I’ve always believed that getting teachers into this connected world will slowly trickle it’s way down to affect student learning…and today I proved myself right.

The 3rd grade is getting ready to open their market place where they will sell their homemade goods. One of their requirements is to create an ad to be shown on the SmartBoard when their market is open.

I’ve been working with the teacher to walk the students through the process of thinking about their ad. We decided that PowerPoint would be the best tool for the job and that each student could make two ads (two slides) that would then play in a slide show on the SmartBoard while their market was open.

Taking from my own experience of using the ideas out of the book and blog Presentation Zen, students started their brainstorming on paper first, away from the computer.

Garr Reynold’s believes (and I agree after going through these steps myself) that the computer really doesn’t allow you to be creative. It’s great for the finished product, but actually drawing things out on paper allows you to be far more creative and clear your mind of the other distractions that comes from working on a computer (i.e. facebook, twitter, music, etc).

So we did the same for students. We had them just brianstorm and create on paper first. Get an idea in their heads allow them to “feel” their ad before actually transforming it into digital format on a PowerPoint slide. To the right you can see a student brainstorming out their designs. We talked about picture palcement, fonts, backgrounds, etc. After they had a good idea of what they wanted to do, the students opened up their laptops and went to work.

So here’s how the breakdown of the lessons went. This was done with laptops in the classroom with each student having their own computer.

  • One hour on exploring and learning PowerPoint (text boxes, images, fonts, font size, backgrounds, rotating things). Students took to it like ducks to water. It was more of an explore session then a teaching lesson (co-teaching format between myself and classroom teacher).
  • 30 minutes on logo, branding, slogan, etc (lead by teacher).
  • 30 minutes on brainstorming ad ideas and sketching them out on paper (co-teaching).
  • 1 1/2 hours creating slides in PowerPoint (co-supporting)

It turned out to be a pretty good project. The kids finished up their ads today to be displayed tomorrow when their market opens.

In the end it just reinforces that by being in this connected always learning, presenting world that I was able to take what I know and transfer that to students. Is this something new or different? Probably not….it’s not a complex idea to have students brainstorm off the computer before producing something on a computer. But I do think it helps in learning how to best use a tool like PowerPoint. Understanding colors, boxes, layout, design, etc in 3rd grade in my mind….is pretty cool!

1. Before someone talks you into creating/organizing/hosting a conference make sure you’re prepared for the work ahead.

2. Once you are prepared for the work, double the time you think it will take, multiple that by two, and then you might be close.

3. Always remember you are doing this to better education (or educators) or so you hope.


It’s the day before the conference starts and big thanks to my Principal and ISB for giving me the week off to be here in Shanghai to finish planning for the conference. I really don’t know how I would have done it otherwise.

There are about 6 main organizer and then about another 6 helping us out on the ground. We have a total of about 550 people coming if we include everyone even the 60+ middle school and high school students who will be helping out with tech support.

It’s been a crazy conference and at the last planning meeting we found ourselves about 100 people over what we were expecting.

We started looking for more presenters and before I knew what had happened, everyone was looking at me.

Hence I’m now doing three presentations. If that’s not bad enough they’ve put me in the same sessions with the rest of our invited guess (OK, I did have some say in that part).

Now, it’s an honor to be considered to present along with the invited guests, and at the same time trying to organize and present at the same conference is not recommended.

But here I find myself the day before the conference scrambling to create/remix some presentations.

I’m doing three:

I just love this picture of my opening talk on why we’re thinking differently. It’s a talk/discussion on the theory behind what is pushing us into this new way of learning. It’s based a lot on George Siemen’s work (who was suppose to be here but couldn’t make it). Educators seem to like it as it gives them a frame to try and understand that we (technology people) are not just pushing this stuff because we like it, but because it’s our world today.

My other two presentations are down and dirty stuff that educators can take with them.

From Print to Digital: Learning to Write for the Web

10 Digital Tools for Digital Educators

I’m really excited about the 10 Digital Tools presentation. Our presentation times are only 45 minutes long. This session looks to introduce 10 tools, and then allow educators to use the 7 unconference sessions to learn more about the tools they might find helpful in their classrooms.

Many people have commented on the 45 minute time slots as not being enough time. As presenters I think when you are at a conference like this that honors conversations over presentations you have to rethink what it means and how you engage people. Use the unconference times to extend your thinking. Hit them with something hard and deep, and then take the 5 hours we give you to engage in conversations around your presentation.

Yes it’s short, but we are not looking for a sage on the stage, we’re looking for facilitators of thought and learning.

It’s a switch. It’s the same switch we have asked teacher to make, and now as a conference we’re asking conference goers and presenters to make that switch as well.

This is all “Beta” of course, but that’s what teaching and learning is suppose to be in this day in age right? We don’t have all the answers, heck this whole conference format might not work, but then again………

Ready or not……it’s time to change!

I had the honor Monday (and I do see it as an honor) to give a 40 minute presentations to the whole high school student body at my school (350+) plus teachers. It is by far the largest audience I’ve ever giving a presentation in front of and not an easy audience to start with. On top of that today marked the first day of spirit week so all 350+ students were wearing their PJs!

I titled my presentation “Creating Your Online Profile: Who do you want to be?” The presentation was really about online safety and understanding social-networks. But you can’t call a presentation geared towards high schools ‘online safety’, so I decided to take a positive approach. High school kids have enough people telling them what not to do…they don’t need some geeky guy in blue jeans doing the same. So I wrapped the Internet safety message around a positive message about creating an online profile that works for you.

I started off having the students define what makes a social-network social. I had them holler out what makes a social-network. Great responses: “Allows you to connect to people”, “Allows you to share pictures”, “Allows you to communicate”. From there I asked how many of them had a facebook profile. It was easily 98% of the student body. They all laughed looking around at each other with smirks on their face like “Yeah, that’s right…we’re the social-network generation!” Next I had the teachers stand up if they had a facebook profile. Those smirks turned to shock as about half the high school staff stood up. That social-network belongs to everyone!

From there we talked about information flow and how in a connected web you can not control information. Links and connections are not always visible and once the information is out there you can not get it back.

The best feedback from the students came from the use of this site:


It takes the links from any website and turns them in to a visualization of how information flows from a site.

We talked about creating an online profile that represents who you are, or who you want to be. We discussed the fact that our society at this moment in time really doesn’t know where to draw the line when it comes to what is private and what is public, what should be held against you in a job interview and what shouldn’t. We talked about these four articles:


We then talked about how to create an online profile that will help you in life and maybe even get accepted to college.

The presentation seemed to go over well with a couple of high schoolers coming up to me afterwards and saying “Man, you’re intense!” What can I say, I get excited when I talk about this stuff…I just wish I got to more often. 🙂

After the presentation I went around with the counselors and talked with students in their classes. I helped to answer questions on a more personal level and had some great conversations with students around their concerns. One students went back to class, grabbed a laptop and did a search for his name and was shocked that people had written about him without him knowing it.

It’s a connected world, and even though they live it, I’m not really sure they get it.

Another student in one of the sessions said “We know all this stuff is there, we just pretend it isn’t.” and don’t we all pretend not to see it sometimes.

My favorite quote from today is when a student was talking with the classroom teacher and referred to facebook as “our space”. An interesting and accurate description of how the students view these social-network sites. They were their first, they have helped to make them what they are today, and they update and create content there more than any of us do. It is there space, but the issue is everyone is allowed in their space and they can’t control that!

I would share my PowerPoint slides but there really isn’t anything to share. Lately I’ve been taking the approach of using pictures to tell my story as I talk. I also played two YouTube videos which got good responses as well. You have to talk to the audience in their language and students today understand pictures and videos.


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