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I attended the 2014 spring NDATL conference this past friday (4/11) in Bismarck.  In my mind, the purpose of this gathering is to enrich our understanding about how to best deliver I.T. to the classroom.  For the past couple of conferences, I have been a little disappointed in the offerings for professional enrichment.  Here is a PDF of the break out sessions.  In total we see that there are 40 time slots, of which anyone can attend 5.  In order, I attended:

Learning to Code

Mobility and BOYD in Education Phone Systems

Apple Deployment Tools

Online State Testing

Safer Schools through Technology

Of those 5, 2 I found to be fairly on point.

The apple deployment tools session was quite interesting.  Apple is continually enhancing the admin and management side of deploying iPads in an educational setting.  In the beginning it was completely hands on touchy feely each iPad individually…which was a huge time sink.  They then moved on to apple configurator which could automate some stuff but it was still a “touch, plug it in…” process.  Then you started using apple configurator to push a couple of profiles to connect the ipad in to an MDM server.  Now, you can have each device you buy from apple already associated with your MDM server without having to touch it at all.  It’s quite a jump forward and very handy for a 1:1 deployment.

The other session I found moderately useful was the BOYD in Education Phone Systems.  I only have a vague understanding of how the system works, but it looks to be an app you can use to turn your smart phone into a company phone/extension.  It works via wifi, so no more dead spots because of cell signal.  This would be very useful for some of us that rely on our cell phones to be reached, but I’m not sure the value is there for such a small number of people to justify the cost (of which I’m unsure as of yet).

The other sessions is where I was a bit disappointed.  I’m not horribly interested in “this is a great ipad app!”  Right now it is, but in 6 months there will be something better.  I would much rather see “this is industry best practice for mass deploying computers”,  “here’s how one school manages 300+ workstations, with open source (free) software!”  “10 tips to prevent network slow down!”, “Quit running around like a crazy man…make remote desktop work for you!”.  I think you catch my drift.

If you look at the outline of the break out sessions, it is very clear who they are catering to.  After thinking about it a bit (I took my bike and went to a bike show in Grand Forks after the conference…so I had a bit of time to think) my situation in Bottineau is fairly unique around the state.  A lot of smaller schools have an instructor who pulls double duty as the tech monkey.  Then you have the bigger schools who have a staff of I.T. monkeys.  If the tech is a classroom teacher, they are going to be more able to integrate some of the things presented at NDATL directly in to their classroom.  If the school has an I.T. staff, they probably have a person whose job is specifically to get training material out to the staff, devise how to use an app in the classroom…etc.  If those two models together are in the vast majority, it’s fairly unreasonable for me to expect NDATL to cater to the small minority in which we find BPS.

Clearly I need to find an additional method for professional development in my role at BPS.  There is all sorts of information on the interwebs about I.T. in an educational settings.  Much of that has been helpful, but there is quite a bit of value in face time and professional networking.  I am going to look for another setting to gain some exposure to new techniques and systems that will help out BPS.  Maybe there is something that I can attended every couple of years or something that fits the bill.  I’ll have to look in to that.

The other avenue I will look in to pursuing is presenting at the NDATL conference.  There are a couple of things that we do here that I have not seen mentioned at the conference.  It seems to me it would be very handy for people, especially the small schools with limited time, to hear about some stuff we’ve done.  Maybe something I talk about prompts someone else to talk about their implementation at the next conference…etc etc.  I also feel it sets a bad example for me to be discontent about something professionally and not be willing to help out.