Sunday, February 1, 2015

EdCamp Denver

A while back a good friend posted about an education "un-conference" she was going to be at.  She was wondering who would join her.  It peaked my interest and I spent yesterday at edcamp Denver.  BEST un-conference I've ever been to! Ok, honestly... it's the only un-conference I've ever been too.  Nonetheless, it was awesome!  I went in wide-eyed, a little like a dear in headlights.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen or how but my iPad was charged and I was ready for anything.
A great group of people met me in the "newcomer lounge" to help me get set up and ready for the day.  Then I headed to watch the unfolding of the day with my friend by my side.  A shared Google Doc with the schedule was projected on a large screen and everyone with their computers and tablets created the day by adding session titles.  People could add what they wanted to share about or what they wanted to learn about.  Then we looked through the schedule and picked topics that were right for us.

The first session I attended was Minecraft Instructional Design.  The perfect place to be with my Minecraft obsessed children.  It was a fantastic session where we heard about how others are using Minecraft in their classrooms.  Students are teaching the teachers, they're creating book reports, settings, building models of numerals for number sense and recreating Jamestown.  I learned about, WOW! All of these ideas that Steve (husband) and I have been talking about could be created seamlessly through Minecraftedu.  Yay!  Also, a fantastic list of bookmarks were made available.  Plus, I had something to share.  Skrafty, a Minecraft for Homeschool set of classes are a great springboard for more thoughts.  We plan to enroll CJ in Skrafty's beginner class in March.  Maybe you should join us!

The second class I attended was led by my good friend Deanna Duray.  She shared about how she is teaching K/1 with Jeffco Virtual Academy.  As one of very few (if any) teachers who are teaching K/1 online with one contact day a week she had some great insight.  It was interesting to look through her lesson plans online to see how each day was set up.  I love that she has an audio element for students to listen to the written instructions.  She has many assignments where kids do their writing in their writer's notebook, take a picture of it and post it to the class. It is homeschooling made easy for the parent with a teacher leading each step of the way.  I was very impressed and my brain started thinking about how I could use Schoology with Minecraft.  The possibilities are endless.

The third session I attended was about Schoology.  Jeffco Virtual Academy uses Schoology as their platform to share lessons and receive assignments from their students.  The great news is that I loved the platform and realized that Cherry Creek uses the same platform.  Yay!  Now I can learn one system and be literate among many Schoology users. Schoology is the platform I've been looking for.  It is a learning management system.  I've played around with iTuneU and though a great platform for older learners it's not young learner friendly and I'm a preK-6 teacher.  The small session (5 of us) was the best work session of the day.  There were specific questions regarding how to use the system so we spent some time learning how to actually set it up.  I even started making a trial run class.  We also talked about the capabilities of Schoology vs other similar platforms for 2 gals from a district that is considering using it.  It was a helpful session to get me started and now I'm looking forward to spending some time playing around with the system.

After a delightful lunch I witnessed the "Demo Slam" an opportunity for attendees to spend 2 minutes sharing anything innovative they'd like.  What a great time!  The last session of the day for me was about Flipped Classrooms.  An idea I had been reading about but not able to implement yet.  The best clarity for me came from a comment about how a flipped classroom in the primary grades may look more like a video explanation of a center so you don't have to repeat instructions for each group.  This inspired me to start making some of my own screencasts of lessons that I give OVER and OVER and OVER again as a way to help my students and parents.  The first screencast that I made this morning is simply not good enough to be shown, but as I get better I'll be sharing them here.  Yay!

There were many sessions at edcamp Denver that I would have loved to attend.  Ten sessions happening at one time leads you to have to pick carefully.  I'm so glad to have the notes from all of the sessions available for me to comb through.

Overall #edcampDenver was an eyeopening experience that was as energizing as it was engaging and overwhelming.  I can't wait for next year.  Oh, and another new thing.  I'm now on Twitter @BilesAmanda It's completely new to me so please be nice if you choose to follow along :)

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