3 Ways to Attend a Professional Conferences When Money and Location Are a Factor

Ok, so you can’t attend the conferences for your dreams due to money, time, or the location. Don’t let that stop you. Here are a few ways to attend conferences for free without leaving home.

One way to attend a conference is to see if your conference has a virtual component.  Blackboard World is a conference I attended last year. And by attend, I mean from my couch. You can sign up to watch their sessions live.  They even make it possible to send in your questions.  With it being in real time, it’s like you are there.  If you area BlackBoard user, or interested in blended learning, consider “attending” this conference.

Another is to follow the conference hashtag.  Last year I stumbled upon #notatiste.  This is where all of us who couldn’t attend the ISTE (International Society for Technology  in Education) conference could learn from those who were there.  The conference has an official hashtag where many of the speakers/presenters will share their material or conference attendees will share what they are learning.  Follow along on Twitter @isteconnects and #iste2017.

Are you on Periscope?  Periscope is another great way to attend a conference virtually.  Last year I really did feel as if I were at ISTE2016.  I follow @TonyVincent on both Twitter and by using the Periscope app.  Last year he went through the poster sessions and interviewed those presenting.  He even zoomed in on their name tags so that we at home could get their name, school district, and Twitter contact information.  Even better, the app allows you to post questions to the person broadcasting, they read them, and then answer you verbally in the broadcast.  It really was amazing and I learned about so many new technologies and the amazing things that schools around the world were doing.

These are just a few of the ways I have found to be able to attend conferences.  How do you do it?


Flipping The Back-To-School Night Experience 


Don’t let the title fool you. Flipping the Back-to-School Night or Parent Information Night doesn’t mean you won’t be meeting with parents and students.  Think about it, though. You are often required to share things from your school that eat up precious time, and that could have easily been shared differently. Or, you have your own agenda items that don’t really  require a face-to-face meeting. Here’s what I propose.  Flip these events.

First, think about all those things you share that are more procedural in nature and create videos for them. A couple of years ago, as a project for a class I was taking, I created a video showing the components of, and how to use the homework folder. Parents loved it!

Video Ideas

  1. Homework Folder 
  2. Planner or agenda
  3. Explaining class website/learning management system
  4. Reading/math calendar
  5. How to order books on http://www.scholastic.com
  6. Modeling how to send in money
  7. Picking up kids in the car loop
  8. Walk parents through how your newsletter is set up and what information they will find
  9. Tour of the classroom 

What video ideas would you include?

The car loop and homework folders would be actual video creations. The car loop would be more of an iMovie.  Wouldn’t it be fun to get staff and students involved in this one?  For the homework folder I used the Explain Everything app and then uploaded to YouTube. The rest could be made using a screen capturing tool. I’ve used Screencastify in the past. My current favorite is the Chrome extension, Snag It.  You could still upload all these to YouTube to make them easily accessible to everyone.  IF you really wan to go all out, embed a quiz for their understanding using the Zaption or Edupuzzle apps. The key is to use what you like, or maybe use this as a way to try out a new program or app.

Now, once the videos are made, you need to think about how you will share them. I already use SMORE as my newsletter, so I plan to use it to send home the links they may need to refer to over the year. This would be my back-to-school edition. In addition, I’d post on my website or LMS as well. Now if I need to remind parents or students of a procedure, I can easily send out the video.

Go a step further by creating QR codes and print them on card stock. I actually put the QR code for the homework folder video on the folder itself.  Again, I had lots of positive feedback from doing this.  If you print them on  cards they are then available to scan for home use. You can even have a page of QR codes or have each on a ring for families to take home that night.

You may still be asking how this is really flipping these events at all.  Well, what if you send these links or QR codes out at your Back-to-School or Meet Your Teacher Night?   If parents are unable to attend, send them out in your first few newsletters. Then, ask parents to look at them before returning to school for your formal information night.  This way, parents can view and digest the information leaving more time for them to ask the specific questions they may have.  Too often parents are given so much information in one night that they really don’t know what questions they have until they’ve left.  By asking them to view the videos and come armed with questions, the night can be so much more productive.  Parents can actually get the information they are really wanting.  It may even set the stage for a more collaborative relationship.  And, yes, not all parents will view the videos or even attend information night.  Don’t let that stop you.  If you want to do this, just go for it.  This will be my first year to try this.  I’m going to make mistakes.  I’ll learn from them and make it better for the next time.  I just want to provide my families with as much information as I can in a format that works for them.

I’ll be posting my resources as I make them in order to provide you with some examples and even get some constructive feedback.  I’d love to hear from you if you’ve already tried this or after you try it yourself.  Technology is all around us.  Let’s use it to improve communication and connections with our school families.

Creating a Classroom Recording Studio

“Technology helps turn ordinary learning into extraordinary fun. And the whole time children are working with these technology tools, they are collaborating and helping each other problem-solve”.–Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz), from the book Learn Like a Pirate

Well, I did it.  I finally posted a project to Donors Choose.  I don’t know what took me so long.  It wasn’t as hard, or as time consuming as I thought it would be.  Here’s a little bit more about my project.

Technology is a fact of life.  We use it in so many ways to make our lives easier, to learn, and to share our creativity and voice with the world.  Well, that’s hard to do when you have limited access to technology in your classroom.  Although  I will be sharing a new set of computers with my grade level this year, we have no access to tablets other than my personal one.  After years of constant use by myself, my family, and my students, it is beginning to show some wear and tear.  We desperately need an iPad mini devoted to student use.

What do I plan to do with just the one iPad mini?  Simple, everything.  Our first objective is to use it with the @TouchCastEdu app and their Studio In a Box.  The Studio In a Box has a green screen, lapel mic, two mini-tripods, and three mobile device mounts.  I’ve already pre-ordered it and am told it will be ready this fall.  TouchCast allows students to create professional looking videos with or without using the green screen function.  They even have an app that allows my students to use my phone (hoping to get an iPod Touch in the future) as a remote.  This allows my students even greater control of their productions.  Hopefully, I should be able to download TouchCast on the computers I share so that once my students have recorded they can complete the editing on the computer when the iPad is unavailable.  Once we get this part of the studio ready, my students will be able to create videos that demonstrate their learning, create tutorials for younger students, and create a classroom video newsletter to share with parents and the community.

However, video is just one part of the studio I am trying to create.  I have two microphones already and hope to have students create podcasts and maybe their own channel.  I’ve been reading about and listening to podcasts as to how to produce them.  Again, creating one more way for them to share their learning, as well as their creativity, with an authentic audience.

Now, since this will be in my classroom, I’m a little limited as to size.  However, I’ve dedicated a section of our classroom that combines our writing center and recording studio.  This area will house all things pre and post production.  The goal is to train a few students on how to run everything (although, I’m sure many will already know what to do), and they will in turn train others.  I want this to be something they take ownership and responsibility of running. In the past, my students have always been respectful of not only technology, but of others making any type of recording, so I believe when asked, they can work quietly when someone has booked time in the recording studio.  Once it’s up and running I’ll post pictures, and with permission, student projects.

So if you are interested, an able to support us, click here to go to Donors Choose and make a donation.  If you are able to make a donation by July 30th, they will match each contribution of up to $100.  I’ve made the first contribution and hope you will be able to support us.  Either way, check back and see how our recording studio evolves.