Technology Hands-on Session
at the 1996 Annual Meeting in San Diego
The last time we hosted the NCTM conference, in San Diego, was in 1977. We thought we had done quite well then but the biggest concern in technology at that time was to make sure that all the speakers had overhead projectors. When NCTM tapped GSDMC to be the local host of the San Diego NCTM conference for 1996, we were flattered and at the same time a little concerned in that we really wanted to blaze some new trails and make the conference memorable. One idea that came to the forefront right away was technology. We had been doing a small strand in our local conference for the last 10 years. And many of us have had experience putting on at the state level the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference. We were also encouraged by the effort made at the 94 NCTM conference by a small group of dedicated folks in Indianapolis. There they had provided a "speakers lab" where a speaker could use computers to "fine tune" their presentation and/or continue their talk with a small group at the computers. Conference attendees could also check their e-mail on a net connection there. It seemed to work very well, and to our best knowledge was the first attempt at making computer technology an element of the conference. With this back drop we began our planning after Indianapolis but before the Boston 95 conference had happened. Right away we realized that if we were going to do anything this was going to be a big job. We decided we needed two co-chairs for technology, and as we like to tell it when we both missed one of the planning meetings. Carolyn Vega and Daryl Stermon were appointed as co-local technology chairs for the conference. After lots of total committee discussion and with the help of Hans DeGroot, president of GSDMC, and Vance Mills Instructional Team Leader in Mathematics for San Diego City Schools, we decided that a way we could be really different from other NCTM conferences would be to provide as much hands-on computer experiences as possible. Our plan soon became, to have an on-site lab of 30 computers, that with two people per machine could handle 60 people per hour, about 300 attendees per day over the run of the conference. At about the same time, we were approached by NCSM, explaining that their conference is on the same site the two days before the NCTM conference. To meet this need and increase our capacity we uped our plan to a second lab.
The local technology committee decided that providing two areas where conference attendees could get "..a hands-on technology experience.." would be helpful. We created a hands-on lab with 30 Macintosh computer stations in the convention center and we brought in the Fresno County Office of Education, Telemation Training Van that has 12 IBM compatible stations and 12 Macintosh stations to the a parking lot opposite the Hyatt hotel. The convention center lab had a capacity of 60 persons per hour and the van handled 24 persons per hour.
The type of technology experienced by a user, varied with the speakers "Programmed" into the centers. Some regular program speakers were focusing on specific software like GeometerÕs Sketchpad, Statview, ClarisWorks, etc. At other times, the local committee provided a focus for the hour: like e-mail for beginners, collaborative projects on the internet - Global School House, surfing the information highway, etc. Many people came to "open lab sessions" where they could practice something learned in another session or explore something on their own.
This experience was possible in that both locations had a complete high speed, connection to the Internet, e-mail servers, and printers, through either an ISDN line or live satellite uplink. We were very surprised by the number of people that happened by, to ask the question "How did we do it?" It was gratifying to observe so many positive reactions, validating our pre conference work. Our design intent was to create stations that could handle just about anything, and based on participant comments we seemed to do well at meeting that ideal. Another measure of success was that every session was sold out. There were also organized sessions. Regular program speakers used these areas as venues to deliver their topic. The committee added additional topics like: math resources on the Internet, using e-mail for distance learning projects in the mathematics classroom, electronic portfolios for students, etc.
A major consequence of the technology aspect at the conference is the amount of coaching provided by the more than 75 people that volunteered to staff these areas as tutors and mentors. For most sessions, this meant that each participant was no more than a table length away from someone who could help with any kind of trouble or question. It was wonderful that these experienced technology users, among the NCTM membership attending the conference, would volunteer to help in his way. A lot of the credit goes to my co-chair Carolyn Vega, of Nye Elementary School, for soliciting and organizing these tremendous volunteers.
The real outcome for participants was the coaching/mentor relationships that have been established beyond the conference, to help attendee's implement their choice of technology back at their home schools. I myself have over 30 people I'm in touch with via e-mail and voice mail to help them with their needs post conference. It also seems clear that attendees at the conference had the chance to choose exposure to a wide variety of technology in the teaching of mathematics. Further, we could have been open 24 hours a day just for people that wanted to connect back home or to their office.
What inspired us to get involved in this project was that we felt this technology component was a long overdue facet of the conference. Additionally, we felt obligated to continue the effort made by the local committees in Indianapolis and Boston. Their attempts to bring technology to NCTM truly set the stage for us to do as well as we did. Our fondest hope, and biggest reason for making the effort, is that we in San Diego want this to become a tradition at NCTM conferences, for years to come.
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