Our family returned to Michigan in June 1997, settled into our home in Boyne City, Michigan, and proceeded to reopen the Yogurt Shoppe for the summer season to generate some income.
School placement, long-term employment and relocation were all being considered as we shined the Shoppe and went through the familiar steps to open for the tourist season.
In those busy weeks getting settled we continued looking for ways to promote our project and ran across this notice:
From: “Linda Neal Boyce at William & Mary”
To: “Multiple recipients of list” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FAMILIES, TECHNOLOGY, AND EDUCATION CONFERENCE
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 09:28:14 -0700
The conference sounded like a perfect match for us, yet the details buried in the email were daunting…
The ERIC System and National Parent Information Network (as a special project of the ERIC system) are accepting 500-word abstracts of papers to be presented at the Families, Technology, and Education Conference to be held October 30 – November 1, 1997, in Itasca, Illinois (near Chicago O’Hare International Airport).
Abstracts (500 words) are now being accepted for the following proposed conference strands:
* Using technology to link schools, families, and students
* Mass media effects on children and family life
* The Internet and its influence on family life
* Equity issues in family access to computer technology
Abstracts are due by July 15, 1997. Abstracts will be reviewed and submitters notified of acceptance by August 31, 1997. Final papers (15-25 manuscript pages) are due by October 1, 1997. Proceedings of the conference will be published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
We decided to go for it, the first strand was a perfect fit. Our abstract was submitted on time and was well received. So much so that later that summer we were told the conference organizers wanted our family as keynote speakers and that they would pay travel and hotel room expenses if we could attend the Chicago conference. That was a deal sealer.
With the tourist season winding down at the Yogurt Shoppe, we started producing the required 15-25 page manuscript and considering how to add pizazz to our presentation now that we had the added responsibility of being keynote speakers. We decided that because our story had a strong technology element, we needed to have a multimedia presentation, which meant a Power Point presentation and video.
Luckily during our week-long visit to Big Bend National Park — one of the most spectacular in the country — we had taken a fair amount of video footage documenting the geology, plant and animal life within the amazingly diverse ecosystem to share with our charter school in Michigan. With some thoughtful editing it turned into a classic documentary narrated by our three junior park rangers.
We arrived in Chicago around 9 p.m. on Thursday, October 30, and checked into a beautiful two-bedroom suite much nicer than what we could afford or were used to, which made us appreciate our sponsors. We went to bed around midnight and got up in time to catch the last of a continental breakfast. We registered for the conference and attended a session explaining the organization of ERIC.
After lunch we had a quick meeting with conference organizers Ann Robertson and Sandra Berger to discuss our presentation during which they advised us that some in the audience of educational professionals would be skeptical of anything that smacked of home schooling, and this point could be a source of contention.
Nervous about our technology working properly, we gathered early to test the multimedia projector so our Power Point and Big Bend video could be seen by the audience.
When it came time, everything clicked. It seemed that we wowed the 400 or so educators gathered to hear our story judging by the lengthy question and answer period followed by a meet and greet filled with more questions generated by the presentation.
Mark Blondin, www.talesup.com