Staff in the Denton school district’s instructional technology office have spent this week finalizing online registration and a Web-based application as well as organizing door prizes for the fourth annual Lone Star TIA conference.
The two-day event kicks off at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex, 1504 Long Road in Denton.
About 1,100 participants have pre-registered for Lone Star TIA (Technology In Action), which organizers are billing as an event that offers attendees the newest technology trends and best practices. With funding assistance from Lone Star TIA sponsors, the conference is opening its doors to community members, university students and retired educators at no charge.
This is the first year the conference is open to local residents. The past two years, the event was for educators, support staff, administrators, school board trustees and invited guests. Because the targeted audience has evolved, organizers this year revised the name of the conference from Lone Star Technology Integration Academy to Lone Star Technology in Action.
“There’s really something for everyone,” said Barry Fox, instructional technology director for the Denton school district. “You have some that are leaders in the field and others who want to be more proficient. Our job is to meet them where they are and build their capacity, regardless of their level.”
In a return appearance at Lone Star TIA, Phil Stubbs, an internationally renowned instructional technologist, is delivering the opening keynote address Tuesday.
Closing the conference as a keynote speaker is Maria Henderson, a former educator and instructional technologist who currently serves as a development executive for Apple, responsible for Texas field marketing, according to district officials.
Offerings this year include an Adobe Photoshop CS5 boot camp, breakout sessions and hands-on workshops with focuses including electronic tablet devices, Microsoft Office suite programs, Google tips, free Web tools and applications, social media, Web page creation, distance learning and other various topics.
The conference is a place where educators can gather and share ideas on how to use technology effectively and efficiently, said Sarah Hustwit, a Latin teacher at Denton and Guyer high schools, who has attended the conference since its inception. She said it’s been inspiring not only to learn something that she can use in the classroom but also to share with her students.
“I’ve been able to not only implement the ideas and knowledge in the classroom but pass on the knowledge to my students because they will need to know how to use the technology, not only in other classrooms but in the real world,” she said. “It gives you a great deal of satisfaction knowing that you’re helping them be well-rounded and learn things not just in your content area.”
For the third year, Hustwit will be a presenter at the conference. She will share with teachers how to create a website for communicating with students and parents. She said it’s nice helping people get past the initial frustration of using a new technology tool and sharing her knowledge with others.
New this year at Lone Star TIA is a Web-based application that district officials say attendees can access via http://lstia2013.sched.org. Fox said the app gives attendees access to the full slate of sessions — which they can sort by day, speaker or attendee participation — and a map of the technology complex. Attendees can also use the app to personalize sessions they plan to attend and see what sessions their colleagues and other attendees are participating in.
Early bird sessions will also be offered this year, beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Fox said attendance in recent years on the last afternoon of the conference has tended to decrease, and knowing that, organizers opted to end the conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday and offer early sessions for “early risers.”
Lone Star TIA is funded by registration collections, conference sponsors and other contributors.
Founded by Denton’s Assistant Superintendent Robert Bostic, Lone Star TIA was established in 2010 as a three-day professional development workshop on technology integration in the classroom for school district employees.
The conference started with 500 participants. In the second year of Lone Star TIA, the conference opened its doors to educators, support staff, administrators and school board trustees from across Texas and neighboring states. Since its inception, participation has more than doubled.
“Over the first four years, it’s grown to a multi-state regional conference,” Fox said. “It’s really kind of amazing to see how it’s [grown] from a Denton school district initiative to an event that draws the interest in Texas and beyond.”
Bostic said he couldn’t imagine in his “wildest dreams” the conference would see the growth it has experienced in the past four years. He said most of that growth has come from participants sharing their experiences with others and promoting the event.
Many came to Lone Star TIA, Bostic said, unaware of how to use various technology tools and have left with the tools they’ve learned about being a part of their common language. The impact has been woven into “the fabric of people’s learning,” he said.
“TIA is a place where you can learn it, practice it, make mistakes and have successes all in the same place — that’s what TIA is about,” Bostic said.
Individuals can register onsite Tuesday and Wednesday.
For more information, visit www.dentonisd.org/LoneStarTIA .
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.