Monday, October 24, 2016

And then there was EdCamp Creative...

EdCamp Creative was Saturday. I really, really thought it was gonna be a train wreck. But it wasn't. It was pretty fun.

Creating an online EdCamp has been a bucket list item of mine. I'm an edcamp junkie, and Saturday was my twenty-fifth edcamp. Bricks and mortar edcamps have grown steadily over the past six years. Online edcamps are virtually nonexistent.  So back in August I reached out to 20 colleagues to help make it happen. 

Traditionally you assemble a team of five or six dedicated teachers from the same city. This conference was organized by twenty connected educators who assembled in a Voxer group to crowd source the planning. All planning was done asynchronously in the Voxer group, and I'm not sure that has been done before.

It worked, but there were many lessons learned along the way:
  • Registrants were asked to give either their email address or Twitter handle. Both are necessary for an online conference. A Twitter handle is necessary for tagging tweets for publicity, and an email address is necessary to ping attendees right before the event with a final confirmation. Bummer.
  • Opening ceremony were a debacle. The Google Hangout bugged out. At least two people who were in the hangout did not make it into the first session. Bummer.
  • Having the event in October was not ideal. You want an online edcamp when there  is less incentive to leave the house, like in January or February.
  • While the crowdsourced planning on Voxer worked, a lot of the tasks with deadlines fell on me, and that felt different and lonely. Next time the plan is to do it more traditionally: a small committee using synchronous meetings.
  • I must not be setting up Google hangouts right. I set up 22 Google hangouts a week in advance, but after they were buggy, we switched to AppearIn, so none of the sessions were recorded. Bummer.  
  • People really like collaborative note-taking on Google documents, which I left out for simplicity. Oops.
  • I was really amped up and talked too fast. My wife texted me to slow down, but I was unintelligible at times. Oops.
  • The original vision of the event was to encourage EdCamp newbies to attend. That is not advisable as newbies should not have to wrestle with technology as they experience an unconference for the first time.
But after all that, 20 people hung in for two hours, and 139 people registered, and that’s what I call an unqualified success for a 1.0.  Online EdCamps are free and almost as intimate and magical as bricks-and-mortar EdCamps... and as a bonus, you see edu-friends from far away. This was truly a team effort and I'm grateful for the 20+ people who chipped in to make it happen.

It's funny to look back because this all started out as an idea called EdCamp Social Justice, which was my response to the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. After receiving a lot of good advice, we pivoted to create EdCamp Creative. I hope to do it again in February.

I know that Twitter is our bread-and-butter as connected educators, but I've been in Twitter chats with people for weeks and felt like I barely knew them. But after even one online video chat feel like I've made a few new edu-friends.

In short, EdCamp is a movement, and online edcamps are a small but important part of the movement.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Proudest professional accomplishments from last year:
  • acclimated to a new school
  • started a debate team
  • acclimated to a 1:1 chromebook school
  • Created WeVideo show-what-you-know videos 
  • entered the StudentCam contest & MCPS enviro fest
  • created digital citizenship curriculum for the 6th grade
  • facilitated the 8th grade genius hour projects
  • co-created the 6th grade STEAM curriculum 
  • documented the 7th grade trip to Selma

New Goals for this year:
  • Facilitate one meaningful tech integration project with every MS teacher
  • Facilitate excellence in the 8th grade genius hour projects
  • Bring 2D animation to the 6th and 7th grade tech 
  • Facilitate EdCamp Creative on October 22nd
  • Bring 100+ attendees to EdCamp MetroDC
  • Attend 12+ Edcamps
  • Create an online student edcamp
  • Go to ISTE, and let it be the only non-free PD
  • Polish the HOBY-NCA website and document the event
  • Vlog after every school day
  • Earn 7K Twitter followers, 60k Youtube views, and 15k Reddit Karma by September 1
  • Create a digital portfolio system on new Google Sites
  • Introduce MI, growth mindset, Farnum's free build, lip sync & earth day assemblies
  • Educate myself on campaign finance reform.
  • Do PenPalNews, 90sec Newberry, Reelmath, StudentCam, Envirofest, Breakoutedu
  • Bring the newscast Ocean Doc, CNN back, book trailers, superlatives
  • Publish a colleague's biology songs
  • Facilitate a faculty karaoke night
  • Enlist 10 teachers to create their own PLN
  • Visit schools like Nuvu

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reflections from EdCamp Global (#ECG2016)

So yeah. That was pretty much the best conference I have ever attended.

After it's third year, EdCamp Global has established a standard for what online professional development should look like. The model is as brilliant as it is simple: let life-long learners figure out what they need to learn.

It all started with a Google Calendar, which linked to sessions that usually took one of six forms: Voxer, Periscope, Google Hangout, Appear.in, Twitter, or Blab. Then the EdCamp magic happens: teachers learn (and teach) about subjects they care about the most as they fully participate in the sessions. And here's the kicker: the sessions are saved forever and can be referenced later by simply going back to the schedule and clicking on the session that you missed. The entire conference is documented without an ounce of extra work. If there is a better model for online PD, please share it!

The event was exquisitely planned to the last detail. The team that facilitated (Team Texas?) created hourly challenges on Periscope, such as starting your own Voxer or video chat. These challenges served to bring the community together every hour (which is brilliant because it's hard to build community online), expanded attendee's skill sets, and most of all were addicting and fun. I hesitate to think how much time the organizers poured into their labor of love. 100 hours each? 200? Lots!

I think my favorite moment was the very first session on "global classrooms," when the facilitator was unable to attend. We sat there for a few minutes, and then drew upon our collective EdCamp experience and made it happen. Special thanks to @AllisonHoganEDU@DrBrianCook, @SheilaHill and @sconlineteacher for their expert improv skills.  Again, if there is another conference that works just fine when the presenters can't attend, please share it!

Then came my session on edtech tools, which was basically a standard EdCamp share-out slam. It had a rocky start as I hosted my first Google Hangout OnAir... GHO is a pain in the ass (There. I said it.)  Thanks to @PaigeDobbertin for hanging in for 15 minutes as technical difficulties were worked out, and to all attendees @EdTEchTinker, @Mr_Hayes, @Jumaryteacher, Andy, Kim, Susan, Brian, Denise, and @Danazacharko.

Then came @braveneutrino's presentation on AR/VR. Stacy is a maven and was so well organized; it's worth a look. Then @Msdayvt again pulled off something that would rarely happen at a traditional PD: she livestreamed from an actual maker faire! Then @TheEdsaneT and I had a lovely conversation about "fun in the classroom," and even with only three of us in the room, EdCamp magic happened: my big takeaway was Amanda explaining the ins and outs of my first Appear.in. Then @dkreiness did another truly EdCamp-style slam, only this time on Voxer and Padlet.

This leads me to my only VERY minor concern: less than half of the sessions were truly EdCamp-style i.e. egalitarian discussions. The majority of the sessions featured some kind of central speaker who controlled the conversation. But frankly there were so many people new to the EdCamp format, mixing in more traditional PD was actually a good thing, because it's still quality PD, it's what people know, and there's always a backchannel to participate.

I was super impressed with @CrystalGermond's presentation on PenPalSchools. At first I was like, "this is kind of breaking EdCamp norms, as vendor influence needs to be minimized" (Crystal is employed by PenPalSchools). But she was so respectful of the EdCamp format as she engaged with the audience; it was win-win (and her product is free, which helps). Everyone should be using PenPalSchools because there's authentic writing, cultural sensitivity, and global collaboration. Seriously, I swear I'm gonna do it this year.

And finally, the low point... which I think could have a silver lining. I facilitated two more sessions: one entitled "Fearless Conversation about Race in Schools" and the other "Is There a Place for Activism in Schools?" Two people showed up for the first one (thank you @mostats_mrmfl) and after 15 minutes we ended early. Only one person showed up for the second session (full disclosure: it was my wife... thank you @BethFratt).  This was actually the second time that my sessions did not succeed during the 21 EdCamps I have attended, so I should know not take it personally, yet inevitably I do a little. But suddenly, more EdCamp magic happened...

So I wondered why they didn't succeed, and the answer was obvious: the EdCamp was not marketed for these topics, and Law of Two Feet applied. So what now? It's time to explore an EdCamp with a social justice theme, and I have set my intention to do so. And of course #ECG2016 concluded with a session to help inspire this: a final twitter chat entitled #edcampstartup led by @sarahdateechur to encourage attendees to do just that. I tweeted some feelers, and already there is some interest in forming an #EdCampSJ exploratory team.

So yeah. It was pretty awesome.




Sunday, May 08, 2016

Reflections from EdCamp MetroDC

Takeaways:

It was the first time I facilitated an EdCamp session framed around the question the "Tell the group your best tech story from your classroom this year." This session was inspired by @MrFichter who at AIMStech last week asked the same question as an icebreaker, and the introduction took over an hour! So I was like, "Telling edtech war stories could be an EdCamp session all by itself." It worked out great... every person in the room participated and told at least one story!

Mr. Fichter also introduced the "Step up and step back" concept to the group (stepping up to be brave enough to contribute, then stepping back to listen and ask questions) which is my new favorite conference norm! 

Peeps:

Could not ask for a better steering committee. @JourneysOfJess had fresh ideas like having the schedule posted on a TV in the hallway, @Esimpson1990 is an expert facilitator and again came up huge with food sponsors, @MarisHawkins exudes warmth at the registration table and uses so many tech tools in her classroom, and huge thanks to team leader @ChipChase who did so much heavy lifting before conference day as we moved the venue to his home base at Cap City. Thanks also to @TechyMargaret who is a consummate team player, offering to pitch in to help, as well as inspiring me to try Canva for the first time.

Lots of new faces, including @AWollack who is a young teacher who clearly is heavily invested in her students and was super positive. Team Stafford and @Renard_Spicer who retweeted my "EdCamp: it's like the teacher's lounge with people you don't know" quote, which was really thoughtful. @Alexander_teach who brought her class of over a dozen teachers who may have been somewhat skeptical at first but as the day got rolling genuinely seemed to enjoy the new form of PD where their voices were valued. And @TimidStone who gave one of the best EdCamp session I've ever attended on www.breakoutedu.com... even more remarkable was that he had never done a digital breakout before; he was totally winging it, and the room was riveted.

The Conference

The only major change to consider is the date. It was an accidental oversight that we were on the same day as EdCampMayaF, and we missed @SarahDaTeechur's boundless energy. And having it on a beautiful mother's day weekend did not help attendance; we may explore an earlier date next year. The feedback forms were uniformly positive, which is really gratifying. Hope to see you at the next EdCamp!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reflections on #EdCampNova



Takeaways:
My biggest takeaway was being reminded by lots of awesome educators that I have not been using my existing takeaways enough. @MrGreeneEdu showed me the cool stuff he was doing with Google cardboard, and I haven't jumped on board that technology yet. Many talked about the new Quizlet Live, and I haven't touched Kahoot since September. People who where using Google Classroom were really excited about it, and I've just kind of tolerated my school's Blackbaud LMS all year. I haven't jumped on board the gamification movement, but I'm ok with that because most students at my school are intrinsically motivated and would likely wrinkle their noses at it (although I imagine gamification is amazing for students who could use a little extrinsic motivation).

Peeps:
So many awesome new people to meet, among them @Mspatricianhfb who as an early elementary music teacher is the de facto techie at her school, @MsJForney and @Coreythornblad who were really thoughtful and insightful at the tech integration session that I facilitated, @Hawks_Chris who had an amnesty international sticker on his computer which is awesome, and 
@Gcmlibrary who lent her library. And of course it was lovely to again see @Techymargaret, @Libraryms, @ThatsWightman, @TimStahmer, and @Jenorr who I met at the same conference on a cold day last February.

The conference:

Flawless. So well organized. The NOVA team was a well oiled machine.

Watch the video:

Welp, for the first time in a long time I didn't do 45 minute film school. It's fun but stressful, and not really in keeping with the EdCamp model; I'm not sure if I'll do it for EdCampMetroDC. Here's last year's vid from #EdCampARL for nostalgia:



Thursday, August 06, 2015

Reflections from EdCampDVIS

Takeaways:
One big takeaway was from @MrsLieberman356 who on back-to-school night will tape QR codes on student lockers which link to that students' portfolio... which seems more personal than simply emailing a link home.

My second takeaway was pure EdCamp magic. I was 10 minutes late to a session on refurbishing computers. I poke my head in and there is a guy sitting there, I figure it's a UPenn student doing his homework. Just for the heck of it I step in, and it turns out he is the presenter. No one else showed up, so for the next 40 minutes Sean Dolbec shows me how to install Linux onto a flash drive in order install Ubuntu onto old computers.

Peeps:
So many wonderful educators, among them: 
@kristenNsanchez (who was accompanied by like 10 amazing educators from Newtown Friends) @MEMurrayEDU (who helped me connect to the internet and works at a really progressive school called The Philadelphia School) @Kannengieszer4 (who wins rookie of the year honors by facilitating two out of three sessions at her very first edcamp) @karenjh (who helped organize a flawless edcamp and is a former FCPS edtech) and the entire Five Minute Film School team (see below).

The conference:
Free breakfast, free lunch - so helpful - I don't even have words. The only thing to improve next year is to include a sharing Slam - it's a best practice to have a Slam - usually after lunch or before the raffle. Amazing venue; my first time at UPenn.

Watch the video:
Zombie Academy, This about sums it up:




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reflections from EdCamp Hershey

Takeaways:
My big takeaway was the Teacher Walk introduced by @ChadNWright. The story goes something like this: @RGGillespieAP at Kettle Run, was rolling out an innovative school improvement plan. They had created a book club PLC, and they wanted another option -- so they created (or stole, not sure) the Teacher Walk. A team of teachers (sometimes accompanied by students; maybe with administrators too?) walk around school, drop in on classrooms, and observe. Later on, they share what they saw with the team. There's nothing new about classroom observations, but doing it as a team and accompanied by students (!) blew my brain up a little.

Peeps:
The Hershey team was on fire:
 @DianaRAC13, @akaMsCrowley, @SrtaLisa, @KickKrowley, @LibrarianLister and @lisa_hollenbach -- it was my ninth EdCamp and this was as tight a ship as it gets. As I walked in, it was great to see the EdCamp home office @KSivick and @HadleyJF, and  @SenatorTeplitz (who showed up because they  tweeted him... true story), and @GeekyTeach (who was at her 39th EdCamp!). 

Here are some must-follow people: @_MrHull_ (fun and thoughtful), @DTown_MrD (was unrelentingly positive when I had tech difficulties in my session),  @castle_pants (she was all-in for the vid, see below),  @Scoots231 (one of these teachers who exudes positivity), and @iwearthecrowns (no really, she was wearing a tiara). I had extended one-on-ones with @RossCoops31 (who told me an awesome story about how he got his new job by tweeting his superintendent) and @mr_isaacs (who had great Minecraft tips).

The conference:
Basically flawless (free breakfast and lunch... so  good); here are some minor suggestions for next year. It's a good idea to have a twitter tutorial during the first block of every edcamp since it's essential and many are new to it. Using a Google spreadsheet as the schedule is an EdCamp standard; it's a good idea to make the titles clickable to bring up a collaborative note-taking page. And finally the wheel of fortune raffle was super fun, though I'd like to find an electronic equivalent of "put paper tickets in the brown paper bag that is next to the item that you want to win." :)

Watch the video:
Four pro teaching tips!