EdCamp YYC Style

On April 21, I attended my first ever EdCamp. Not really knowing what to expect, but hearing the rants and raves about how great edcamps are, I figured it had to be a win-win situation. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

The day began with coffee and networking in the morning. It’s always nice to finally put a face to a twitter “avatar.” We continued into the gym for our keynote speaker, Sharon Friesen, who gave a wonderful discussion on the new Inspiring Ed document, and the need to move towards student based learning, but not the “fluffy” inquiry-based learning type. From there, the day was divided into four different sessions that participates could attend. These were the sessions I attended and a brief blurb of the incredible knowledge shared:

1) Apps in the Classroom: Due to the fact that our group was so large, we broke apart into grade level groups to discuss the types of apps or tools that we are either using as teachers or with our students. We had a great discussion about what’s working, the challenges with tech/wifi, but the biggest things that I took away were two resources to use in the classroom.
a. PuppetPals2 app – If you’ve used tellagami or sock puppets, this is an app very similar to those, except new and improved, I would say. You can choose the basic free version, but if you upgrade the variety of characters and scenes as well as the ability to place your own head onto characters’ bodies is allowed. I haven’t tried it yet with my students, but can definitely foresee high levels of engagement and a lot fun! Download it, if you haven’t already!

b. Tikatok Website – An online tool to allow students to create their own digital stories. You can initially sign up for a free trial, but once that expires, costs $19/year for the basic version, then jumps up to $99 for the next membership. Regardless, the projects that the students can make are fantastic! Check it out.

2) Genius Hour: This topic, again, has been something that I’ve done a lot of research looking into but haven’t seen it hands on in a classroom. It was a privilege to see a class example, the incredible things the students were creating, and the positive feedback from the teacher. Here are a few tips that the facilitator suggested:
a. Introduce the concept to students by posing the question, “What have you always wanted to learn about or do, but never had the chance to?” Then show them this video to get them thinking.

b. Steer students away from a “research” type project but more towards what are you planning on creating. You want to be looking at the process through the entire project.
c. Meet with students frequently during class genius hour times to discuss what level of blooms they’re at, and how to help them move among the levels. Where can they improve? Where do they need help?
d. A final project could be a Ted talk, whereby students describe how they felt at the beginning of the project, what the process was like, and share their final project if there is one.

Within our busy class times as teachers, giving students “free” time can be a scary idea. What subject do you pull the time from? Is it really important? After seeing the example projects and these students’ ted talks it was incredible to see how enthusiastic they were about their learning. What else could you want as a teacher?

The facilitator showed this little video to prove the point of the need for genius hour and no time constraints on learning.

3) Coding: Again, this is another hot topic that I know little about and wanted to learn more. We had a small group of teachers in this session, but I was still given a good amount of information on coding and the place for it in the classroom. There were a couple of ideas that were given in this session that really sunk the message in and the value of coding in the classroom:

Here are more resources that can be used to help with coding in your classroom:
Cayly Dixon Presentation
MindCraft Edu
Lego Mindstorms
Makey Makey
IFTTT – If this, then that
Apps for Teaching Coding

4) GAFE: We currently aren’t using Google Apps in my school system, but I feel it’s still important to learn about all tech related concepts, regardless of if they are the ones your school adopts or not. This session was filled with effective ideas for using Google Apps, and how seamless they can work within a classroom environment. Here are a few links provided during the session:
Ninja Program
5 Google Demo Slams Worth Watching
GAFE Facilitator Document

After this amazing learning and collaborative day, and reflecting on my experience during this past week, it was obvious to me why an edcamp style PD works. Here’s my summary why:
1) It’s free! There’s nothing teachers love more than free things!
2) Choosing topics the day of = engagement! We’re always looking for engagement in our students, yet we are just like them. When we have choice about what we want to learn we’re more likely to be active participants, and interact, collaborate, and share our ideas with others.
3) Teacher Expertise! There’s nothing better than learning from a fellow teacher. Someone who is in the classroom, experiencing what you’re experiencing, and at your level. Sharing the great things happening in your school and classroom offers an incredible amount of empowerment to teachers.

If you haven’t been to an edcamp before, I highly recommend you do, and if you have continue to explore them. This is a great movement, and I believe that if we continue towards this edcamp model for all types of PD the benefits are endless!

Creating Comic Masterpieces

Comics are a great way for students to show their learning in a concise manner. They are limited to the speech/thought bubbles, but still allow for creativity and appeal to a variety of learning styles. Today I used Comic Life with my beginner Spanish class, and loved the creations that they came up with. Without being taught explicit instructions, they were able to take pictures, type words, change templates and styles, and create a wonderful, polished product.

Student Spanish Comics Using "Estar."

Student Spanish Comics Using “Estar.”

From this assignment I was able to see who grasped the concepts and who still needed assistance. It provided me with addition information about creativity and knowledge about the students. Due to the ease of use, it allowed me to assist those who needed extra help with the app or with creating Spanish phrases. Additionally, exporting to another platform was easy for the students to do. Comic Life allowed for creativity, knowledge to be shared, engagement with students, and a seamless ability to create projects. My students loved using it!

It made me think about other ways in which it could be used in the classroom. Here were a few examples that I was able to find online:

Math Class

Science Class

Social Studies

The ways in which you can use this app in the classroom are endless. I’m only just scratching the surface!

Here are a few links/tips on using Comic Life in the classroom:
How to Use Comic Life in the Classroom
Comic Life
School Examples

The Technology Leader in You

Being a leader in any societal realm requires one to stay current, step outside the box, challenge ideas, and learn. Sometimes it seems that people are stuck in their current state, using the same tools or devices, and unable to grow. Technology can be a difficult area to be a leader in, as current ways are quickly outdated, and things are changing constantly. I always want to be in “the know,” and found that twitter helps with this. My PLN has challenged me in ways I never would have thought of and has allowed me to learn and grow in countless ways. Tonight, #mnlead chat focused on technology leaders and tools/devices that individuals use. It was filled with a plethora of information worthy of sharing.

Question #1: Tell us about a technology tool you use each day in your role and could not live without?

Question #2: In what ways has technology changed your job as a leader?

Question #3: How do you learn about new and relevant technologies to remain current as you lead your program/schools?

Question #4: Tech Slam – What’s your go to tool for:
a. general organization?

b. parent and student communication?

c. engaging presentation?

d. curriculum repository?

Question #5: How do you provide support to teachers or staff to share info about tech practices and concerns?

When you look at the technology tools, apps, and devices that we have available it can be overwhelming. Comparing that to five years ago, it’s obvious that things have changed and will continue to grow and expand. It is our jobs as educators to do the same. Is it our job to become masters in every area? I would argue no, but don’t be resistant to it either. Take baby steps, learn as you go, lean on others for support. Everyone has their skills and everyone has areas for improvement. The goal is to discover this, embrace it, and be that leader that’s inside each and every one of us.

Who Needs a Dictionary When You Have Google?


“I don’t even understand why we have dictionaries. All you have to do is type a word into the internet and boom, you know what it means.”
“I know, right? It’s so much easier. Any time I don’t know a word, I just type it into my app and it tells me.”
“So true! I wonder why they even made them.”

This was a conversation that I overheard today as my students were eating their snack. I of course had to jump in on the conversation to find out more about how great google or apps are and how obsolete dictionaries are becoming. I asked the group of students a few questions more about how they search for words and how they look words up, and they responded, “You just type in the word and it tells you the answer right away.”
“How do you know it’s right?” I questioned.
“It’s the internet!” They responded, synchronized, as if planned and rehearsed.

It is interesting to think about the children that are growing up these days and the technologies that surround them. With a click of a button they can easily find answers to questions that would have taken us minutes or even hours to find. Is this a better way? Some would say yes, and I would agree. Why spend all that extra time when it seems our time is always limited? Why spend hours when you can find answers in seconds?

This had me thinking about how we use technology today, and if it is limiting our skills or improving them. In terms of the dictionary, without it do kids know how to organize things alphabetically? Are they able to use guide words to help them? These are skills that I would deem important, but are they? When do we use alphabetical organization today?

I often flip and flop in my mind between fundamental skills that technology inhibits, but the ease and access to things that were never possible prior. In order to gain a benefit in one area do we have to sacrifice something else? Or is there a way to balance?

As educators, I feel that we each have enough knowledge and pedagogical skills to make our own decisions. If a target is in your curriculum, obviously you need to cover it, but I suppose the extent into which you delve is your decision. I think we need to remember that some skills are important to us, because it is the way we learned and in the era we grew up in. But things are changing, and children are adapting. I believe it is our duty to adapt as well.