Let’s Talk About Attrition Rates at UnConferences

I’ve been helping to run UnConferences since way back in 2009 when Liz Davis and I organized the inaugural EdubloggerCon East at BLC. I’ve since helped to organize that conference for three years, a TeachMeetNJ, EdCamp Common Core and two EdCamp Leaderships.

Running an unconference is not rocket science, but it is a commitment of time and effort. I’m happy to do it. I welcome the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. I’m even happy to go to vendors asking for money to pay for food and door prizes.

Here’s my concern:

Is 50% attrition acceptable?

Why do we accept only half of registrants on a free event showing up as a good turnout?

For planning purposes the organizing committee must plan for:

  • enough space
  • enough food
  • give-aways
  • sponsors

Honestly, the time and efforts donated by the organizers is the same whether it’s 200 people or 400, but I hate to see the wasted food, that could have fed some local hungry families. I hate to see the vendors spend the money on the wasted food when they could have donated equipment or supplies to a local classroom in need. I hate to see the organizers stress over how many people will ACTUALLY show up and whether there is enough space and food for them.

So, why do I bring this up now after four years of hosting these events? 

I have seen the attrition rates creeping up over the years. Back in 2009, almost everyone that registered for a free event would show as the concept was such a novelty. Over the next couple of years, we would plan for 30% of folks that had “bought” tickets not showing. Then, last summer I planned for 50% attrition. But, last Monday, for Edcamp Leadership, we had only 25% of registrants show. Believe me, we all had a fantastic day, but it was disappointing.

What’s the plan? Do organizing committees continue to guesstimate? Or do we establish some unwritten rules about only registering for something that you are committing to attend. Please share your thoughts.

FREE PD: Google Education On Air

If you are not already watching, you should be. These live webinars (using Google Hangouts) are top notch. Watch them live or watch the archive.

My last one is tomorrow at noon EST. It will be hosted from my Google+ page at https://plus.google.com/113091647598120328318/posts

Web Apps for Education (Diigo, EasyBib, Glogster, Pixlr Editor, Slide Rocket)
The education web apps available to everyone online is growing every day. We will take you through some of the most popular educational web apps: DiigoEasyBibGlogster EDUPixlr EditorSlide Rocket. And the best part is, they are all free.

Please contact me on Google+ or Twitter if you would like a spot in the Hangout. You are welcome to showcase an app that you like if you just let me know ahead of time. Hope to see you there!!

The #eduonair conference and PD in NJ

On May 2, 2012 Google hosted its first conference using Google Hangouts On Air. During the 8-hour conference, there were over 40 presentations on everything from robotics to 1:1 initiatives to using Google Apps in schools. The presenters all donated their time to try this new way to present, interact and archive professional development. I have supported this form of PD over the last few years as I truly appreciate the archiving so that educators can go back at any time and watch again. Other organizations have been practicing this for a couple of years including Classroom 2.0 Live and The Global Education Conference.

Speaking of professional development. Did you read the article about the possible discontinuation of the 100 hours in NJ? I’m concerned about how the new standards for professional development are going to be determined in NJ. Though I strongly believe that teacher assessment should be driven by evaluations and student achievement gains, I also believe that there has to be a standardized directive from the administration on how much and what type of PD teachers should participate in.

What are your thoughts and concerns on requiring professional development hours for educators? How should the hours be counted? Who should determine what type of sessions are attended?

Spontaneous Professional Development

Tomorrow at the NJECC monthly meeting I’m going to speak for a bit about “Spontaneous Professional Development”. With the budget cuts in NJ schools this past year, many educators don’t have funding for PD. Our meeting this month will be about how schools are dealing with the cuts, what types of PD their districts are spending money on and of course, how we can harness the power of our networks to bring in free professional development virtually.

I hope I don’t put myself right out of business.

Here’s the slides I will be sharing along with a list of the resources I will be talking about. (Please leave a comment if you have others to add as we would all benefit from your resources.)

Feel free to follow the #NJECC hashtag on Twitter during tomorrow morning’s meeting.

NEIT2010 – The NYSAIS Education & Information Technology Conference

I’m really looking forward to presenting  at the NYSAIS Education & Information Technology Conference on November 10. I put a lot of time and effort into the topic I am speaking on and I am anxious to have the conversation that is planned afterward. We’ll be using the World Cafe protocol to organize the conversation. I am confident that Alex Ragone, Arvind Grover and  Barbara Swanson are willing to help with such a large group.

The World Cafe Protocol

  1. Seat four or five people at small Café-style tables or in conversation clusters.
  2. Set up progressive (usually three) rounds of conversation of approximately 20-30 minutes each.
  3. Questions or issues that genuinely matter to your life, work or community are engaged while other small groups explore similar questions at nearby tables.
  4. Encourage both table hosts and members to write, doodle and draw key ideas on their tablecloths or to note key ideas on large index cards or placemats in the center of the group.
  5. Upon completing the initial round of conversation, ask one person to remain at the table as the “host” while the others serve as travelers or “ambassadors of meaning.” The travelers carry key ideas, themes and questions into their new conversations.
  6. Ask the table host to welcome the new guests and briefly share the main ideas, themes and questions of the initial conversation. Encourage guests to link and connect ideas coming from their previous table conversations—listening carefully and building on each other’s contributions.
  7. By providing opportunities for people to move in several rounds of conversation, ideas, questions, and themes begin to link and connect. At the end of the second round, all of the tables or conversation clusters in the room will be cross-pollinated with insights from prior conversations.
  8. In the third round of conversation, people can return to their home (original) tables to synthesize their discoveries, or they may continue traveling to new tables, leaving the same or a new host at the table. Sometimes a new question that helps deepen the exploration is posed for the third round of conversation.
  9. After several rounds of conversation, initiate a period of sharing discoveries and insights in a whole group conversation. It is in these town meeting-style conversations.It is in these town meeting-style conversations that patterns can be identified,
    collective knowledge grows, and possibilities for action emerge.

I will be missing Liz Davis, as we have used a variation of this Protocol together at Educon. But I know I will be seeing here there again in January.

2010 Global Education Conference Session

The 2010 Global Education Conference will be held November 15 – 19, 2010, online and free.

“The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives.”

There is no formal registration required for the conference, as all the sessions will be open and public.  All sessions will be held in the Elluminate platform, will be broadcast live, and will be available in recorded formats afterwards.

There is an amazing list of sessions available.

These sessions are categorized by Tracks:

  • Teacher Track
  • Student Track
  • Curricular Track
  • Policy and Leadership Track
  • Global Issues Track

I am slated to present…

TITLE: Using Google Apps to Foster Global Collaborations

PRESENTER: Lisa Thumann, CMSCE, Rutgers University (USA)
FORMAT: Presentation
SHORT DESCRIPTION: One of the most effective ways to get students collaborating with each other is to use tools that are easily accessible. If the tools are browser agnostic, have no demand for installations or updates, and are intuitive, the collaboration is more likely to be effective. Together, let’s look at Google Forms, Docs and Sites as a suite of tools to facilitate and foster Global collaborations.
TRACK: Teacher

This is an invaluable opportunity for professional development. Please follow the hashtag #GlobalEd10 to stay informed.

Many thanks go to Steve Hargadon, Lucy Gray and the Advisory Board

Steve Hargadon

Lucy Gray

International Educator Advisory Board

7 Months Later – The One Computer Classroom

Most of my job for the Center at Rutgers is sustained professional development. I truly believe in this model as you can only learn so much in four hours or a day. You have to have time to think about it and implement it. Participants have to feel comfortable and willing to ask questions and try activities again.

One of the districts I began working with this year has decided to begin integrating technology into the curriculum by purchasing tablet PCs and projectors for their middle and high school math and science teachers. This is the first phase of a multi-year initiative that they have planned that slowly upgrades their level of technology literacy.

The HS teachers entered their comments in a public Google spreadsheet.

This first cohort of teachers are thrilled to have a laptop/tablet to use. It’s the first piece of hardware they’ve had in years that they can rely on for productivity, classroom presentation and small group activities. We were allotted pretty much a meeting a month. Well, not even. We met five times over the last seven months and communicated via a Ning I set up for all the teachers enrolled in the program.

When we gathered for our final session, the teachers spoke of how thrilled the students were about using the tablet. It’s still novel, even in April. Students don’t have access to tablets in all classes as they’re being rolled out over a couple of years, so they look forward to using it when they can.

Students also look forward to being engaged by the types of technologies and activities that we have reviewed and  implemented this past seven months:

Each session, we also reviewed specific content-related resources in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, math analysis, algebra, calculus and geometry.

The biology teacher, Steven Klass, even went as far as to create a private education (social) network for his students using Edmodo. He had requested some information early on in the year about how to create one safely and effectively and we had discussed some benefits of encouraging students to communicate about classroom content online. Using Edmodo, Mr. Klass up his AP Biology students to talk about content online. He also posted resources from class and it turns out, so did they. He was pleasantly surprised when, after a few weeks in Edmodo, students from his class started posting links to biology videos and articles for their classmates to read. He even wound up inviting a few students from another section in so that they could also benefit from the information.

I noted as we were scanning the chat that there was one student who was very vocal in the logs. I asked Mr. Klass if this happened to be a student who participated a lot in his physical class, and no surprise to many of you reading this post, this was a typically quiet student. It was a pleasure to listen as the teachers in the room spoke of how he participate online versus in the room and how the wheels churned a bit as to how this might benefit some of their students as well. Next year, Mr. Klass plans on opening the social network to the rest of his science students.

So, it’s been all positive in my post up till now. I try to be open and honest and this time is no different than others. One teacher admitted that he just could not use technology as a resource for students to submit assignments. He was not having success with it this year. He would, however, set the expectation from the beginning next year with the families, and give it a try again in the fall.

Another teacher admitted that the technology does keep the students engaged, but she was unwilling to share the tablet with them, so the students really weren’t benefiting from hands-on time. Yet, she’s in the chart above transforming from verbal lecture only to sideshows with hyperlinks and videos. There is progress and the hope for more next year.

Are you in a school where the technology is not in the hands of the students? How do you go about getting it to them? Is it through homework or class time or some other way? Please share your experiences or suggestions.