NICE Conference Session Debriefs

Today was the 17th annual mini-NICE (Northern Illinois Computer Educators) conference held at Stevenson High School. Always a great turnout and a bargain to boot ($5 registration), this year's conference marked my first foray into presenting and following the session, I attended three sessions as discussed below.

Is There Really an App for That? (Scott Meech)

This past week, I learned that one of our World Language teachers was recently awarded a grant to incorporate a classroom set of iPod Touches in his Japanese class. After a brief tour of his setup, the teacher began showing me some of the apps he was going to use for the next semester. We were both filled with excitement about the possibilities for his class and how much fun it was going to be to integrate the iPods into his curriculum. With regards to iPad 1:1 programs, I'm anxiously awaiting for a camera (front and rear would be great) to be included in the next hardware update, so students could take advantage of all the apps that use any kind of photo manipulation. Fast forward to the NICE conference, and I'm sitting in on Scott Meech's presentation which was cleverly organized to feature apps that a student might experience on the iPad in each class (Art, Math, Science, etc.) for the entire day. The "day in the life" schedule can be accessed here, and Scott's growing organization for having educators telling other educators about apps can be found at

Engaging 21st Century Learners with SMART Technology Solutions (Nick Nicholson)

Next up on my list was a presentation on SMART tools by Nick Nicholson, an education consultant with SMART. We opened up with a quick demonstration of the SMART Response virtual edition which allows for anytime anywhere assessments using myriad of devices (notebooks, smartphones, and any device that can access the Internet.) Nick then gave a quick refresher on SMART Notebook (some memorable quotes include "PowerPoint on steroids", "You are the mouse", "The board is for your students") and some of the more useful tools in the program. Some tips that were particularly useful included the freehand capture tool, double clicking on a table to move it, and the possible connection between other non-SMART document cameras using the "Insert picture from scanner" option in the Notebook menu. 

After completing two workshops with our teachers this week on SMART Notebook, I've become a big fan of the software, and I am looking forward to working with teachers who recently received a new board as they create and modify lessons using the feature-rich program. Nick also revealed SMART Notebook Express which similar to Adobe Reader, allows anyone to open Notebook files, and make minor edits using a cloud based solution. This could be particularly useful for a teacher that I'm working with who wants her students to create Notebook files to present later as part of a unit project. 

Be a Global Communicator: Using Skype and Other Tools (Laura Montgomery)

I closed out my mini-NICE conference with a session on using Skype to communicate with other classrooms. I have had a few teachers at ETHS inquire about using the free video calling application in their curriculum, and with the blessing of our network systems team, I hope to start a few test connections later this year. Laura provided several great resources including a number of websites dedicated to fostering connections between Skype teachers all across the world. After not having used Skype recently, I was pleased to hear that Skype now allows for group video calling. Laura's website can be found at:

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