January: Establish the date for the conference.
Ask the district and all schools within it to avoid
offering other staff development that day.
February: Send a “save the date” e-mail to all
staff. Solicit volunteers to present sessions.
March/April: Categorize proposed session
topics according to the NETS for teachers and
administrators. Identify standards and general
session topics that still need to be covered
and solicit recommendations for presenters of
needed topics from media specialists, computer
resource teachers, and building principals to fill
June: Invite the superintendent and encourage
school board members to attend.
July: Presenters submit information about their
sessions for the conference brochure. (They
appreciate that the deadline falls after school is
out so they have more time to plan.) Create a
schedule of sessions organized by strands.
Early August: Publish the conference brochure
on the district’s website. E-mail the brochure to
Two days before conference: Post signs
with topics and times on the doors of the
classrooms where sessions will be held. Set up
tables for distributing conference brochures and
refreshments. Test and distribute equipment
(multimedia projectors, speakers, etc.).
Late August: Have the conference! Immediately
afterward, post an online survey for conference
attendees. Solicit feedback from presenters by
September: Analyze the results of the survey
and debrief the conference. Share conference
highlights and summarize comments at a board
of education meeting. Publish an article about
the conference in the district newsletter that is
distributed to all district families.
“Kids eat, breathe, and sleep
with technology,” Muncy points out.
“The least we can do is teach with it.
The Spice it Up! conference helps
me do just that.”
“Kids eat, breathe, and sleep with
technology,” Muncy points out. “The
least we can do is teach with it. The
Spice It Up! conference helps me do
Planning the Program
Conference planning begins each year
in January, and we start advertising
for both volunteer presenters and attendees by February. (See “Conference
One thing we keep in mind is that
an ed tech conference should not be
only about teachers. We realized that,
as instructional leaders, district and
building administrators need the information and understanding to promote and encourage technology use in
the classroom as well, so we explicitly
invite them to participate.
David Barry, Walled Lake Central
High School’s principal, presents a session for administrators. “This conference provides our district with an opportunity to showcase the potential and
capacity of technology to improve and
support student achievement,” he says.
Of course, administrators are busy
people. But we discovered that their
attendance at the session increased
dramatically when we sent them a calendar invitation using the district e-mail system. They can accept, decline,
or ignore the invitation, but if they
accept, the conference is automatically added to their personal calendar.
This strategy worked so well with administrators that we used it to invite
all staff for this year’s conference. We
have also found that sending regular
and frequent conference reminders at
meetings, by e-mail, and in staff newsletters in the months leading up to the
conference helps boost attendance.
Each year, we select a keynote
speaker, who attends either in person
or virtually, to provide a purpose for
the day and set the tone for learning.
Previous keynote speakers—all of
whom volunteer their time—include
Steve Dembo of Discovery Education;
Bruce Umpstead, educational technology director of the Michigan Department of Education; and Leslie Wilson,
president of the One-to-One Institute.
For the sessions, conference planners
specifically seek topics that align with
the NETS for Teachers (NETS•T) and
NETS for Administrators (NETS•A).
For example, high school social studies
teacher Brian Blackney faciliated a session called Classroom Applications for
Digital Storytelling at the Secondary
Level to help teachers see the power
of using digital storytelling as an assessment tool, based on the NETS•T
recommendation that teachers design
and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments.
We don’t ask attendees to preregister
for sessions to avoid frustration over
cancellations. Instead, we publish the
conference schedule online in advance
and suggest that participants try to arrive promptly to get a good seat.
During the lunch hour, 8–10
elementary, middle, and high school
students join us in a panel discussion
about how technology affects their
lives at school and at home. According to feedback provided on a yearly
online postconference survey, the
student panel is a highlight for many
attendees, who are sometimes shocked
at the students’ candid answers.
One high school sophomore ex-
plained to a group of about 100 teach-
ers and administrators her thoughts
A lot of teachers try to use laptops
at school, but they stop because
they think kids aren’t doing what
they are supposed to be doing, and
they get really angry about it. For
example, if they catch a student
checking their e-mail, they say we
cannot use the computers any-
more. But what a lot of teachers
don’t realize is that it is helpful and
productive for us to use e-mail
and instant messaging to commu-
nicate with others about what we