Halfway through the Greatest Show on Earth aka ILT2014

I really do not understand where the time goes at this event. Somehow we are half-way through already, yet have crammed in at least 3 months worth of learning and networking. I think that is one of the big parts of attending this conference; reconnecting with like-minded people from around the world and making new connections to carry forward. As a previous attendee I have to say I feel like family now, no matter where you are from or what your background is there is no pretense or superiority complexes anywhere.

It is just a bunch of people that like to hang out and share stuff to help people

I don’t know of any other conferences where the keynote speakers just relax and ‘be’ with the delegates, and connect at the human level. As someone that attends a few corporate-type events through the year this is a real unique thing, embrace it!

Today had two concurrent keynote presentations. One from the remarkable Carole Zangari and the other that I sat in on from Dave Edyburn who some of you may remember from presentations such as his one yesterday about Goldilocks. His message today was how do we apply the research knowledge base to inmprove outcomes for students who struggle in reading and learning. My first thoughts were, man this is going to be BORING! I mean come on, its research.. YAWN. Oh how wrong I was. Dave has this ability to actually make it interesting. If he ever changed careers he could probably make the tax department exciting too! Turns out he was involved with a publication called ‘Handbook of Special Education Technology Research and Practise’ which by all accounts is a must -read book.

He set out to tell us that assistive technology is not for people with disabilities, it is for everyone. We need to search out the right tools to help students adjust their performance and reduce the achievement gap early on. Similar to Mystie Rail yesterday, he highlights how mainstream technology can be used to smash through the old learning paradigms, if only we are brave enough to act differently. Things like the GoPro cameras and the personal health gadgets like FitBIt can revolutionize the learning experience but letting kids have fun. Dave went on to explain how research and evidence based practise is grand, but sometimes you need to just get on and innovate, see what happens if you mix things up. Research timelines are years, whereas innovation timelines are days or weeks. Lets just try stuff, if it works great otherwise try something else. He rounded out his session by telling us all about Time Series Concurrent Differential or TSCD to its friends. This is a procedure apparently that enables measurement of the outcomes of assistive technology interventions.

After the break I was in for another session with out favorite Alaskan Mystie Rail. Today she was telling us about digital interventions for document disorder. Mystie was her usual engaging self and started by reminding us that the side effect of fun is learning! We then proceeded to take a look at the Livescribe pen. Now this tricky little thing records EVERYTHING. As you write it watches what you are scribing and takes an audio recording. You can then play back parts of the recording by touching different parts of the document. It is like the old dictaphone on steroids. It can also update into Evernote, which was a nice segway into the next part of her presentation which was all about Evernote (almost like she planned it that way!). There is so much you can do with this product, which starts with the hefty price tag of FREE by the way but then there are third-party add-ons and plug-ins to further extend the functionality. We briefly looked at a few of these; Skitch, IFTTT, Web Clipper, Kustom Note, Clearly, and Mohio Map. I am not going to go into each of these, you can click on the links included and learn all about them yourself!

Lunch today was extended to allow for networking opportunities, followed by the Ignite speed-sharing sessions, far too many to go into detail here! Run similar to Pecha Kucha it gave 5 minute slots to people to present (quickly) a subject and they were all very well received.

My final session of the day was with Carole Zangari talking about using online tools and strategies to support AAC practitioners. We looked at screencast software to create snackable videos that can be created, curated and shared, in particular Jing and screencast-o-matic (click the links to learn more ok, I am not your mother!). These are really useful to demonstrate a concept, or to model a task and being rewindable and repeatable they only need to be created once and then used many times.

Digital curation was the next cab off the rank, with Live Binder, Pinterest, and Scoop.It mentioned as options. These products are (in my mind at least and we all know how twisted that can be this far into the conference) similar to Evernote in that you can add different digital media to them for storage and retrieval. This is a really good way to pull together resources such as websites, video, images and documents pertaining to a specific topic and then sharing it out to your networks. Finally we looked at creating interactive still images. This is by way of Thing Link and as well as their website they of course have an app! This is a really cool concept, you can annotate a still image with hotspots that when you hover your mouse will show additional information such as text, image, video or play a sound clip.

And that was my day. Mostly. There was allegedly a small dinner of some sort but due to a media blackout I cannot confirm nor deny its existence. Oh one last thing – I had a play with THE coolest gadget toy assistive technology I have seen in ages. Its the Beamz and I so want one! Go check out their website.

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