the issues administrators face related to student achievement such as data-driven decision making, No Child Left Behind, digital portfolios, teacher and administrative assessment, and student technology assessment.
  • Technology Leadership: These presentations will emphasize leading a technology-focused school and classroom, covering necessary resources and issues many schools face. You’ll find information on technology planning and policies; staff roles and standards; professional development; budgets and funding; network security and management; and technical support.
  • Distance Learning: This strand addresses distance learning technology, delivery methods, resources and opportunities for collaboration. Look for presentations that cover interactive videoconferencing, virtual field trips, content/course management, e-Conferencing, ITV consortiums and collaborations.
  • Collaboration & Networking: Here we’ll highlight opportunities for MOREnet members to engage each other to develop new insights and share best practices. We’ll showcase learning communities, cross-program collaboration opportunities, affinity groups and other ideas for networking with your peers.

Let’s say I wanted to present a session focused on global collaborations to enhance student learning. My presentation might include students using email, digital photography, digital video, digital storytelling, instant messaging, Google Earth, blogs and forums, wikis, web sites, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networking (Ning) and interactive videoconferencing. Based on the conference strands listed above, does this session fit better into “Instructional Technology Integration” or “Distance Learning?” There might not be a right answer and the session could be placed by the conference coordinators into either strand based solely upon the number of presentation submitted for each of the two strands. Presentations get moved to different strands all the time to balance out conference grids and schedules.

Now let’s look at tagging the same presentation submitted to this year's conference. The obvious tags are: Blog, Wiki, Podcasting, Social Networking and Videoconferencing. Additionally, I might tag the presentation as: Blended learning, Collaboration, Community, Interactive learning, Digital media, Distance Learning and Web 2.0. I am limited to 10 tags so a little more refinement would be needed before I submit my presentation proposal, but you get the idea.

I am anxious to see how the conference schedule looks once the proposals have been accepted. I believe this new method of tagging sessions will be successful and make the decisions on which sessions to attend easier to determine for the participants. Hope to see you there:-)

The deadline for
submitting presentations is May 16, 2008.

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Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.