By Lauren Huffman

(November 16, 2010) The first-ever T21 Conference provided students with tutorials and demonstrations of new technologies that they may integrate into the classroom to enhance learning. A notable estimated attendance of 235 people proved that the event was a huge success, and that students are eager to learn new technologies to enhance their instruction.

A total of 15 sessions were held throughout the course of the day, offering instruction on everything from wikis to Mac publishing.

One of the sessions, titled, “I Get to Do WHAT??: Technology in a 3rd Grade Classroom,” was taught by Micheal Ritchason, a 3rd grade teacher from Willow Primary School. His energetic lesson offered future teachers tips on how to integrate technology and games favored by elementary students into the classroom. He also provided a list of several Web sites that teachers may utilize to help them with math, reading, and spelling content areas. Some of these sites include Study Island and Spelling City.

Kimberly Rojas, a faculty associate from University High School, presented practical classroom applications for Blackboard, a classroom management system. She gave preservice teachers a demonstration on how they can use Blackboard to communicate with their students more effectively by utilizing chat, announcements, calendar applications, and other tools provided by the system. Her presentation offered an exciting way to address the challenges that 21st century schools face, and combined instruction and technology in a way that is easily consumable to the student.

Other sessions, including “Data Driven Decision Making” and “High Tech and Low Tech Options for Using Student Data to Guide Instruction,” showed students how to utilize technology to address the varying needs of all of their students. These two sessions showed preservice teachers how they may incorporate technology into the classroom to first assess levels of progress in students and then tailor teaching to benefit students who are at different levels of learning.

From Starke School in Pekin, first grade teachers Morgan Belcher and Becky Rulis presented on how digital story enhances the classroom and how students learn in the classroom. Both Illinois State alumnae, the teachers showed session participants how technology can allow learning to be interactive. Their demonstration included digital story creation using VoiceThread, Wordle, and Tumblebook library. Their presentation was conducted using a SMART board.

Perhaps some of the biggest buzz surrounded the SMART software. A session on SMART software was held, including demonstration of the SMART interactive whiteboards and response systems. These tools allow teachers another way to deliver lessons with the power of a computer and the utility of a touch screen. Also featured at the conference was a booth featuring the SMART table, a multi-touch, multi-user interactive learning center that allows groups of early education students to work simultaneously on one surface.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., attendees also had an opportunity to visit various exhibits which provided information regarding various technology applications and programs offered by Illinois State University. These tables included the Laboratory Schools, Milner Library, the College of Fine Arts, LiveText, the Teacher Education Portfolio Lab, Autism Spectrum Institute (ASI), and Students Using and Integrating Technology in Education (SUITE), among others.

The first annual T21 Conference was sponsored by Mary F. and Robert J. English, both alumni of Illinois State. Other sponsors of the conference included the College of Education, Students Using and Integrating Technology in Education (SUITE), the SEAT Center, TechZone, SMART Technologies, Lightspeed, Apple, Promethean, and Dell. Plans for the 2011 T21 Conference are already underway.