#whyIedcamp? As I continue to attend EdCamps the question as to why continues to change after every event and experience.
I attended my first EdCamp, EdCampNJ, in Springfield, NJ about a year ago after I kept seeing #edcampnj all over Twitter. Admittedly, I had no idea what the day would entail. My first experience was eye-opening. Eye-opening because I was able to connect with educators who think similarly, share similar experiences, and were willing to learn from each other. This is where I caught the bug and began attending subsequent EdCamps. I thought this is #whyIedcamp.
A few months later I attended another event, EdCamp Central Jersey in North Plainfield, NJ. The morning of I said to myself that at this event I was going to challenge myself and present/facilitate a session. My first experience facilitating a session was very positive. I was able to have the experience of fostering an enlighting conversation, not because of me, but because of the educators in attendance. I thought again, this is #whyIedcamp.
Early this year I attended EdCampUrban in Union City, NJ. This event was the first organized by a group of educators serving students in urban settings. At this event, I decided to facilitate a session on a topic new to me, Breakout EDU. Usually, I like to focus on Google for Education's G Suite. My session was again a success thanks to the great educators who participated in the activity. However, what I took away most from that day in October was how lively, interested, and eager the attendees were, despite being a bit hesitant and unsure of what would happen that day. Listening to the conversations, hearing the questions asked, and hearing educators say they were willing to try something new they learned that day. This was the first time many of these educators were provided with such an opportunity. Again, I left saying to myself this is #whyIedcamp.
Most recently I attended the fifth annual EdCampNJ. This was the first time I was joined by my colleagues. All previous EdCamps I attended by myself. I was finally able to convince them to attend after my many stories as to #whyIedcamp. The days leading up I informed them as to how the day was going to work and what they could expect. Most importantly, I advised them to go in with an open mind. As we sat and talked before the event started we met so many educators, eagerly watched as the session board was updated, and discussed which session we would attend. The atmosphere in the room was energetic, and it was hard to decide which sessions would suit us best. This is where the rule of two feet came into play, and some of them saw this as a positive.
After the morning sessions, we came back together and talked about the sessions we attended. We talked about how open and comfortable the experience was thus far. We talked about how we could use something we just learned. We talked about what topics would be posted for the afternoon sessions. We were all excited for the day to continue. After the afternoon sessions, we came back together again and briefly debriefed the day. This was done all organically, as the intent of EdCamp. The conversation even continued when we returned to school. They even told their stories to other staff members with the hope of convincing them to attend an EdCamp in the future.
My colleagues overwhelmingly had a positive experience. Some cannot wait to attend their next EdCamp. Some stated they wished EdCampNJ was more than once a year. They all appreciated the organization, the freedom, and the conversations that occurred during the day. I appreciated they all had a positive experience, shared, and learned. This was a new and fulfilling reason as to #whyIedcamp.
On October 15th, 2016 I had the great opportunity to attend the first EdCampUrban (@edcampurban) held at Union City High School in Union City, NJ. The primary focus was to bring resources, ideas, and the EdCamp experience to educators working in urban environments. This was surely a great experience of learning, sharing, and conversations. EdCamp Urban came to fruition due to the idea and hard work of the following great educators: Marcos Navas (@mrnavas), Bibiana Prada (@bookgirl614), Krista Welz (@kristawelz), and Dan Borghoff (@EdTechMaker).
Having attended previous EdCamps I knew how the day was going to work. It was both interesting and exciting listening and participating in conversations as we waited for the organizers to commence the day. The atmosphere in the room was of excitement. Educators gave up their Saturday to learn and share. A majority of the educators in attendance were first-time attendees of an EdCamp and many were not sure what type of experience was ahead of them.
As the organizers explained what the day was going to entail and how the day was going to work I saw educators interests grow. After gathering session topics from the educators in the room the schedule board was posted. These educators began to talk amongst themselves about which sessions they were interested in attending. Some in attendance were conflicted as they wanted to attend multiple sessions which were going on concurrently. They were given the advice to use the EdCamp motto of “the rule of two feet”.
There were a variety topics and sessions available for educators to attend. Some topics included: virtual and augmented reality, Tech tools for assessment, planning, and learning, STEM, MakerSpace, GAFE, Breakout EDU, and using Twitter to grow your PLN, etc. just to name a few. I was lucky enough to host a session on Breakout EDU. All sessions were well attended and the conversations flowed fluidly.
All three sessions I attended had teachers asking questions, giving suggestions, and offering advice. The EdCamp model of facilitating conversations was in true effect. One of the sessions I attended even went over the allotted time. Simply because the educators wanted more. The conversations continued into the hallway and media center during lunch and at the end of the day. It also continued on Twitter during and after the day.
Attendees were very happy with how well they were “taken care” of during the entire day. Breakfast and lunch were provided. Stickers and other trinkets were handed out as well. To top off the day the organizers raffled off a lot, and I mean a lot of prizes provided by vendors/sponsors.
EdCamp Urban was a great experience. The organizers did a great job planning an exciting and engaging day of learning for their fellow educators. A first time experience for most was ultimately a positive experience. I am sure EdCamp Urban made many EdCamp fans that day. Currently in the works is another EdCamp Urban slated for Spring 2017. I know I will be attending again.
As an avid user Google Apps For Education (GAFE), and Google Classroom I am always excited to see and use the new updates. Google has made two very useful updates to Classroom in April and May which I find to be very useful. These updates are to the “Create Question” feature and scheduling posts. Here's a link to Google's announcement.
The “Create Question” was updated a while back, but only included an extended response answer. I found this useful to facilitate an online discussion with students having the ability to respond to each other’s answers. Now with the recent update teachers have the option to ask multiple choice questions as well as short answer questions. These questions are similar to those used in Google Forms. This update can be used as exit tickets, mid-class check in’s, closures, etc. Teachers are able to receive real time responses and data.
Now teachers are able to schedule posts ahead of time using both date and time. This is something that is very useful for me. Many times I have drafted a post and forgot to actually post it. Consequently, I was flooded with emails from my students telling me I did not post the homework. Now my problem has been solved. I should not forget to post homework anymore. One drawback I see is that we cannot schedule a post for more than one class at a time. We will have to use the “Reuse Post” feature.
Overall, I feel these new updates will surely be useful and continue to streamline my process. I would still like to see a feature to “hide” and “unhide” post as need. Hope you're listening @GoogleForEdu, and looking forward to new updates.
This is second of two posts about teachers’ insight to education technology.
Do you feel any of the following has impeded your ability to infuse technology in your teaching/curriculum?
Lack of training 13 37.1%
Lack of devices 20 57.1%
Consistent availability of devices 16 45.7%
A reliable infrastructure (i.e. wifi connection, strength of connection, etc) 19 54.3%
Technology skills of students 5 14.3%
Support within school/district 9 25.7%
Other (Access to quality apps, scheduling conflicts, availability of trained tech adult and answers...permissible for teachers & students to use, time to collaborate in small groups to share idea and hone skills, lack of time to play with “things”)
What has impeded the ability to infuse technology?
Teachers felt the lack of devices (57%) impedes their ability to infuse technology and 45% felt the consistent availability of devices also impedes their ability. I feel these two reasons can be grouped together. As teachers, we are always wanting more appropriate resources. With the growth of educational technology it is important we have the necessary devices for implementation. Not only do teachers need devices, but students need devices as well. Using devices consistently allows for the development of skills, proper implementation, and growth of confidence using technology. Do teachers and students have to share devices? There are many school and districts where this is the case. Many times it becomes frustrating. Although we plan ahead and plan for “hiccups” our lessons do not always go as planned. Having devices/technology consistently available benefits implementation greatly. This gives teachers and students the ability to develop skill sets, learn how to incorporate technology into their curriculum, and develop appropriate routines consistent with technology. I truly believe all schools and districts should be 1:1, so teachers and students can have constant access to technology.
A reliable infrastructure has also impeded teachers' ability to infuse technology. 45% felt this was the case. It is important when using devices that the infrastructure is reliable. Frustration occurs when the network goes down, the wifi connection is nonexistent, weak or cannot support devices, or the bandwidth is not large enough to support the traffic flow. We have all tried to stream a Youtube video and it keeps buffering. Although we can download videos, that adds extra steps to our process, and these videos are usually saved in a variety of places (i.e. hard drive, folder, desktop, flash drive, etc.). I am a huge proponent of simplifying my process and minimizing the number of steps it takes to do something.
My previous post acknowledged that teachers wanted training on education technology. 37% felt the lack of training has impeded their ability to infuse technology. It is important for teachers to get training on anything new. Especially, when it comes to new devices, technology tools, software, apps. programs, etc. Due to the growing implementation of educational technology training is essential, especially since many teachers may be set in their traditional ways. As much as I advocate for training, I also advocate for teachers to experiment with educational technology. My experience experimenting has given me the opportunity to see what works and what does not work for me. Essentially learning the insides and outs. I truly feel “jumping in” is the best and most effective way to learn about education technology.
Lack of support within the school/district has also impeded teachers’ ability to infuse technology (25%). Who is responsible for this support and what does this support look like? Many schools/districts have a technology coordinator or even a technology team. It would be beneficial to ask those professionals as to what their role is, if any, in supporting teachers with integrating technology. I believe teachers would like a dedicated person or persons solely designated to support on the educational aspect of technology rather than the technical aspect. It is still essential to have a person or persons on the technical aspect as well to ensure devices and infrastructures are functioning and maintained properly. My previous post indicated that teachers felt they would benefit from having a designated tech coach with the role of providing educational support for integration of technology. I think this would definitely contribute to integrating technology. However, how or can this position be available in every school/district?
Teachers also felt that students’ lack of technology skills impedes their ability to integrate technology (14%). Students come to us with varying abilities when it comes to technology. Some are exposed and some are not exposed to technology outside of school. Some have had skills taught to them and some have not had skills taught to them in their previous educational experiences. I feel as teachers we always wonder exactly what skills we have to teach our students along with our content. Technology skills are not always at the forefront of our thinking when it comes to skills we have to teach. My experience has proven that students learn quickly and they are even better at teaching their peers. Should these skills be taught by the teachers using the technology or in a designated technology class? Personally, I feel any teacher using technology should be able and willing to teach those necessary skills to students.
Other (17%) felt there were varying reasons that impedes their ability to integrate technology. I will not get into specifics of the “others” right now, because of the varying reason. This “other” category is definitely an area to explore more because of differing views and experiences of teachers.
My conclusion is that there is still a long way for us to go when it comes to integrating technology. We are definitely moving in a positive directions. I find it interesting and a positive note that teachers are very aware of what they want and what they need. It is important for teachers to advocate for their needs and the needs of students. It is important for teachers to take risks and become exposed to resources and technology that may be useful.
What an amazing experience I had with one of my 8th grade classes today. It wasn’t just a good class or great class. It was a WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE! And it all was unplanned and organic.
This particular day at school was an “irregular” day to start. We had a lot of events going on throughout the building. At times I didn’t know whether my students were coming or going, but I knew that from the beginning and was dealing with it pretty well.
The plan for class was for students to get into small groups and present oral history projects via Google Slideshows they created about an influential woman in their lives. Well that plan went out the window when I realized our devices were not going to be available for use. Also, students were arriving to class sporadically, due to all the events of the day. Eventually they all made it and we were finally together.
After some “quick thinking” I left it up to the students to decide what we should do. I gave them some options of course. The options were: 1. Watch a movie about the content we are currently studying 2. Continue on with an activity we began the previous class or 3. Students volunteer to present the project to the entire class. The majority chose the latter with great excitement. With my fingers crossed I willingly agreed.
The first student presented without a hitch. Other students asked questions and I asked questions of the students as a way to facilitate discussion. This all began to take on a life of it’s own. As more students presented the conversation developed with every student participating and actively listening. It was fulfilling to see students eager to share the story of an influential woman in their life. It was fulfilling to see students eager to learn more about their classmates. It was fulfilling to see students talk about the process of conducting the project and the meaning they gained from having a discussion with the woman they selected. Many selected their mother or grandmother.
The comments stated and questions asked by students of their peers were truly genuine and contributed positively to the discussion. It was real!
Some questions/comments put forth by the students:
Verbal feedback given by students were positive. Not only positive in terms of the actual project, but also the opportunity to share, ask questions, and comment.
This experience was so fluid and so organic. It made me appreciate my students more during and after the class. I am even more proud to be their teacher. The best part...I saw they appreciated each other.
I had the pleasure of attending my second EdCamp @edcampcnj on February 20th hosted by North Plainfield High School in North Plainfield, NJ. Admittedly, I was a last minute participant because I was not sure about giving up my Saturday. The event was well worth attending, and my experience greatly enhanced due to Twitter.
After my first EdCamp experience, @edcampnj, I told myself I needed to be a more active participant during these events. Thus, I decided I would take the risk and present/facilitate a session. Presenting to teachers I know is easier for me than presenting to teachers I do not know. I decided to facilitate a session on using Google Forms.
At my first edcamp I attended a session on using Google Forms for creating Video Based Questions (VBQ’s) facilitated by Kelly Grotrian, @MsGrotrian. Subsequently, we began to follow each other on Twitter. However, she was unable to attend edcampcnj, but was an active participant because of Twitter.
My session on Forms was attended by Rachel Murat, @MrsMurat, and Ross LeBrun, @MrLeBrun. During my session I presented how I use Forms for formative assessment, test/quizzes, collecting student information, and even my lesson plans. During that session both of them tweeted about my use of Forms to write my lesson plans. Even offering suggestions on video tutorials I could make that may be useful to others. This developed into an amazing experience.
Because Ms. Grotrian was unable to attend the event, she followed the hashtag #edcampcnj via Twitter. She saw that I used Forms to write my lesson plans. We began to communicate about this, I shared my template with her and we were then off to the races. We went back and forth sharing suggestions. She not only shared her template with me but others in her department, and it was all done through Twitter. We commented back and forth about the work we were doing and we were able to come up with different ideas on how to improve my original template while making user specific. I would highly recommend reading her post, My Favorite #GAFE – OR – How I use Google Forms, for her suggestions on how she developed her lesson plan template using Forms.
This collaborative experience was a first of the kind for me. It was truly beneficial for my professional growth. I was amazed how Ms. Grotrian and I were able to communicate and work seamlessly through Twitter. It was totally organic in nature. Not only did I have this experience, but my Professional Learning Network grew larger. I now have even more teachers I can connect with, share resources with, and gather resources from.
I look forward to these unplanned experiences happening again.
I am again amazed by power of Twitter.
The more I get involved in Professional Development (PD) I have had to determine how to approach developing my content and how to approach delivering my workshops. My experiences attending PD's in the past contributed the development of my approach. Show and Tell is how best I can described my approach to the PD's sessions I present.
My PD sessions have focused on Google Apps For Education (GAFE) and as an avid user, developing and presenting on this topic has come easy. As a teacher I feel it is best to show how I use GAFE and the features of the available tools. I think it is best for teachers to actually see how other teachers are using GAFE rather than just learning about the different features. Using this approach has worked positively.
When I develop my content I try to use the tools I am presenting about. I have stayed away from PowerPoint and solely use Google Slides. My slide shows contain some theory, screen shots, videos, and additional resources. All of which I actually use. Throughout my presentation I bounce back and forth between my slide show and the topic I am presenting about. For example, I would show teachers my actually Google Classroom.
One standard phrase I say to participants when I begin my sessions is, "I'll show you the features, show you how it works, show you how I use it, and advise you to "play" with it to determine how best it may work for you." This thought process has been welcomed by participants.
Additionally, I feel it is important to receive questions from the participants. This opens up the session and even raises questions or offers suggestions I may not have thought about. Especially when dealing with GAFE and the multitude of uses possible.
To conclude. My approach to PD is to share my experiences with participants in a live fashion. I find it important to show how I use these tools and how it may be used by others.
Google Forms is probably the GAFE tool I use most. I keep finding new ways to use Forms. One way I use Forms is for formative assessment, simple surveys, exit tickets, mid class checkin's, etc. Using Forms for simple assessments has been a game changer for me. I have also moved into using Forms for more complex assessments, as well as a simple quick way of writing my lesson plans.
What I like about Forms is that it is simple to use. Although there is a new version available, you can revert back to the old version if you so choose. The ability to create varying types of questions with varying types of answers gives me the ability to blend these different types of questions into an assessment. Adding different types of media is very useful as well. You can add pictures and videos in a Form. What makes it even easier is the ability to search while creating your Form. You do not need to leave the page in which you are currently working.
A few months ago I was introduce to Video Based Questions (VBQ's) at a workshop by Ms. Grotrain, @MsGrotrian (http://grotrian.weebly.com/). You should follow her! She has not only used Forms to create VBQ's, but also her students have created them to share with other students. This is definitely a great use of Forms, comparable to Document Based Questions (DBQ'). I see benefits across curriculum.
What is also great about Forms is that it collects your data and displays charts and graphs. It also collects responses in a spreadsheet (Sheets). This is very useful when using Forms to assess students. Add-on's made specifically for Sheets allows for instant grading of assessments. Also, data collected from Forms in Sheets can the be converted to documents in Docs. So many possibilities!
To wrap up. I find Google Forms very useful. I would suggest playing with it, research ways to use it, and make it work for you.
Google Apps for Education (GAFE) has made an enormous impact on me as a teacher, and I feel my students as well. GAFE has simplified my process and workflow. It has allowed me to be more productive while planning and it carries over to my teaching. My students have also become more organized and efficient.
A few years back I began experimenting with some of Google's Apps for use with my students (Docs, Drive, and Gmail). My experiment was a great failure for various reasons. Connectivity was an issue in my school. Availability of devices (computers) was inconsistent in my school and for students at home. Some students had personal Gmail accounts and some did not. For students to have a Gmail account they need to at least 13 years of age. Some were 13 and some were not. I did not feel comfortable having my students create Gmail accounts without their parent's permission nor did I feel comfortable communicating with students through their personal accounts.
As a graduate student, my institution's email account was hosted through Google. This made things simple, because communication was easy and the host of apps that came along with it allowed for easy collaboration with my classmates and professors. I began to explore the possibilities of having students email hosted by Google. My exploration lead to the discovery that Google was in fact an avenue and possibly the solution to my "problems". This was brought to the attention of my principal. During that time my district hired a new director of technology who had experience using Google previously. This was great, because he was successful in having the district move towards creating a domain hosted by Google. Additionally, the district made a substantial investment towards improving the infrastructure and providing students with devices in the schools. These major steps also came with access to GAFE. However, I did not know how to use these tools as a teacher, nonetheless using it with my students.
Fortunately, I was asked by my school principal to attend ISTE in June, 2014. This conference opened up my eyes as to how I could use GAFE to improve my workflow as well as how to use it with my students. Teachers and Google experts were sharing how they use GAFE. People like Monica Martinez (@mimg1225) and Lisa Thumann (@lthumann) really showed the usefulness of GAFE and how to use GAFE. It is here where I also came across Alice Keeler’s (@alicekeeler) website, www.alicekeeler.com, on everything education technology. Since I was already interested in incorporating Google's tools as a teacher and within my classroom I pretty much went to every Google workshop, presentation, or mini session I could. It more or less was an eye opening experience for me, and I told myself when I returned to school GAFE was going to be the primary tool I use to plan, disseminate information/material, and assess my students.
My return to school gave the opportunity to use these new tools I learned so much about. I must say it took a lot of experimenting, trial and error, and failure to finally feel comfortable. I was most impressed with my students. Simply because they were able to figure it out with little guidance. At times they were even showing me how to do things. As my students became successful word spread around the school and people wanted to know about the work we were doing, especially my principal. The feature most wanted to know about was Google Classroom. Throughout the year I had teachers stop in and ask for help on using Google Classroom and GAFE. It got to the point where I was hosting small sessions for groups of teachers. Many of the teachers were impressed and saw the possibilities of using GAFE. More importantly teachers began to spread the word about these tools made available to us by the district.
Although many teachers were interested and sought information or guidance, many did not feel comfortable using GAFE. I feel the fear of taking risks and changing the way teachers have done things have contributed to many not using these tools. That being said, I do see increased usage among teachers, simply because it simplifies their process and workflow. As time progressed I was able to teach professional development classes on GAFE during the summer. These PD classes were a great success. Additionally, I presented a mini workshop for my school's staff prior to the beginning of the school year. This mini workshop was great; because I began to see other teachers share their experiences using GAFE while supporting each other. Eventually, the mini workshop developed into a Professional Learning Community (PLN) at our school dedicated to GAFE and EdTech. Our PLN meeting topics are dictated by teachers and their needs.
As you can see GAFE had made a lasting impact on my process and workflow. It is beginning to make a change in the process and workflow of my colleagues. Most importantly, we are beginning to see how our improvements are impacting our students.