Edcamp Palm Springs & Thoughts About Session Boards


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?

Power Searching with Google Results

It’s official, I completed the Power Searching with Google course with a score of 100%! As I said in my previous post this isn’t the end but the beginning of a revised approach in teaching or reviewing search with my students.


Power Searching with Google – The End

Class 6 – Putting It All Together

I often feel that I struggle with how to wind up a unit in the lab so I was curious as to how this course would be concluded. The lessons today reviewed some of the search features that had been explored and provided some additional resources for refining search skills. It was a wrap up in 3 short videos and 3 activities that practiced combining operators and using Google tools not normally used in research such as Google Maps. I like that the final activity was to subscribe to an additional search resource to continue to learn about search.

Post-class Assessment

I felt that the post-class assessment was definitely more challenging than the mid-class assessment. I found my self questioning some of the questions. For example:

I didn’t think that any of the answers were truly correct since the snippet is a portion of the text on the page and it includes the search terms not just text before and after the search terms.

Once again I don’t feel that the correct answer is included in the choices since most of the choices do not have any keyword to do with volunteering.

No, I’m not going to tell you my answer choices in case you are still completing the course. I did end up with 100% on the assessment so I didn’t over-think anything too much. I’m excited to get my certificate for completing the course and plan to add it to this post once I get it.

Final Hangout

It was interesting to watch the Final Hangout for the class and discover what were the most popular questions asked since I hadn’t had time to look at what had been asked prior to the hangout.

  • I found the drop off of relevance answer interesting because from what I understand Google tends to rate more recently updated pages higher than pages that haven’t been updated in awhile. This can mean that some research topics might have the best information on higher pages.
  • I loved the tip about nesting quotes to avoid the use on synonyms. I didn’t know this one!
  • My favorite part of this hangout was the demo of the Nexus 7; even though I just got an iPad, I really want to get my hands on the Nexus 7.

If you missed this, you can watch it online:

I also happened to catch Google Educast #56 and Tasha Berson-Michelson was the special guest talking about the course. If you’re interested in what Tasha found the most interesting about the course, check out the Google Educast!

Not the End – A New Beginning

It may be the end of the class but for me it’s a beginning – a beginning of trying to put together some search ideas for my classes for the upcoming school year. For my 7th & 8th graders, I’d like to take an approach really similar to this course to review search and to find out what might be missing in their search knowledge. Here’s my plan:

  • Use appropriate videos from the course and make some of my own to use different searches in some cases to make things relevant for my students.
  • Create my own activities that will be applicable to searches my students need to complete. How I am going to do this is very much up in the air. I would love to have access to the platform that was used for this course to create my own course but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen so I’m going to explore a few options:
    • I could use the Computer Lab Wiki to house the course and use Google Forms and Flubaroo for the activities. My students could also use the discussions available on the wiki to help one another, ask questions, etc. but it’s not a threaded discussion which can make it difficult to follow.
    • I could also Edmodo for this since my students are familiar with that platform and it can handle assignments, discussions and quizzes but once again the discussions aren’t threaded and since everything would be on the wall of the group it could be tough to follow.
    • Another possibility would be to set up a Google Site with the videos and links to the Google Forms for the activities. I could then use a Google Group for discussions though I would need to make sure that I have groups set up to allow this on the school domain. Once again the discussions aren’t threaded. Are threaded discussions really needed? Maybe they’re not though I think they can be really helpful when trying to follow a discussion.
    • Another option might be Collaborize Classroom. I think this platform would make for very rich discussions but would be lacking in the ability to do the activities though I could still use Google Forms and Flubaroo for this.
    • I am also thinking about trying out Schoology since this platform seems to have the ability to set up lessons which can include embedded media as well as allowing discussions and having a quiz feature that could be used for the activities.
  • Once the review piece is completed then rather than having a final assessment, I think it would be fun to see what belt the students could earn as a Google Search Ninja.

For my younger students who haven’t had as many previous lessons on search, I plan to use the appropriate level of lesson plans from Google Search Education. I am also tossing around ideas of how I can use Google A Day challenges to hone searching skills all year long.

How are you going to help your students improve their searching skills? If you, like me, are going to be heavily inspired by the format of the Power Searching with Google course, what tools and websites do you plan to use?

Power Searching with Google – Class 5

Checking Your Facts

I was really looking forward to this class because how to assess credibility and bias are big issues with my students. They are of the “if it’s in the top results it must be the best site” mind. Before I even ventured into this class, I tweeted about it and Dan Russell replied:

I was still very interested in how the search experts would approach this topic and would definitely love a full class on it in the future.

  • I liked the first video as an overview of what search results really mean and need to get my students to understand that the ranking of a site does not equate to its credibility.
  • I have used the All About Explorers site for lessons on credibility and have found some variant data involved while using it. For example, in the John Cabot Treasure Hunt my students found that they had a hard time finding out exactly when and where John Cabot died.
  • Good points in the second video about not searching for the things that you think you already know. Teaching students how to frame their search is so important.
  • Interesting idea to use the date range options to look at the validity of quotes. This would also have to lead to other credibility ideas since dates can be spoofed on servers or can just be wrong for some reason. Also, you would need to be sure to verify the validity of the site also.
  • Using WHOIS to look up who owns a site is a good idea for students to use and be aware of however there seemed to be a problem with this lesson since it was stated that the name server owns the company and this isn’t true; they merely host the site. In the example given, Johnson & Johnson probably does own Splenda but that’s not always the case.

Things I wondered about during this class:

  • Are extra words really bad in searches? Any time I do search classes or read search hints I find that I include more words than is recommended as the best way. I don’t type sentences or questions but I do include more than the minimum. How bad is that really?
  • Since not all books are scanned, searching books doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re looking for doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t exist (yet) on Google. How do I get my students to use searching within books when appropriate but to realize that it may not be the definitive answer?
  • Why was there no mention of finding a site author and checking their credibility through additional searches. This is a skill I feel is really important for my students to use.

Are you teaching search skills to your students? What kinds of activities or lessons are you doing with your students to address credibility of sites and bias on sites?

Power Searching with Google – Class 4

Find Facts Faster

As I went through Class 4, here were some of my thoughts:

  • I definitely want to use Search by Image with my students and am thinking of an Internet Scavenger Hunt of some kind with this. This can be such a powerful tool. I know I use it to see if my images are being used on the web anywhere that I don’t know about.
  • As I was completing the activities, I couldn’t help but think how cool it would be if the testing tool could perform the search that was being asked for when you clicked in the answer box so it could show you the actual answer rather than just a hint about finding the answer. This has to be possible and it would make the activities even better!
  • I really wonder if the panel options on a Google Search will ever be available on tablets I hope so and can see it happening especially since Google just released the Nexus 7. On a side note that has nothing to do with searching, I also really hope that full editing capabilities in Google documents is available soon on mobile devices!
  • I love the idea of translated foreign pages. It truly does bring the world together. I hadn’t really played with this before. I had used Google Translate but not searched for translated foreign pages. Have you used this with your students? What have you done with it?