Internet outages. It’s happened before, at school, but it was the last thing I expected at a technology conference – especially when my students and I were setting up to present. This was the case at the NETA conference in Omaha this past Friday. While the conference had a great facility and many interesting presenters, the intermittent internet access made it a challenge for all.
Fortunately, our presentation was not a wash.Â Some sharp wit from my students and a few blips of internet access during our 45 minutes saved the day. While our presentation didn’t much resemble the well-timed, smooth-flowing performance we’d rehearsed the previous few days, it reminded me that our students need to possess much more than technology and critical thinking skills to be successful – they need a little personality. As the internet pages containing the students’ work continually failed to load, I did my best to fill the space by asking students to just tell the audience about the tool they’d used and what they did with it. With nothing to refer to but a “Page failed to load” screen, the students responded beautifully and kept the audience engaged and entertained.
While I can’t claim credit for the wit and charm my students displayed, I think that students can hone their presentation skills by showing off their work as much as possible in the classroom. As teachers, we can’t turn monotone Molly or nervous Neil into Steve Jobs, but we can make them better. Â Even the shyest students can make tremendous strides with something as simple as explaining why they like or dislike the school lunch. In the end, being able to speak and relate to a diverse audience is probably a much more valuable skill than knowing how to program a webpage.Â I’m not discounting technical or critical thinking skills – our students certainly need to practice these skills too. But when it comes to landing a job, being a good pitchman might make all the difference.
Besides some great ad-libs from the students, our presentation (about 21st century classrooms on a budget) had some components that weren’t dependent on the cloud.Â Here they are:
Classroom response system ($5) – Cut out some different colored pieces of construction paper and give one of each color to all your students.Â Ask a question and have them hold up the color of the correct response.Â You won’t get a nice graph and you might get a few cheaters, but it will give you a good idea of what the class is thinking.
Wiimote Whiteboards ($40 – $80) – This price does not include the projector or computer, but you actually don’t need a projector to make the wiiboard work. You can turn your computer into a touchscreen (sort of) or just hook it up to a tv.
Kindlelab ($0) -Â Works similarly to software that comes with the SMART or Promethean boards.Â You won’t get access to all those “great” lessons from the vendors’ websites, but you can find similar stuff on your own.Â Also, the software is just as good to use with a wireless mouse – no IWB needed.
That Quiz ($0) – There is an offline version for windows, and you can also print the quizzes you make online for use with paper and pencil. This is the simplest quiz maker I’ve found and it has no advertising (it’s makers claim it never will).
Text Edit/Notepad ($0)- As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes the “cloud” just isn’t accessible. It doesn’t mean you can’t type something out and paste it in later.