The best, I felt, was the Metadot Portal session run by the tech from Piqua, one of our county schools. As usual, Jim and Erich did a great job. I decided after the session that I might go ahead and use Metadot for the school website and include the Intranet stuff that I'd originally intended to use separately. Since I can set up users and groups, I should be able to block the Intranet specific stuff to just staff and students (hopefully). But this will also allow the staff to access things they might need at home.
The other session that might eventually be a time-saver for me, was about Progress Book. Currently, for grades, we use GradeQuick by Jackson Software. It's not a bad program, and is very good for the money. But it means that I have a lot more work to do in order to get grades to our DA site. Progress Book would be a direct connection to the DA site and would allow for things like Lesson Plans and parental access to current grades and stuff. But it costs $5 per kid! (Hey, we have no money, thanks to the state of Ohio, so even $5 a kid is a LOT of money to be spending.) As more schools in our DA site's region start using Progress Book, the per student costs should go down somewhat. So perhaps this might be an option for the 2005-2006 school year.
During the lunch, which was very good (like last year), Leslie Fisher, of www.lesliefisher.com, gave a presentation about Gadgets You Must Have. And basically, she was me but with unlimited funds. Most of the stuff she had, I could honestly say I either wanted or already had. (The one exception being that she's Mac-based and I'm PC-based.) She said that the presentation that she was going to do for the teachers on the other two days was going to have even more gadgets.
Leslie Fisher also did the Flash workshop that I attended. While dad was busy at the MDECA (our DA site) meeting, I was learning how to make some basic Flash animation. I think I got the better deal. :-) Well, at least ine was more fun. Dad's was very informative.
We really only had two complaints about the whole day. The first was that there was no way to tell, in most cases, whether you'd be getting a good informative workshop, or whether it was just a sales pitch from some vendor. (I got pretty lucky - the closest thing I had to a sales pitch was the Dell guy talking about Disaster Recovery. And he managed to prevent it from being a Dell commercial. Dad, OTOH, was at a few sessions that were more about buying solutions than solving problems.)
The other complaint was the same one that we had the previous year. We love the fact that SOITA now has a tech-only day. Most of the teacher and administrator workshops they have on days 2 & 3 aren't what we techs need. But they don't have the vendors present during the Tech Day. And yet, it's the techs with the purse-strings. Or at least, with the recommendation power. As for me and dad, we ended up going to the conference on Tuesday afternoon in order to meet with the vendors. Since dad only works one day a week for me, to have him go for a day and a half to the SOITA conference, means he's worked a week and a half.
We're glad we went to the vendors. We always learn something there. This year, we were mostly interested in finding out about the prices of LCD projectors. And we think we found the one we'll be getting (with REAP grant funds - remember, we have no money). The vendors were pleased to see some techs there - turns out they wish they'd been present for the tech day too. Actually, one vendor probably wasn't happy to see me...
WorldWise, out of Columbus, had a table with some "educational software" for teachers. Priced nice and low. And as soon as I saw the table of software, I almost had a fit. Actually, I did speak my mind (albeit slightly censored) to the salesman there. Most of the software (I'd say 90%) on the table was stuff that I'd seen in the elementary classrooms that ONLY plays at 256 colors. Stuff that I've had to either throw away, or find 1 classroom machine, reset it to 256 colors, and install the games only on it. (Which, IMO, is a waste of my time.) Why the hell are these guys flogging this crap to teachers? I know, it's to get rid of the crap that other people won't buy. Most of the teachers don't know they're being ripped off. I'm just glad none of my teachers were at the conference. I was very angry - I'm still a little steamed. I mean, when I run a network with Win98 computers, and they're TOO POWERFUL for the software that the teacher's just bought, that teacher has been RIPPED OFF. Grrrrrrrrrrrr - thieves, the lot of 'em!
Anyway, I almost felt sorry for the vendor there, except that he probably knew full well what he was doing. And he was probably glad he *wasn't* there on the day that the techs were present. I know I'm not the only tech in the county who hates this out of date software - so there's got to be lots of us techs in the region who can't stand it.
So, in summary, the SOITA conference was a good thing. We got cool bags (once again) and some nice freebies. And both dad and I learned some stuff. Plus I got to vent off steam at a hapless vendor. All in all, a fun time.