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!

ISTE 2011 Virtually: Day 3-4

First things first, I am definitely going to ISTE 2012! While I was able to follow along virtually and participate online in the ISTE Unplugged sessions, the thing I wasn’t able to do is meet all of the wonderful people in my PLN that inspire me daily. I want that experience next year!

Starting With The End

I followed the closing keynote of ISTE 11 on Twitter and wished that I was sitting in that room or that I was able to see it live. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there and it wasn’t being streamed on the web, but now it’s online so that I (and you) can watch it.

Watch this – Chris Lehmann is amazing!

At about minute 24 in the video, Leslie Conery (ISTE’s Deputy CEO) asks the audience “What is it that you’re going to do next?” She then goes on to say “get it out of your brain” and she challenges the audience to tweet, write down, text two goals that you are taking away from ISTE 2011. At that point, the twitter stream was going too fast to even try to keep up with everyone’s goals!

Chris Lehmann's Closing Keynote - ISTE 2011
Photo by: Kevin Jarrett - Photo license: Attribution Some rights reserved

So, what are my two goals?

  1. Set up Edmodo for at least Grades 4-7. I’ve decided that it’s a better option for what I want to do than Collaborize Classroom though if I have time I may try this site with a few select classes too.
  2. Find (or start) online collaborative projects (preferably global ones) for all of the grades. I had some successes and some learning experiences (don’t want to call them failures) with that this past year and will blog about it at some point.
  3. Okay I know I said two but … I have a third (and more but I’ll stop at #3) which is to take the time to explore all of the things that I saved to Diigo or added to my notes or that I find as I read follow up blogs, etc.

My Day 3 & 4 Learning

Once again, I spent a lot of time at ISTE Unplugged and came away inspired by what people are doing and thinking about how I want to approach certain things next year. Here’s just a little of what I took away from the sessions I attended. The archives of all of the ISTE Unplugged sessions are now (or will be) available so if any of these interest you, you should go watch the archive!

ISTE Unplugged
Inspire Creative Writing with Online Discussions by Caitlin Tucker & Blended Learning: Differentiate Instruction and Bring Science to Life by Colt Briner
These were both sessions about Collaborize Classroom. I was very interested to hear how they were using or recommended using this platform. I loved the ideas of having students share writing and give feedback to one another on their work. I was impressed with the examples shown in this session and may try Collaborize Classroom with 7th or 8th grade this coming year but I still think that for what I want to do that Edmodo is probably a better fit.

Bringing Books to Life by Bob Greenberg
Amazing stop-motion animation videos from 2nd Graders! I need to stop thinking things like they’re too young for things like that and try some of these with some of my students next year even the younger ones. There are lots of ideas running around my brain right now about using stop-motion animation like this and paper slide videos and flip book animations using PowerPoint or other tools. I would like these to be tied into the curriculum though and not just animation with no purpose. I like the idea of retelling books they’ve read or tying these into Social Studies or Science somehow. I need to talk to some of the classroom teachers about this to see where they think the best fit might be.

Movie Magic by Josh Stumpenhorst
I first discovered Josh’s blog when he did the You’ve Got a Friend in Me lip dub video so I was excited to see him on the list of presenters. I hadn’t realized that Josh used PCs & PC tools – yeah! Usually all the cool tools shown are for Macs and I have to try to find alternatives for the PC. The examples in Josh’s Prezi are great. I really love the first one in the Authentic section about lockers. Lockers can cause such angst for 6th graders. I would really like to get into some green screen projects but haven’t really explored it much yet. The tutorial on Josh’s blog will come in handy!

Flipped Classroom Model: The Full Picture by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.
Interesting thoughts on the flipped classroom from Jackie – watch the archive to see where she stands on this. Unplugged sessions are quick so I’m definitely going to review Jackie’s presentation and learn more about the different models of learning she discussed. I still think that flipping some things is a great idea as long as all students have access to computers and the Internet at home. I have been toying with the idea myself. Why should I take 15 minutes of a 30-45 minutes class to explain how to do something? The students could learn that at home with a video before class and come in ready to actually do something instead of learning how to do something for 1/4-1/2 of the class.

Creating eBook – eContent with ePub format to support your curriculum or your flipped classroom by Helen Lazzaro and Tricia Lazzaro
I am very excited about having some of my classes creating eBooks and was thrilled to know that ePub is rolling out an education option! I had already planned on doing more writing with students this year and this will be a great way to not only have them write but to have them publish their work. I definitely am going to spend some time setting up accounts for my students and playing with the creation of books with ePub before school starts and since we use Chrome as our browser at school, they’ll be able to read them online.

Unbelievable Elementary Technology Projects by Brad Flickinger
Wow, amazing ideas and amazing work by students from Bethke Elementary. The movies created by the 5th graders are terrific. I would love to get into movie making more with some grades. Right now I only have 2 Flip Video Cameras and we would need to change some things in order to be able to share video of the students online. I’d love to pick up some Lego Robotics at some point but I don’t think that will be happening for at least another year. I intend to use some of the examples from this school to show my students that yes, students you age can do these things!

Empowering Students to Take Charge of Their Learning by Jason Schrage
It is always so helpful to see how people are using tools with their students and that’s just what Jason did. Jason showed how he uses LiveBinders with hist students and how his students use them too! Next year, I will be doing more research projects with students and think that using LiveBinders to collect the information might be a good solution. If you have been wondering how to use LiveBinders with students check out Jason’s session and his presentation binder.

Social Media in the Classroom by Elaine Plybon
One interesting point that Elaine brought up is that many people are getting fired or having problems at work from inappropriate use of Social Networking sites. Because of this, Elaine is trying to show her students how to use Social Networking responsibly. This point made me wonder. Many educators are using Social Networking sites in the classroom and many times this is because the students are already using them so their teachers are trying to meet them where they are. Is this going to cause our students more problems in the workplace? Might they not think that since their schools adapted to them, their workplaces will too.

Going Global: One Classroom’s Journey by Ben Curran
I was so inspired by Ben’s ideas and what he did in his classroom this year to connect his students globally. It’s hard to believe that Ben got started just after attending the ISTE Conference in 2010. This session contained lots of practical advice on how to get started and some great examples of what can be done. I am especially interested in learning more about and possibly joining the Challenge 20/20 Program but I would need the participation of the classroom teacher also to make this a cross curricular project so it may need to wait for the 2012/13 school year.

CIPA and COPPA – Fighting Internet Filters and Those “No One Under 13” Restrictions by Mark E. Moran
Mark had a lot of good information on both of these in his presentations (CIPA & COPPA). We’re not really impacted by these at our school because we don’t get any Federal funding but I was interested in what Mark had to say. I am working on a presentation for parents on Digital Citizenship and wanted to bring in some things about both CIPA and COPPA. The big problem that we have at school is students under 13 that are on Social Networking sites – mostly Facebook. As Mark pointed out, it’s not illegal; it’s just going against the Terms of Service of the website. I’m just afraid that if I say it’s not illegal that even more of my 2nd & 3rd Grade students will have Facebook accounts. I plan to emphasize that it’s teaching our kids to lie and that morally and ethically that’s not what we want to teach our kids.

Technology, autonomy and healthy adolescent development by Jamie Steckart
I decided to attend this session because the title of it interested me and reminded me of my friend Stephen Davis. I love the ideas on letting the students take charge of what and how they will learn. Jamie pointed out that in most cases Kindergarten students have more autonomy than High School students. That does seem rather crazy, doesn’t it? Jamie’s school is amazing. What’s even more amazing is that they can do all that they do with the small class sizes and expeditions that do not require additional money from the students using the standard amount of money that a school gets from the state. If this school can do it, why can’t every school?

Whew, and that’s only some of the sessions I attended! I would like to say a big thank you to Steve Hargadon for providing ISTE Unplugged for those of us unable to attend ISTE 11. I truly appreciate the opportunity to learn and to be part of it all.

EduBloggerCon 2011
Photo by: Kevin Jarrett - Photo license: Attribution Some rights reserved

Reading all of this I realize that I have a lot to do this summer and the learning opportunities aren’t over yet either! Here’s what I have coming up this summer:

  • Reform Symposium Conference 3 -This is an online conference from July 29th-31st. You should check it out too!
  • Rock Star Teacher Summer Tech Camp – I’m going to this one from August 2nd-4th and you can too! Last I checked there were still a few spots left.
  • EdCamp SFBay – It’s free. It’s teacher directed. It’s in the San Francisco area. I’ll be there on August 20th. Will you?
  • And, of course, reading all the blogs about the ISTE 11 & watching the videos from Video on Demand sessions