Heather Wolpert-Gawron

CUE Conference #2: Ted Lai

By on March 11, 2008

I had the honor of meeting Ted Lai at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs this past weekend. I have been a fan for quite some time and I wasn’t disappointed. What a nice guy, open guy, and all-around game guy. 

I actually have to attribute much of my technology curiosity to Ted’s 2005 and 2006 CUE conference presentations. In addition to learning about the sheer ease of podcasting, he has also inspired me with his support of iPods in Education.

Since attending a session some time ago, I have become a huge supporter of using iPods in my Language Arts classroom. Unfortunately, it is a battle that I seem to be losing in my district. I applied for a grant to have iPods in my classroom library only to be turned down with the reason that the district doesn’t trust their security. You know, it wasn’t like I was going to leave them on the shelf with a big sign that said, “Take me!” I had plans. I had procedures ready to go. It does not take Fort Knox to keep some handhelds safe at school.

Anyway, this year I was told that Board members were going to be coming around to view the classrooms and I saw it as an opportunity to fight my foes on my own home turf. On one side of the room hung a “Pro” sign and on the other hung “Con.” As they walked in, they were present for a very heated debate about using iPods in Education. Students stood under each sign, trading off comments and refutations to convince students to come over to their corner of the classroom. Cue evil laughter: bwah-ha-ha!

Anyway, while waiting for the day to come when I will finally get approval for iPods in my Language Arts classroom, I have designed multiple lesson plans that incorporate them. In fact, my students are also going to get involved as a means to convince our district that this technology is both academia-encouraging and student-engaging. Sigh. Just imagine it.

The wacky thing is that I did, however, receive the go-ahead to begin a podcasting elective and that was what I was focusing on when I attended/presented at CUE this year. But how can I convince a district that technology is not just an elective anymore? Apparently it’s OK to be a little maverick in the elective program, but don’t stray from the darn textbook or from the pencil/pen/paper equation or it’s an uphill battle.

Anyway, back to Ted and how game he was this weekend. My students, too, were impressed by his sheer Internet celebrity-hood. They knew that he has been involved in iLife in the Classroom ’06, that his daughters were the TechSavvyGirlz, and that their teacher was pumped to meet him. That was all they needed to feel the riot mentality like a pack of Beatles fans. My students presented at the Student Showcase, podcasting live from the floor of CUE, marching around with sandwich boards as others edited in real-time the iPod interviews as they came in. That’s where Ted comes in. Not only did he stop by and watch, not only did he have encouraging words for my kids, but he also agreed to be interviewed by the very nervous, but very awesome Hubert.

Hubert was so nervous, in fact, that he lost the initial interview. But by the time we discovered it, he had found his sea legs again and was off and running. I turned around to see him back to our booth, breathing hard with the effort of his sprint (think Joan Cusack in Broadcast News), handing another iPod over to our producing student, having stalked poor Ted (“Teddy” as his interview file reads on my laptop) and asked for another interview. Needless to say, that’s how I know that Ted Lai, the mighty Podpiper is quite game.

My thanks to all who were accosted by my uber-eager, awesome students, and to those who granted interviews. But my warmest thanks go to Ted Lai who, at the end of the day, granted more than one interview. He gave two and, in so doing, found a whole classroom of fans.

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