Friday night marked the first LAN Party at my school. Our Learning At Night get together was centered around the K12Online Conference. A number of teachers from my school were willing to stick around on a Friday night, including several classroom teachers, a reading specialist, and LD teacher, a district physical therapist, our building substitute and one library media specialist from another school. We were to take part in something new to everyone. We planned on spending 2.5 hours viewing presentations from the K12 Online Conference, both as a large group and also individually. We certainly planned on having discussions as well about what we learned.

Preparing for the event was fun, but a little stressful. I wanted to use laptops so teachers could move around the library and not be confined to our computer lab. Since about half of the teachers attending didn't have their own laptop and we don't have laptops at our school, I needed to find laptops from another school that weren't being used and have them sent to my building. I thought this would be easy, but it turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. Regardless, the day prior to the event, we found a cart at one of our intermediate schools and it was shipped over. I also wanted to provide our teachers with the opportunity to participate in a backchannel discussion while we were viewing a presentation together. I was hoping to use uStream, but due to firewall issues at school, we couldn't access the chat feature, which is what we needed most. I was hoping to work with our network technician on Friday to get everything set up, but I found out he was out of the district that day and couldn't help me out. I guess this serves me right for waiting until the last moment. I had to find a Plan B, and that's where Twitter and Plurk came in handy. The district wouldn't allow me to download Skype or any other program to the laptops, but Anne Thorp suggested DimDim, which was completely new to me. DimDim worked extremely well. We were able to provide a live video feed of the presentations, take part in a group chat, and the only person who had to sign up was me, the host. DimDim simply sent a link to the meeting to people I set up and they received an email with a link to the meeting - no sign up or anything for them. It was a very nice site that worked great for us. We could have recorded the presentations and I wanted to save the backchannel discussion, but I forgot.

Our planned agenda didn't exactly go as scheduled, but that was okay. We had planned on watching one presentation together, several individually, and then plenty of discussion. I tossed the offer to join us out to my PLN on Twitter and Plurk and Stacy Kasse, a teacher from New Jersey, joined us for much of the evening. Her comments were excellent and the teachers were very pleased we had someone else joining us from "the outside." Thank you, Stacy. After watching the Getting Started Keynote together and discussing the session, we decided to take a look at some of the Web 2.0 tools mentioned. I demonstrated Twitter, Plurk, VoiceThread, and others. We had some great conversations about how these can be beneficial, all of which were new to most of the other teachers. We then decided to watch another session together, rather than move on to individual viewing. This was fine with me because we were able to continue our discussions. Finally, we broke out to view a session on our own. A few people watched sessions as pairs or small groups, but we were able to learn more. At the conclusion, we touched base again on the evening, discussed the next step, and headed out. Some of us ended up getting some dinner and drinks together, which of course led to more discussion about the event.

Overall, I thought the night was a success. There was a lot of learning, a lot of good discussion, and a good time. Most of the people said they would participate in something like this again, maybe not on a Friday night for 2.5 hours, but perhaps after school for an hour or so - just enough time to view a session or 2 and talk. I'm open to this and hope to set up something down the road because what we did this past Friday was the beginning for many of our teachers. Integrating technology into the curriculum and your teaching is not an easy task, but these teachers were willing to take the first step. I hope we all continue moving forward and learning, it's the best thing we can do for our students.

I hope to provide a follow up with specific comments and plans from the attendees over the next few days.

2 comments

  1. Kevin Micalizzi // November 11, 2008 at 8:07 AM  

    Chad, thanks for the mention. Fantastic you were able to pull this together!

    -k
    Kevin Micalizzi, Dimdim Community Manager

  2. josh // September 3, 2009 at 4:55 AM  

    I want to suggest you try http://www.showdocument.com - its an alternative tool for dimdim that allows document sharing and Free Web meeting in real-time. all the participants in the session see each others' drawing, highlights, etc. It is free and requires no installation.

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