Edcamp Palm Springs & Thoughts About Session Boards

edcampps

This was my very first Edcamp as just an attendee and it was awesome to be at an Edcamp and not have to worry about anything except which session I was going to attend. It was great to reconnect with Jen Wagner, Dennis Grice, Karl LS, Holly Clark, Moss Pike, and Jo-Ann Fox (and I’m sure I’m leaving someone out) and it was wonderful to meet Sam Patterson! The organizing committee did a super job – you never would have known it was their first time organizing an Edcamp – kudos to all of you. The day ran pretty much on time, the WiFi was working and they even got Twitter unblocked (Yay!), the Slam! at the end had great what I learned shares, the food was amazing, plentiful, and free and there weren’t super huge lines for lunch either.

AND … I won a Kindle Fire HD!! How amazing is that. Edcamp Palm Springs ROCKED! I’m so excited because I do have Amazon Prime and now I can borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I love gadgets and have wanted to get a Kindle but couldn’t justify it.

I didn’t even propose a session – instead, I was able to attend all 4 sessions and here were my choices:

#edcampps Session Board

During pretty much every session time, there was more than one session I wanted to attend. I really hope that people add their resources to the EdcampPS Wiki page so I can feel like I went to more sessions that I did.

While I learned something or had my thinking pushed in each and every session, I found that my favorites were those sessions that were not someone standing at the front of the room using a presentation tool or showing me how to do something. That can be very valuable and I’m sure for some this is what they wanted but to me Edcamps are about discussions. Discussions where no one is the sage on the stage and you’re sitting in a circle to facilitate the discussion or you’re moving around the room. This might come from attending Edcamps where WiFi was an issue so that conversations and discussions were mandatory because the tech just wasn’t there but I think there’s more to it than that. These kinds of sessions just make me think and actively participate more and just feel like an Edcamp to me.

So, why do there still seem to be so many sessions that are “traditional” at an Edcamp? This is the question running through my brain today. Having been an Edcamp organizer for 6 different Edcamps – EdcampOC (2011), EdcampSFBay (2011-2013 though I didn’t attend in 2013), EdcampOCLA (2012), and EdcampLA (2013) – and in charge of the Session Board for 5 of those, I have been mulling over how to improve the session board building process. Even before attending EdcampPS, I had been wondering:

  • How do you get new attendees at Edcamps to propose sessions?
  • How do you involve ALL attendees in the session selection even if they don’t want to facilitate a session?
  • How do you minimize the overrun of the board from people who present all the time at traditional conferences especially because Edcamp attendees often want these people to run a session?
  • How do you make sure that vendors are not proposing sessions about their own products? This has been a problem at a few Edcamps though didn’t seem to be an issue at EdcampPS.
  • How do you help all of this to run smoothly without creating a bottleneck at the beginning of the day?

What do I think could be done to address these things? As I have thought about this since EdcampLA, here are some things that I think might work. Instead of saying the first hour is for registration & socializing, it should be turned in to the Session Board Hour where, of course people can socialize, but they should also concentrate on helping to define the day:

  • As attendees check in, they should be given a session card or a post-it note to suggest What Do You Want to Learn? This wouldn’t be posted on an actual session board with rooms and time slots but in some open space – a wall, a blank board, a table, etc. Changing the emphasis from what do you want to facilitate to what do you want to learn should encourage more participation. Attendees should also be told that their session does not have to be tech-related. Personally, my favorite sessions are usually not tech-related.
  • Attendees should also be encouraged to indicate that they would be available to facilitate (not present or lead) about a topic; this could be the topic they’re proposing or any topic that has been suggested. This is where using a printed session card might come in handy where the card has on it:
    • What do you want to learn?
    • Add your name if you are willing to facilitate this topic:
    • Voting
  • About 3/4 of the way through the hour, attendees should be encouraged to vote for their 4 favorite topics (or however many session times exist) and add themselves as facilitators if suggestions don’t have a facilitator. Organizers will use the voting to determine sessions if more sessions than slots exist or to schedule the most popular sessions at different session times.
  • As attendees are welcomed to the Edcamp and told how the day will work, a group of organizers will need to pull the suggestions into an organized session board. This is where I see problems happening because there’s a time crunch here. The welcome will only take 10-15 minutes and the organizers need to:
    • Put suggestions that are similar together
    • Decide if there are too many sessions and pick those that are most popular or combine things that aren’t quite the same but that could be put together
    • Figure out what sessions should be presented when making sure things like “Things that Suck” are in the afternoon and that the most popular choices aren’t at the same time, etc.
    • Make sure there are facilitators for all sessions
    • Make sure there are no vendors as facilitators of their own product
    • Build the actual session board – or at least the 1st session

We actually attempted something like this at EdcampSFBay in 2012 and there was definitely somewhat of a bottleneck. Part of the problem was that we didn’t have WiFi that day so the physical board became very important since some attendees couldn’t access the online board.

Having only attended California Edcamps and having been an organizer at all but one that I’ve attended, I wonder how other Edcamps are dealing with this … or if this is just me seeing a problem when there isn’t one? I’d love some feedback about this.

Have you attended an Edcamp? What did you think about how the session board was built? Did you feel that everyone had an equal say in what the sessions would be? Did you feel the sessions were different from a traditional conference?

Have you helped to organize an Edcamp? How did your session board building work? Are there things that worked great? I’d love to hear about it. What, if anything, would you change?

Dot Day & ColAR app: Adapting for the Computer Lab

When I saw the post by FableVision Learning about Augmented Reality Dots, I wanted to definitely try to incorporate this in the lab for Dot Day this year. I knew there could be a few stumbling blocks to this though because:

  • There is really no desktop space in the lab to let students color the ColAR sheet without having to move keyboards which is not convenient and in the past has lead to a few dropped keyboards with the younger grades.
  • My students really want to be ON the computers when they’re in the lab especially the younger students.
  • I have typically used Dot Day as an introduction to Tux Paint for my Kindergarten students. It’s a great introduction to using that program but the ColAR sheet is vertical and Tux Paint’s screen is horizontal.
  • While I have the ColAR app installed on my iPad, I only have my iPad available in the lab for students to use.

Not to be deterred, I decided to forge ahead with this for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. I converted the PDF into an image so it could be used in Tux Paint and Paint.NET.

Tux Paint
The awesome thing about Tux Paint is that I can set all white areas to transparent in the PNG image I created and put this in the starter folder for Tux Paint and the students can’t color over or erase the outlines which is perfect for use with the ColAR app! The not so awesome thing about Tux Paint is that the image is sideways but my Kindergarten and 1st Grade students haven’t really minded.

ColAR Sheet in Tux Paint

My sample

Paint.NET
My 2nd & 3rd graders were introduced to Paint.NET for creating their ColAR dots. I didn’t introduce the layers features or anything complex. They are using the Fill Bucket, Paint Brush & Pencil and learning about Edit/Undo or undoing using the history window. The students were warned not to color over or erase the black outlines and they all have done really well with this so far. The one warning I didn’t make was not to fill the outside paper with black which one student did. It still works in the app but the app had a difficult time with this image.

2013DotDay-PaintNET

I try to be as green as possible in the Computer Lab which means almost no printing. Guess what? The ColAR app works pointed at the screen, too! I haven’t shown the the AR feature of the dots to the students yet. I can’t wait to see their reaction next week!
2013DotDay-PaintNET-ColAR 2013DotDay-TuxPaint-ColAR

What About 4th-8th Grade?
As part of our Dot Day celebrations, 4th-8th graders are doing an adaptation of Tricia Fuglestad’s Turn the Table on Tabloids lesson using Paint.NET to draw self-portraits and add the Newsweek magazine cover. I’m not leaving them out of the ColAR fun though. I am going to let them move their keyboards out of the way and color actual Dot Day ColAR sheets!

Edmodo, Schoology, My Big Campus – OH MY!

I am currently using Edmodo with my 4th-8th grade classes but often wonder if another Social Learning platform might be a better choice. Is it a case of the grass is greener or might another platform better meet the needs of what I’m trying to do? Do I want to try something different just because it’s a newer, shinier option or is there something it offers that what I’m using doesn’t? I don’t know the answer. I haven’t tried the different platforms with my students and don’t know that I want to have them be guinea pigs on a lot of different platforms just to see if they might be better.

What to do? During #caedchat last night a suggestion was made to start a document to compare different social learning platforms so I’ve done just that! Why these platforms? They’re the ones I’ve heard about and they have a free option for educators.

Do you use Edmodo or Schoology or My Big Campus or Haiku or Collaborize Classroom? Feel free to edit this spreadsheet to help identify the strengths (and weaknesses) of each platform so that other educators can make more informed decisions about which to choose for their students. If you are going to edit the spreadsheet, it’s best to use Chrome; I’ve noticed there are some definite display issues in other browsers.

NOTE: The ability for anyone to edit this document has been disabled. There were obvious edits made by some vendors about their own products and edits and deletions made to other information that was not true or that removed valid information. This was not the purpose of this document therefore public editing has been removed.

Edmodo Quandaries

I began using Edmodo with my students last year and have really liked the way it lets them interact as classes, turn in work, receive feedback from me on their work, join global projects and interact with other students outside of our school, and practice social networking skills.

The quandaries are …

Old Student Profile

New Student Profile

  1. Number of Groups: In the old profile, the student is in two groups but in the new she is in three groups. She is actually in two groups and one small group. Why is this different in the two versions? I feel this should be two groups since small groups are sub-groups not actual groups but in any case shouldn’t the numbers agree? Interestingly, I asked about this issue twice in the Support Community and got two different answers about it.
  2. School Name: This didn’t show in the old profile but does now. The big problem – it’s wrong! It seems to be showing the first school alphabetically of any group my student has joined even those that are currently archived. The school shown is not a school that my student has ever attended; it’s not even a school in our state. Now, I would just remove my student from the old groups but I don’t own them so I can’t reactive them and remove my students. My student originally joined Edmodo in a group I own and logs in through a subdomain which belongs to our school. Why can’t my student show the correct school name or at least a school name of a current, active group to which they belong?
  3. Classmates: My students have been involved in some big global projects which is why they are showing over 500 classmates and a bunch of teachers. The problem here? These groups are no longer active. They can’t view the profiles of most of these classmates because they are no longer actively connected and the teachers have no access to my students at this point anymore either. Luckily, I do show as one of the teachers in the profile but I have seen some examples where I’m not even shown on the profile and I’m the only teacher that they really know. Why aren’t these connections removed if the groups are archived? They aren’t connections anymore.

I have really liked the ability to connect with other schools or in big projects in Edmodo but may have to avoid these in the future if the school name and classmate/teacher issues can’t get fixed. I would like to have parents involved on Edmodo in the future but they won’t appreciate seeing their child being associated with a school they’ve never attended and they won’t understand 500+ classmates when their child isn’t involved in a global project.

Is anyone else running into these issues? How are you handling them?

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Student Portfolio Platform Problems

Last year, my Middle School students created Google Sites to use as portfolios of their work in the Computer Lab. We use Google Chrome as our browser at school. All was working well except when students embedded HTML from other sites. Last year they got a warning message telling them that their page had insecure content with the option to load it anyway. This wasn’t pretty but I knew that the message was coming up because Google Sites always load as secure content (https) while most of the embedded content was not secure (http). I really wish there were an option to not use the secure option when viewing a Google Site; I get it when editing but why not just let it be http when viewing?

This year we aren’t even getting a message and there is no way to get the embedded insecure content to load in Chrome at least that I can find. Does anyone know a way?

For some embeds, the embed code can be modified to be https instead of http and it works just fine but not all embeds will allow it – for example, the above embed does not allow this.

Since I can’t control Chrome or how Google Sites are displayed,  I’m debating what to do:

  • Do I let my students continue on with their Google Sites and have them edit or view their sites in Firefox instead of Chrome? This seems rather counter-intuitive since both products are from Google but don’t seem to play nicely together when using embeds from other sites. Do I limit embeds to those they can modify to use https? Who’s volunteering to come and teach my students that not only do they need to find and embed the code in the correct place but now they need to modify it too?
  • Do I turn on Blogger in our Google Apps for Ed account and have them use that instead? What kind of control will I have on those? Is that a good idea for my under 13 crowd?
  • Do I create student blogs here in Edublogs? I know I can control these but I think there are less options to transfer ownership once the student leaves our school.
  • Do I go with a site like Weebly instead? How transferable are those sites?
  • Do I have students add pages to our Computer Lab Wiki? Those wouldn’t be easily transferred to the student when they leave the school but would be easy to do.

What would you do or what do you do to let students share their own work online?