What is LAN?

Bored by status quo professional development and stale in service workshops? Why not throw a party! This video was created for the 2009 K12 Online Conference Leading The Change strand. It is the story of how North Vancouver School District used the presentations of the K12 Online Conference to breathe new life into professional development. LAN parties can be a powerful vehicle for professional development and change. This presentation defines the concept and shares our experience with the hope that others will be inspired to find creative ways to share the message of the K-12 Online Conference.

Why LAN? The Rationale

Holding a LAN party gave us an opportunity to:
- inspire teachers to infuse technology into their practice
- open their eyes to the possibilities
- to show them that if they have a problem delivering curriculum, technology may provide a solution
- to show them it's about what technology lets us DO
- to provide an opportunity for like-minded people to share thoughts and bounce ideas
- to provide an opportunity for like-minded people to form creative clusters to explore and support each other in using technology in their classrooms.

Planning The Event

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For each LAN party we selected four of the K12 Online presentations to screen. At the start of each party we met together for a quick snack and introductions. Teachers then chose the session they would like to attend and headed off to classrooms. After viewing a presentation we skyped with the presenter giving the audience a chance to ask questions and engage in informal conversations.

The second half of the evening comprised of a dinner during which participants shared what they had learned, discussed how these new concepts might be incorporated into their own practice and engaged in guided reflection.

Invitations

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Getting 60+ teachers to show up on their own time from 5-7 p.m. is not an easy task. To pique their interest we initially tried a little mystery by inviting them to a party but not telling them what the format was. The first set of invites consisted of a mini poster wrapped around a small box of Smarties that was placed in each teachers mail box. The invitations we sent in February were colorful mini posters stapled to a fortune cookie. In addition we arranged for messages directing teachers to register to pop up when they logged into our district's email service.

Trying a variety of ways to send out invitations electronically is a good way to introduce teachers to a selection of tools. We experimented with Google Forms and Anyvite. Google Forms offers the features and flexibility of a spreadsheet. We were able to collate the information and ask additional questions such as:
- Would you be interested in LAN sessions if they were offered live, online?
- What would you like to learn more about?

Choosing Sessions

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With three years of K12 Online presentations archived and a fourth going live in December there are many from which to choose.
Other excellent sources of inspiring video online that would encourage rich discussions include The Mobile Learning Institute’s film series “A 21st Century Education” and this list of 25 Incredible TED Talks for Educators.

We found that once we immersed ourselves in the K12 Online community and began to connect with people we were able to offer two live sessions. One was by Jan Smith, an elementary school educator who had experience using blogs with students, @jansmith on Twitter. Another was Dr. Alec Couros, Assistant Professor and ICT Coordinator at the University of Regina, @courosa on Twitter.

Be sure to pre-screen any presentations you will be showing. After selecting the presentations we contacted the respective presenters to ask if they were willing to Skype in for 10-20 minutes of conversation with the participants. All were more than happy to oblige. We also arranged for a test Skype call several days before the session to meet the presenters, set the stage and iron out any technical problems.

What's on the Menu?

We wanted to honor the teachers who gave up their evening to attend our event. Feeding them well was one way of doing this.
Snacks! When the guest arrived they were offered snacks that varied from event to event: beverages including soft drinks and green tea, veggie platters, popcorn, fruit platters, cheese and crackers, fortune cookies.
Dinners had to be easy to serve up and tasty. Our five events included Chinese food, lasagna, pizza and make-your-own wraps. All these meals were catered by outside sources except for the make-your-own wraps dinner. We bought pre-cooked chicken, tubs of salsa and guacamole, used student helpers to prepare shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. Merchants were happy to give us generous prices because we were ordering for upwards of sixty people.

Resource Pages

Teachers may wish to view presentations a second time or view those from the sessions they were unable to attend. A site providing links to all sessions and other resources is a useful reference.
NVSD LAN blog.
We also included presenter information such as twitter name; associated blog, wiki or web page; and online tutorials pertinent to the topics covered.

Job Descriptions

A team of people will help the LAN party run smoothly. To this end we arranged for volunteers:

Student helpers greeted guests, took photographs and movie clips, helped set out the food, decorated the tables and put up any necessary signs. At one session we offered free babysitting on a trial basis. They also helped to set up the classrooms for viewing presentations. We found a placing chairs in a horseshoe shape facing the screen worked best. Students helped set the rooms straight at the end of the event.

In the break-out sessions teachers acted as moderators ( they pre-screened the presentation, introduced and thanked the guest speakers, came up with a list of questions and kept the conversation flowing smoothly) and scribes (used laptops to note the salient points of the presentation and live conversation, noted requests for follow-up, questions that needed to be answered later and any links to pertinent resources.

Other Activities

At some point teachers began to express an interest in some hands-on learning. We handled this by offering an open lab session at the end of the evening and provided instruction on using delicious.com, twitter and RSS feeds. This was also a venue for those teachers seeking some help with specific applications or tools.

We tried to incorporate a variety of web2.0 tools throughout the events to show teachers what was out there and how it might be used. Here's a sample of teachers reflecting on Alec Couros' presentationusing12seconds.tv to record their impressions.
We demonstrated back-channeling using Twitterfall and Visible Tweets. We used hootsuite to schedule tweets to appear at specific times in addition to asking people in our networks to tweet us using the hashtag #LAN44.

Measuring Success

We were anxious to see if our efforts had inspired teachers and brought about change. Here are a few of the results.
- teachers signed up for Twitter, from 0 to 44 active users, not the adoption rate we were hoping for but a start
- teachers are beginning to create delicious.com accounts, some even collaborating to build powerful subject area collections
- one elementary school requested hands-on sessions on a school Pro Day to learn more
- a secondary school librarian held a speed geeking session (another idea from the prolific minds of Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht in Thailand)
- an elementary school held a skype session showcasing their digital storytelling project by bringing in an author and an expert in the field.
- a number of teachers have begun to blog for and with their students.
- district teacher librarians have recently started a blog to showcase the multiple ways they are working with staff and students to promote literacy.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Our plan this year is to invite the world to join us by offering some of our sessions through Elluminate. The rich offerings on Classroom 2.0 Live have served as a model for us. We have begun to offer LAN sessions solely for administrators. The first of these events was well received as it provided an opportunity for administrators to learn about uses of technology appropriate to their roles, engage in open discussion and learn ways to support their teachers.