ISTE Brain Dump – Day 1

There’s a million little thoughts swirling ’round me [1. From You’ve Got No Time by The Cowsills]

I’ve been holding off blogging about my first ISTE experience because I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what I want to say but the further I get away from it, the more I know I’ll regret not just saying something so here goes nothing!

Day 1: Social EdCon

From the moment I decided to go to ISTE 2012, I knew I would head down a day early and take part in Social EdCon. I had followed this on Twitter in years past and wanted to join in on the fun. Having been involved in organizing some edCamps, I was interested in how the day would be organized. I loved the use of big poster boards for proposing sessions and the voting for each session so that popular sessions might be spread out during the day and not all scheduled at the same time.

100_7598.JPG [2. Photo by Peggy George – CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic]

At California edCamps we haven’t really done any voting on sessions. There has always been room for all sessions that people wanted to do but now that I’ve seen this in action, I think voting on sessions would be a great idea just to spread out the most popular ideas throughout the day. I loved the use of crayons for this too – fun touch.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Just being there to feel the energy in the room!
  • Meeting and/or reconnecting with so many amazing educators – I’d try to name them all but I know I’d leave someone out so I’m not going to do it.
  • Sharing the day and lunch with @teachseuss & @TeacherBandMom.
  • Smackdown run by Vicki Davis who I finally go to meet in person!
  • Unconference sessions – my favorite of the day was Grades Are Not Motivating I think in part because the group was small (apparently there was another group also discussing this one since no on really knew where Downstairs, Right was) so it was much more of a discussion than the previous sessions I had been in. All the sessions that I attended tried to be discussions but it was difficult to hear since the groups were big.
  • Getting to be in the photo! See below.
  • Meeting even more people at the Social EdCon After Party.
  • Hanging out with the “cool kids” (@markwagner, @WendyGorton, @k_shelton, @alicekeeler & more) at the hotel bar after the Social EdCon After Party.

[3. Photo by Peggy George – CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic]

Will I do it again next year if I make to the conference? You bet! This really is an awesome way to start off a conference.


ISTE Bound

Another school year is over and this year instead of sitting at home trying to follow all of the action from ISTE virtually, I get to attend in person! I have been busy:

I am very excited about meeting some people in person that I only know online and reconnecting with some of my California PLN that I don’t see frequently enough. If I know you from Twitter or Plurk or Elementary Tech Teachers or anywhere else, come see me in the Social Butterfly Lounge Monday from 2-2:30pm or Tuesday from 1:30-2pm!

Edcamping Again

What was I doing heading 6 hours north on a Friday afternoon in August especially when my lab still wasn’t ready for the new year and my oldest daughter was headed back to college in five days? I was headed for edcamp SFBay, that’s what. I had been asked to be on the organizing committee for edcamp SFBay and agreed to be in charge of the session board for the day, so it was off to Oakland for me.


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As I drove, I wondered …

  • Would edcamp SFBay live up to my expectations or was the experience at edcamp OC special because it was the first edcamp I had ever attended?
  • What were we thinking holding this so close to the start of the school year?
  • Would the people who had signed up actually show up?
  • Would I take the opportunity to lead a session?

Morning sessionsSaturday morning dawned and it was time to answer these questions!  After we finally got on to the school grounds (did the left turn signal ever work for anyone?), I started to set up the session boards, put out the session cards and head to the classrooms to put up signs about the WiFi password and edcamp SFBay web sites. I was definitely more relaxed about the setup having been through it once before and because the online session board, wiki and Flickr Group were all ready to go.

As I went to the classrooms to hang up the signs, I looked around and realized that something was missing – there were no projectors and no Interactive White Boards. I worried about how this would work since I had seen some of the early session ideas go up on the board. I knew that people were planning to show web sites and had prepared presentations. Amazingly enough it had little effect on the day. People changed gears and:

  • Shared web sites that others could get to on their own devices using WiFi OR
  • Gathered people around a single laptop if something needed to be shown OR
  • Changed the focus of the session to be a discussion rather than a demonstration AND
  • We all had great fun writing on the chalk boards – yes, chalk boards!

So now to answer my questions:

Question: Would edcamp SFBay live up to my expectations or was the experience at edcamp OC special because it was the first edcamp I had ever attended?

Answer: Yes, edcamp OC was special because it was first and a truly great day of learning but edcamp SFBay was equally amazing and energizing and thought provoking. The day was different because of the location and the people in attendance and the lack of technology on the campus, but it was still a day of amazing discussions and dedicated educators taking control of their own learning.

Question: What were we thinking holding this so close to the start of the school year?

Answer: Truthfully, this was the only date that worked but in hindsight, I think it’s a great time for amazing professional development which edcamp SFBay was. Starting a new school year energized and inspired is definitely the best way to start!

Question: Would the people who had signed up actually show up?

Answer: Some did … and some didn’t. I think that is because edcamps are free. There’s no penalty, monetarily or otherwise, if you don’t show up, so if something better comes up, people don’t come. I don’t know how you could change this and I wonder if you’d even want to. I feel that part of what makes an edcamp great is that the people who are there, truly want to be there. Amazingly, Dan Callahan made it out to California again for edcamp SFBay (it was edcamp #12 for him!) and he wasn’t even the one from the furthest away! There was a teacher from Spain and another from Israel, I believe – pretty darn cool!

Question: Would I take the opportunity to lead a session?

Answer: I did! I lead a discussion on “Raising Good Digital Citizens” during Session #3. I often think about how to help my students become good Digital Citizens and because of that I selfishly wanted to talk to other educators and get their feedback on the subject. We didn’t come to any amazing revelations or solve any big issues, but it was great to get insight and input from others. A big thank you to Tim Monreal, Sam Chaudhary, Lara Jensen & Jeff Silva-Brown for contributing to the discussion. You made me think about things I am doing and what I might want to do differently. I did put on a presenter’s hat for a moment to share my Digital Citizenship Live Binder during the session. I would love to have comments from others who have used any of the resources in it.

In addition to leading a discussion, I attended:

Session 1:  Gamification of Your Classroom (led by Alice Keeler) – I only got to sit in on a bit of this session since I was updating the online session board for most of this session. Bill Selak jumped in and helped with updating the online session board (thanks Bill!) so I was able to get in on the last few minutes of the discussion. Great ideas in this session and I’m happy to have Alice’s notes for reference from this one!

Session 2: Turn Your School Into a Technology Center (led by Elly Faden) – This wasn’t really what I expected and I could have chosen to vote with my feet and go elsewhere but I’m glad I didn’t. I love the idea of having a private wiki or website to share documents, tutorials, etc. with the staff at school and am going to work on setting this up.

Session 4: Things The Suck (led by Bill Selak) – Dan Callahan has retired from this session and passed the torch on to Bill at edcamp SFBay and Bill ran this session admirably. I loved the discussions in this session and give a tip of my hat to Pat Fallis who made it a point to take the opposing view and defend it well.

Session 5: How can we use EdCamp principles in school/district PD? (led by Dan Callahan) – We are a small school so a true edcamp model can’t really work but I would like to try to bring the spirit of an edcamp into professional development at our school. I am planning some after school training sessions for the teachers but have decided that instead of me setting the agenda, I am going to let them suggest and vote on what they want to learn. Small steps at first and we’ll see where that leads!

I returned home on Sunday energized for the new school year and ready to try some new things with my students and with the staff at my school. Isn’t that what all this is about?

Thanks so much to my fellow organizers of edcamp SFBay. You were all amazing! Next year there has to be a group picture. A special thank you to my roomie, Diane Main. It was great to hang out with you; we’ll have to do it again some time soon!

IMG_5306Creative Commons licensed photo by Karen McMillan

I Wanna Be a Rock Star!

August 2nd-4th, I had the privilege of attending Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp. What an amazing 3 days filled with lots of learning and fun. I had planned on attending this camp when it was scheduled to be held in Calabasas and really struggled with the decision of attending up in O’Neals. I am so glad that I made the choice to go!

What This Was Not

This was so not your standard run-of-the-mill professional development.

There were no back-to-back 45 minute-60 minute sessions crammed into a huge room without any hands on time. Sessions and lunch breaks were deliberately longer than is the norm. The number of registrants was kept small on purpose. This allowed for really getting in and playing with the ideas and tools being presented and down time to absorb what you’d heard and to socialize with other attendees.

There were no presenters who read from their presentations or who fumbled with the tools they were presenting. These presenters were all (or almost all) Google Certified Teachers and/or Apple Distinguished Educators and they really knew their stuff and were inspiring just to watch for how they presented as much as what they presented!

What This Was

This was an opportunity to hear about the sessions from the presenters themselves every morning during the Shred Sessions. What a great way to help attendees learn more about what their choices were each day. The biggest problem that I had was deciding which sessions to attend each day since they all sounded so good!

This was a chance for me to visit Yosemite for the very first time on a Photo Safari with Ken Shelton. An amazing experience and my only regret is that we didn’t have more time there.

This was a chance for me to take away real, practical things that I can and will use at my school with my students or with my fellow teachers.

  • Inspired by Dave Childers, I am going move our school calendars into Google Apps for Education and get our staff on board with using at least this tool.
  • Inspired by Diane Main, there will be more Google Map & Google Earth activities in the lab this year. Last year, my 4th graders created a California Missions Google Map. That will definitely be happening again but I am also planning some ideas for my Middle School students too.
  • Inspired by Ken Shelton, I am going to build a photo library for use by my students. Now, I need to find the money to buy Lightroom!
  • Inspired by Jim Sill & Kyle Brumbaugh, my students are going to start telling stories with movies. First up, Google Search Stories with my Middle School students.
  • Inspired by Jon Corippo, my students will be leading their own learning more. I see Google Presentation Karaoke in their future!
  • Inspired by Gini Pierce-Cummings, I plan to try Collaborize Classroom with my 6th or 7th graders. I think this might be a better fit with one of the classroom teachers rather than in the Computer Lab but I see some great online discussions happening as we try this out this year.

Perfect PD, right? Well, of course not – nothing’s perfect. If I were I a Rock Star, here are a few things I might change:

  • I’d add a beginner’s strand. I traveled to Rock Star Camp with a beginner and she was pretty lost during much of the 3 days.
  • I’d make the Yosemite Photo Safari at least a 1/2 day thing with sessions only in the afternoon. Or, make it an all day Outdoor Ed opportunity and hold hands-on sessions at Yosemite on photography, geocaching, live blogging a field trip and more!
  • I’d move it closer to me! 🙂

Thanks to everyone at Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp. I hope I’m able to do it again next year!

It Was Just One of Those … Years!

I was really excited about the online collaborative projects amd activities that I had scheduled for my classes this past year. Some of them we had done in previous years, both successfully and not so successfully, and some were new projects that my students hadn’t done in the past.

This just seemed to be one of those years where the planets were out of alignment and many of the projects just didn’t work out the way I had envisioned …

1st Grade: Describe A Snowman

My 1st Graders in 2009 did this activity and it was very successful. They loved making and describing the snowmen and trying to recreate our partner school’s snowmen and then seeing the results. I was excited to have this year’s 1st Graders involved in this activity. My students created their snowmen and recorded their descriptions. Then, we waited for our partner school to post their descriptions and my students recreated their partner classes’ snowmen. Unfortunately, our partner school never recreated my students’ snowmen which was a real disappointment for them.

Will I do this one again next year? Writing skills are being emphasized school wide in the upcoming year so having 1st graders involved in an activity where they have to describe something in detail fits in well with this. That means that this activity is on the “let’s try it again next year” list and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that our partner class participates fully.

2nd Grade: Monster Project

I really love the Monster Project and my students have enjoyed participating in it in the past. This year my students loved drawing their monsters and worked hard on their descriptions; writing and editing with their classroom teacher and then typing and editing again in the computer lab after our 6th graders tried to recreate their monsters. I uploaded the descriptions to the Monster Project wiki and we waited for our partner class to post their descriptions or redraw our monsters but sadly it never happened. Eventually, one of the project organizers had some students redraw my student’s monsters but unfortunately my students never had the opportunity to try to recreate someone else’s monster. Since our monsters didn’t get redrawn until May, I never had the chance to have my students reflect on their experience with the project.

Will I do this one again next year? As I mentioned above, writing skills are being emphasized school wide in the upcoming year so, yes, this project is back on the list for next year. I may have both my 2nd & 3rd graders do this since my 3rd graders didn’t get the whole experience when they were in 2nd grade.

4th & 6th Grades: Progressive Story Project

Both my 4th & 6th grade students had fun writing their contributions for the Progressive Story Project. Each class actually progressively wrote their part of the story in the Computer Lab by moving from computer to computer to add to multiple stories and then voting for the best story starter as a class. My 4th graders drew their pictures in KidPix with two students sitting together at a computer and taking turns to add to the drawing. My 6th graders used the drawing tools in Google Docs to work on their pictures at the same time. Unfortunately (and you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), one of the classes on the 4th grade story never sent in their pictures and none of the classes on the 6th grade story added to the story at all so it began and ended with my class.

Will I do this one again next year? Bet you can guess, can’t you? Yes, I will do this one again because it is a writing project and the students did enjoy the creation process and my 4th graders loved it when we read the entire story. I’m not sure if I will do it with 4th grade in the upcoming year or not because 4th grade is joining the Virtual USA Project but I’m definitely doing it again with 6th grade!

5th Grade: Time Zone Experiences

This was the third year that my 5th grade students participated in the Time Zone Experiences project. This year, they enjoyed creating their podcasts for the assigned times and listening to and commenting on the podcasts from the other school. However, due to schedules and other commitments at our school and at the other school involved, there just wasn’t much interaction this year between the classes.

Will I do this one again next year? There’s definitely writing involved with this project and learning to comment on wikis and work asynchronously with others, but after three years and moderate success with the project, I think it’s time to move on. Sadly, it’s never really gotten off the ground and I think it is a great learning experience but I’m planning to do A Week in the Life Flat Classroom Project with 5th Grade in the upcoming year.

8th Grade: Digiteen

This was the first year that I had any students involved with the Digiteen Project. I had followed it in years past and was always somewhat intimidated by it but decided it would be a great project for my 8th graders. I do a lot of Digital Citizenship related activities with my Middle School students and spent the first part of the year reviewing and introducing the tools my 8th graders would need to know to work on the project. Even with that review and their past experiences, my students floundered and felt lost at times. I don’t feel that this was a failure but it wasn’t the success I envisioned either. My students could definitely have used more prior work on researching skills and the fact that I only see them twice a week for 45 minutes each class was a big issue. It was difficult for them to complete the work that needed to be done in that short amount of time. I think that the Action Projects were the most successful part of the project for my students.

Will I do this one again next year? I still love the idea of this project but I am not planning on doing this again this upcoming year. Based on some things that happen at our school at the end of the year, I feel that it would be better for my students to be involved in the Digiteen Project at the beginning of the year and my incoming 8th graders will not be prepared for the project. So, my plan is to spend the time on research skills and wiki editing and other tools with my 7th graders in the upcoming year so that in September of 2012 they will be ready for the Digiteen Project. I am going to try to do some kind of Digital Citizenship project with my 8th graders this year either on Edmodo or maybe via a blog. If you would be interested in joining us, please email me at stmcomputers@gmail.com.

So, that was our adventure in how not to participate in collaborative projects. I refuse to let this scare me away from trying again with some of the same and some new projects for the upcoming year. I’m just crossing my fingers that it won’t be another of those years!