VSTE 2011 – My thoughts

For the past three days, I attended a wonderful conference in Roanoke – the Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference.  It was my first time to attend the conference, and I was a first-time presenter.  Here’s a quick summary of what I learned and the cool resources and ideas I got from this wonderful conference.

Lessons learned:

  1. Conferences are exponentially better when there are bowls of M&M’s everywhere.
  2. It sounds like it’s sometimes incredibly fun and sometimes incredibly frustrating to be a K-12 teacher.  I have a newfound appreciation for working in higher ed.
  3. Don’t expect a great Internet connection (even at a tech conference).
  4. You can do some really awesome stuff with Apple products. It also helps to be a Title I school.  Does anyone know how a university intensive English program can get grant money? I want to buy iPads for the classroom too!


  1. Use what you already have: I learned how to use the Microsoft Office suite to create Madlibs, comic books, and choose your own adventure stories.
  2. Let students teach each other, and let students create their own assessments.  These are two ideas I’ve already been exploring in my own teaching, but it’s great to hear that other teachers believe in the power of the students’ knowledge.

And here are some websites to visit:

  1. TPACK – this was new to me, though, of course, it’s not new.  It stands for Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge.  The idea, as I understand it, is to look at how these three kinds of knowledge interact.  Integrating technology without understanding how it works with the pedagogy and content is missing the point.
  2. Here’s a presentation I wanted to make it to, but didn’t.  Fortunately, the presenter posted a website full of great links to a lot of different Web 2.0 tools.
  3. And here’s another presentation I didn’t get to see about using Google. And we all know how much j’adore Google.
  4. And another great presentation I didn’t attend about how to streamline your web usage. With all the information that’s out there, it’s nearly impossible to keep all the information you need handy.  But, this website helps you get close.
  5. Finally, here’s my presentation website, once again, for good measure.  (You see, I did make it to at least one presentation.)

Creating a blog for my program, initial thoughts

So, I’ve put together the blog.  There aren’t any posts on it yet, but come Monday, I’ll have added a “welcome to the blog!” post and the first “news and events” post will be up.

The tentative plan for the blog:

Mondays: news and events, both in the city and on campus

Fridays: fun posts and interviews

Fun posts are of the students’ choosing.  They decide what to write about – reviewing a restaurant in town, interviewing their favorite teacher, writing up their visit to a local museum, etc.

Interviews are a way to include all students in the program.  My students will be interviewing students from each level in the program and posting these interviews on the blog.

Thoughts so far:  The students have no idea how to pick appropriate news and events.  Their choice for Wednesday, September 14 was a “Sorority Showcase” for girls interested in joining a sorority.  Hardly something relevant for students in our program.  We’ll have to work on that.  Which makes me a little nervous about the Friday posts, which I haven’t seen yet.

Anyway, here’s the link to the blog.  No posts yet, but at least there’s something there to look at!  Here’s hoping this experiment is not a disaster.

I took a cooking class and here’s what I learned about pizza!

Lessons I learned from the awesome cooking class at the Culinary Institute of Virginia:

1. Bleached flour is bad. It’s even illegal in Europe.

2. All-purpose flour is a lie, particularly in the South. Use bread flour for pizza dough.

3. Whole wheat flour is not that much healthier than the other stuff.

4. If you really want to make awesome pizza, you have to buy a pizza stone. Having an oven lined with fire-bricks also helps, but is not necessary.

5. Learning how to make pizza dough is also apparently a sure-fire way to impress people. I’ve never gotten so many comments or likes on a facebook post.

Motivating the unmotivated…teacher

Today, I attended my first meeting at my new job.  I sat around with the full-time teachers trying to create a substitution policy.  Isn’t it exciting to be an educator?  Everyone seems really nice, and the meeting was somewhat productive, which means we accomplished a lot more than I expected from a meeting of teachers.

But, after the meeting as we were still sitting around talking, I encountered some resistance to professional development, which, of course, is exactly what I’m in charge of.  The grad student in me LOVES professional development.  I want to go to conferences and read research articles and write proposals and talk about linguistic theories and how they play out in the classroom.  The teachers, well, they want to go to the conferences, but I suspect that may be more for the whole “taking a trip, skipping class” thing. (Teachers really are worse than the students sometimes :))

And so I wonder how I will motivate them to actually present at those conferences, or learn some cool, new technology to help their students, or even get plugged in with in-house professional development.  At my old job, there were a few other teachers who got just as excited about these things as I did, and we managed to do some exciting work.  Here’s hoping I’m not the only research nerd at this new place.

Norfolk food…so far

Here’s what I’ve tried and enjoyed in Norfolk so far…

Granby Street Pizza– delicious NY style pizza

The Green Onion– cute and good tomato soup

Luna Maya– omg. this place is awesome. the tres leches cake is definitely what you eat in heaven after you have the pasta from Filomena’s in DC.

The Donut Dinette- I recommend the pancakes and the donuts. They don’t have a website.  Or a restroom.  But it’s still worth it.

I found a few Thai places that look good.  Time for some yellow curry.

Conferences! (mainly local)

This is mainly a post for me, so I won’t forget where these websites are.  This whole blog is just mainly for me too, but whatever.

Virginia TESOL

Southeast TESOL (they have a conference coming up in Richmond October 13-15. Free place to stay for me, so win.)

Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) (they have a conference in December, and it’s not too late to submit a proposal!)

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Richmond: foodie paradise :)

I hope Norfolk has such good food.  Here are some of the places I’ve eaten at so far…

Q Barbeque: um, yeah, it’s pretty amazing. And the sign has a pig snout that is adorable.

Kitchen 64: mmm… pancakes. And mimosa pitchers. Yes, a whole pitcher of morning alcohol.  Ashley was happy.

Frank’s West Ristorante Italiano: New York-style pizza in Virginia.  Delicious.

Norfolk, you have a lot to live up to.