Tuesday, 22 April 2014

#EdCampSWO Take-Aways: Afternoon

Here's the second half of my experiences at EdCamp South Western Ontario on Saturday, April 12. ICYMI, you can read about the first half of the day, too.

Even lunchtime at an EdCamp is informative! I found some new people to dine with and we chatted about some of the sessions I'd missed (excellent apps for Music teachers, for example) while enjoying a yummy meal at Rose's Family Diner.

After lunch there was a lot to look forward to - door prizes (thank you Tech Smith, Wonderopolis, and all the other generous sponsors!), and the keynote address by GECDSB's very own Doug Peterson (@dougpete). Those of us in Greater Essex have enjoyed learning from, and with, Doug over the years in a variety of different ways. His expertise in many things tech has always been appreciated and it was great to get to learn from him again.

The Keynote

Doug talked about The Best PD. He summed up his talk on his own blog post by saying, "My talk, to the choirs in Tilbury and London, was about the changing nature of professional learning.  We’ve certainly come a long way from…
… to taking full control over our own learning.  There are so many good, contemporary ways to do that and my call to action to the group was to ask them how they were going to make this happen.
He began by asking us to tweet about the best PD we'd ever experienced. Since I was obviously following along with #EdcampSWO it was cool to see the tag light up with interesting and relevant stuff. My best experience was undoubtedly #EdCampDetroit last year where I was exposed to this style of the "unconference". I wasn't surprised to see many people citing today's event or other, similar types of "differentiated" professional learning and collaboration as their best PD experiences.  Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the ability to find most of those great tweets (so much learning, so little time for blogging), but here's a few tidbits:

Personally, the best thing I learned from listening to Doug was all the different online reading and sharing apps and sites he uses. The Zite app has since become a staple in my digital diet, along with Diigo and Packratius. I concur with his idea that "if it's worth reading, it's worth sharing", and I appreciate him providing suggestions of tools that help us do just that!

Doug's Reading Flow

Genius Hour

My first session after lunch was an open call for learning "Who Knows About Genius Hour?". A lot of people joined us who hadn't really heard about or done this in their classroom, but there were a few seasoned Geniuses in the room that I was able to glean from. A lot of discussion centred around explaining what Genius Hour was all about, as well as whether it was something that teachers should/could assess and the value of it in the classroom. There were some secondary teachers among our ranks and it was interesting to hear about the different pedagogical focus in high school and note the challenges different mindsets pose to integrating technology in innovative and relevant ways in the classroom. They were not convinced that Science and Math teachers in Grade 11 & 12, for example, could actually integrate technology or independent study time due to the heavy test/grades/numbers/"is this a credit that will get my child into University?" focus at this level. There were also some Faculty students present, and I think we were all dismayed (but not surprised) that upon asking them if the Faculty was presenting these kinds of cutting edge concepts we were told that they "hadn't heard of these things until today". This mirrors the concept my colleagues and I were discussing during our School-Based Math Learning PD last week wherein best-practices in pedagogical change seems to be "bottom up" - beginning in the elementary schools and being pushed into high schools and universities. It was wonderful to be able to introduce so many educators to this concept. I look forward to future EdCamps where the number of teachers experienced with Genius Hour is greater and therefore deeper learning and collaboration will naturally result!

To learn more about Genius Hour, check out this wonderful Live Binder by Joy Kirr (@joykirr).

A Speedy View of Skype in the Classroom

The final session (which we all concurred should be scratched next year - brain and time overload!) I attended was for those interested in learning more about Skype in the Classroom. A few of us gathered together and again, there were not many present who had used this wonderful tool, so it turned into a very fast teaching session on my end. 

This year, as part of my Annual Learning Plan, I had determined to dive into the world of Skype with several classes of students and see what happened. It was very intimidating in the beginning, because I had never used Skype personally, but I found that there were many more wonderful opportunities and resources than I had first imagined. And once I got my feet wet and figured out all I needed to do was hook up the laptop to the projector and speakers and make sure the camera didn't cut our heads off, I was ready to rock. 

My number one resource has been the Skype in the Classroom website. It introduced to me to the three ways to use Skype in education:
1. Collaborate with other classes,
2. Find guest speakers and,
3. Participate in virtual field trips.

We discussed the wonderful collections they provide for teachers to find and book Skype lessons of all different types and I shared some of the interesting things various groups had experienced with me this year (storytelling with The NightZookeeper, talking with dolphin experts all the way from the Seychelles, taking part in a virtual field trip with four other classes and tours/lessons for various grades by costumed tour guides and teachers at the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, planning & sharing their designs for the green ships of the future, etc.) 

My number two resource has been the priceless community of educators on Twitter, especially those sharing with #mysteryskype. Mystery Skype has been an amazing experience this year. I am addicted and so are the students! I am certain Skype will continue to play a major roll in my classes, regardless of content, because of the broad spectrum of quality, real-world experiences it offers. I hope those who joined me in this last session will be able to report back next year and say the same. 

Make Visiting an EdCamp a Priority

All in all, this was a fantastic event with great engagement and learning. Here's the interactive version of our white board with each session linked to a shared GoogleDoc where everyone was invited to add their notes from the day. A definite score for learning vicariously in lieu of using Hermione Granger's time traveling watch! 
Choose the level of engagement and the kind of learning you need. Come and experience the best kind of PD. If you care about education and technology and you're within reasonable driving distance of an EdCamp, whether American or Canadian, invest a Saturday. Wherever you're at in your journey to integrate technology in education, join us and get involved. You won't regret it.
Layers of engagement. 
Image via Twitter (@mrwideen)

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