24 June 2012

My thoughts on #flipcon12

There is so much to say that it is difficult to decide where to begin.  I finally got to meet some of the amazing people with whom I have only ever conversed in 140 character conversations (each of the previous words links to someone's twitter profile).  There were fantastic conversations with people from all over country (and Canada!) who are looking to transform what education will look like in the future.  There will be lots of blog posts talking about what everyone learned or took away from this experience, but I want to focus on something a little bit different.  I want to talk about the sponsors.  No I am not kissing up.  Each of the following companies represent a small group of people who realize that 1) teachers are people who need individualized attention, 2) education is no longer about making cogs in a machine, 3) need our support in helping them help us make significant change in the way education happens in the future.

One evening, each of the sponsors hosted a dinner at a different restaurant.  I had already been to a dinner with TechSmith at ISTE11, and as much as I love those guys (more to come on them later), I wanted to hear what one of the smaller, lesser known sponsors had to say about their company.  Tammy Stephens was our host and she brought us to this fantastic tapas restaurant.  Food was outstanding!  But eclass4learning is a way for teachers to get training on Moodle and for schools to host their Moodle site for a low cost.  While there is a few, eclass4learning helps school districts by taking the administration of Moodle and the need to have extra serves to host it out of the responsibility of the district.  The cost is relatively low considering that private hosting companies are charging $6-$10 per month per site.  The company is based out of Wisconsin and they seen the need to make things as easy as possible on the teachers involved.  They provide webinars and on-site training to get the school up and running.

2.  MentorMob
This was the first time I had the chance to use MentorMob even though I had seen information about them before.  MentorMob was one of the conferences main sponsors and we had the opportunity to visit their offices (2 rooms) in Chicago for pizza and beverages.  The site is a great way for all of the presenters to host their presentation materials in one common location and for conference organizers to disseminate handouts and other information in a paperless environment.  Now, I honestly don't know if I would use it in my class on a regular basis, however, I am definitely thinking about them for TeachMeetNJ in a couple of months.  What struck me about this company was they are just a few people in literally 2 corner offices (the entire company crammed into the small space), but they conduct themselves as if they are giants in the software world.  The employees were extremely friendly and were so gracious to have us there.

3.  TechSmith
I have talked about TechSmith before.  Their products (Camtasia Studio, Snagit, Jing) are all in the top 5 programs that get opened on my computer.  The company sponsored my presentation at NJSTA last October and the Middletown Web Challenge this past February.  I cannot say enough great things about the conferences number 1 sponsor.  Oh, they also gave all attendees a free copy of Camtasia AND Snagit.  At the end of my 2nd presentation, I guy walks up to me and starts talking to me about some of the things I said and how I use TechSmith products in my classroom.  We are talking for awhile, he hands me his card, and I realize he is one of the Directors of the company.  So I am not just sitting with some sales rep, this is a guy who sits with the CEO and advises him on how to run the company.  But most importantly he is really listening to my ideas.  At the end, he asks me to email him and offers to come to my school personally to train my students in how to use Snagit.  How many companies would do this?  Sure they might send you a free software, but how many would volunteer their time to help out teenagers better use the software for learning?

Like I said, there will be lots of people who blog about what they learned from the different presentations, but I wanted to highlight some of the caring companies who are not big names that are truly supporting teachers and students, and trying to help schools really teach 21st century skills.