NETA stands for the Nebraska Educational Technology Association, and it is an organization that promotes the use of technology in teaching. I have been attending the conference off and on since 1998. I remember the first year it was at some high school in Lincoln. I attended as an AmeriCorps representative. I had no idea what it was.
After becoming a full-time teacher again, I attended while teaching in Ashland, and now, while at Westside, I have gone almost every year either as a representative for our high school or as a representative with the Nebraska Writing Project.
Each year that I attend, I take away too many ideas to deal with, and I have to whittle down my takeaways to a few items that I can actually use without being overwhelmed.
The idea that stuck with me the most was the concept of Taking Time to Notice that was introduced by the first Keynote Speaker, Dr. Robert Dillon (@ideaguy42) on Thursday morning. Last year at NETA, Dan Boster and I gave a presentation on mindfulness and technology. This keynote touched on many of the same concerns that we shared. The basic idea that technology makes life more complicated and less effortless has been a running theme for me. I took delight in getting permission to take notice of everyday things, and to think about all that we miss because we are too focused on technology. This same theme has been coming up over and over again in my life.
Coincidentally, I visited an old friend the evening after NETA, and luckily I was there to capture one of the most beautiful sunsets that I’ve ever seen.
Ironically, it took the technology of my iPhone to capture the images and then this blog to share them with the world. Does that make it better, worse, or indifferent?
For most of the conference, I was working at the Nebraska Writing Project booth inviting people to learn about the single greatest educational professional development that I have ever been involved with. I watched Jodie Morgenson’s presentation on blogs which inspired me to get back to mine!
On Friday, I watched both keynotes, but was less affected by them because I was concentrating on my own presentation on Goobric and Doctopus later that day. It’s hard to just sit back and enjoy sessions when you’re anxious about presenting!
I did attend an informative presentation on Google Forms which I use regularly. In the session explanation, it promised to explain how to use Sections and allow answers to lead to different parts of the form, which is something I’ve always wanted to try, but have never taken the time to learn how to do. I was disappointed because most of the session was simple review of Google Form basics, and it wasn’t until the very end that I learned what I wanted to know. After the session, I had to ask the presenter for help because the sections weren’t working, but we got it figured out, so now I have attained that new skill.
The best part about NETA is not the sessions or the keynote speakers, it isn’t even the vendors and the free stuff, it’s all about NETWORKING. I was able to get in touch with dozens of new people and make contacts with all sorts of interesting professionals across the state. This type of collaboration is so valuable because sometimes being a teacher feels like you are working in a vacuum.
I was checking all day on the sched website to see how many people were coming to my session. Having done sessions in the past on Friday afternoon, I was expecting no one to show up. I actually had over 100 interested, but only half of them came. That’s still more than I’ve had before, so that was cool.
I stood at the door welcoming people as Cat Stevens played in the background. When my session began, I started with a little joke that came to my mind as I was welcoming my teacher friends. It’s been said that there are two truths, Death and Taxes. But there are really three. The third? Teachers love free stuff.
I used that to frame my presentation on Goobric and Doctopus. I asked everyone to follow along and give my steps a try pointing out that it would take three times of going through the steps before they would become internalized.
I had practiced the presentation with Brenda at our NeWP booth earlier in the day, and it went well, but I wasn’t sure how well a mass presentation would go. When I showed people at Westside, I lost most of them. The good news was that most of the teachers in this room already used Google Classroom and knew how to make assignments.
I took them through the steps and I was finished in about twenty-five minutes. So I had twenty minutes at the end of the session to troubleshoot, answer questions, and try some experiments. We tried to see if we could combine the power of Doctopus and Flubaroo, but it didn’t work.
I got three or four Twitter responses to the presentation, so that’s cool.
Overall, the NeWP sessions were well-attended, and I ended up winning a pair of Skull Candy headphones and a t-shirt. It doesn’t get much better than that!