4 Things I Learned at ITC10

Last week I attended eLearning 2010 (ITC10), the annual conference hosted by the Instructional Technology Council. Every year this conference seems to get better and better and this year was no exception. This post will share four new things that I learned during the conference.

1) Todd McCann is a friend of mine who works at Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan. Todd presented a session titled: “Taming the Tornado, Free Tech Tools for Very Busy People.” He demonstrated and explained several ways of communication with students beyond the basic email, discussion forums, and live chat tools that are commonly utilized in online learning. Most intriguing to me was his use of Broadtexter, a free service that can be used to send text messages.

Sending text messages to students might not sound very innovative on the surface, but as you get down a little deeper I think you’ll find some really interesting features here. One of the problems with using text messages with students is the need to share personal contact information – you need to know their cell phone numbers and they need to know yours. Not true with Broadtexter. The system handles the phone numbers internally and that information is not shared with the different senders and recipients of the messages. Additionally, Broadtexter is an opt-in service. Students will sign up to receive your messages only if they are interested in doing so. If they don’t want to be “bothered” by you, they won’t be. Since appearing in the Chronicle, Todd is now know as Professor Textblaster, apparently.

2) Rhonda Ficek is another friend of mine. She works at Minnesota State University Morehead as an instructional technologist and faculty member. Rhonda’s presentation was titled: “Creating Web-based CoursePacks that Move with You and Between Any Course Management System.” Rhonda demonstrated the use of several tools that can be used to develop electronic course materials that are LMS-independent. A tool that I was not familiar with is eXeLearning. Their website (insert link) states the following: “The eXe project developed a freely available Open Source authoring application to assist teachers and academics in the publishing of web content without the need to become proficient in HTML or XML markup. Resources authored in eXe can be exported in IMS Content Package, SCORM 1.2, or IMS Common Cartridge formats or as simple self-contained web pages.”

Using eXeLearning, Rhonda showed how easy it is to create content that conforms to the many standards (SCORM, etc.) that are being developed for e-content. I generally prefer web-based tools when I can get them, but exeLearning appears to be worth the download and install on my PC. Besides, I’m always willing to give up the web-based mantra when a FOSS tool is functional and interesting. Unlike some FOSS tools, this one is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Rhonda also shared a great set of tutorials that were created with SoftChalk.

3) Another friend who always provides lots of learning tightly packed into a one hour session is Maria Anderson (here’s her blog: Teaching College Math) from Muskegon Community College in Michigan. Her session title was “Technologies to Engage, Excite, and Delight Your Math Faculty,” and no, that is not an oxymoron or a mission impossible. Maria showed several useful tools, but the best thing I can do is just refer you to her mindmap of math sites and tools which can provide people with hours of surfing pleasure if they are so inclined. I also found out that Maria is a choir director at heart, and I’m glad that she had the opportunity to express herself at ITC10.

4) Along with keynote Nancy White, I learned how to use the free SAP Web 2.0 PowerPoint Twitter tools. In fact, Nancy and I learned together how to do this since she had to borrow a netbook from me in order to make this happen during her keynote. We both downloaded and installed the plug-in (she in Seattle and me in Duluth) and learned how to use the slides at the same time. She mainly used two features of the package: a) the auto-tweet service that sends out a Twitter message as you advance the PPT slides at pre-determined times for those things from your presentation that you want to share on Twitter, or questions that you want to ask of the backchannel, and b) the Twitter feedback slides that dynamically updates with the latest messages posted to Twitter as long as the posts contain the designated hashtag. In my opinion, these tools worked very well and added value to her presentation. It was also good modeling by Nancy of jumping into the pool by using new technology applications on the fly where everyone could learn at the same time.