Edcamp – Where Twitter Meets Reality!

The Keller ISD team at EdCamp Waller

The Keller ISD team at EdCamp Waller

I’ve been on “The Twitter” since June 2009.  Since that time, I’ve met thousands of experts in the field of education.  I’ve created a list of almost 300 Texas Educators who I learn from almost daily!  Through these twitter conversations I feel like we’ve already met.

Yesterday, in Waller, Texas, we really did meet!  Hundreds of educators from around the state attended EdCamp Waller.  Meeting these amazing teachers, principals, and educational leaders in person was inspiring!  They are every bit as passionate, knowledgeable, and willing to help in person as they are on Twitter.

This week’s blog is my attempt at sharing my edcamp experience with others, and to encourage you to find an edcamp that you can participate in (I hear there’s one in Fort Worth on July 27!)  It’s an experience you won’t forget!

What’s an EdCamp?

Describing an EdCamp is like trying to describe Disney World to someone who has never been; it has to be experienced to be understood!

It’s like professional development – on crack…seriously!

Attendees sign up to present when they arrive.  There are no vendors, and no presentations where companies are trying to sell their product.  The workshops are led by educators who are passionate about sharing with other educators.  Oh…and it’s FREE!

My Sessions:

Session 1 – Google Apps in Education

Demonstration of Google Hangouts

Demonstration of Google Hangouts

This standing room only session was lead by Steven Butschi, who is a chromebooks pilot manager for Google.  His information about Google Apps in Education affirmed my belief in the power of Google in schools.  Much of the information was a refreshing reminder about the power of Google Apps, but I learned some new tips and tricks as well.

  • Flubaroo is flippin’ awesome! With Flubaroo and Google Forms, you can automatically assess student learning.  You could give a short assessment before teaching, then another one after, and quickly see where learning fell shorter than expected.  You can also email the grade to the student with (or without) the correct answers.  
  • I learned that you can use “canned responses” in gmail.  This could be a pretty helpful tool.  Used with the filter function, you can actually have a canned response sent automatically for certain circumstances.  For example, a specific response could be sent automatically to anyone sending an email with the words “student” and “complaint” in the subject line.
  • Google is organizing the “Texas Google Summit” on May 18 in The Woodlands, TX.  Registration is only $50 bucks, and there are workshops geared towards all levels of Google Awesomeness!

Session II – Teach Like a Pirate

This was an open discussion about teaching with passion.  The title of the session comes from a book by Dave Burgess I am excited to read titled, “Teach Like a Pirate.”

Chris Kesler "Teaching Like a Pirate!"

Chris Kesler “Teaching Like a Pirate!”

The moderators discussed several questions that every teacher should ask regarding their own teaching:

  • “It doesn’t matter how much is taught, but how much is received” – do you agree?
  •  “Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets to?”
  •  “What is your purpose in education?” And the answer can’t be, “It’s for the kids!”
  • “Can enthusiasm be faked?”  A good answer – “Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it!”
  • And one of my favorite quotes of the day: “It doesn’t matter how much is taught.  What matters is how much is learned!”

Session III – iPads in Education

Some cool iPad apps for education; some I had heard of, but many new ones.  Some of my favorites:

  • Fotopedia – The world’s largest photo book! 
  • Skitch – Easily annotate pictures.
  • Paper – Cool drawing app
  • Postagram Postcards – There are several apps like this one on itunes.  Basically, you can create your own postcard and they will send it for you for a dollar.
  • TypeDrawing – I’ve seen this app on the school ipads, but I had no idea how cool it was until this workshop.  You can type something, then draw out a path, and the text follows the path.  You can add photos, and draw text around the border.  Lots of potential with this one!

There was also some discussion about seeing classrooms with signs that say “No Gadget Zone” and “Turn It Off!”  I sensed a lot of frustration in the room with regards to districts that don’t embrace technology.  It reminded me how fortunate I am to work in a district that appreciates the use of tech in the classroom.

Session IV – Google Whatever!

I went in to this session thinking it would be a nice way to end my day.  I felt pretty sure there wouldn’t be much new material presented, and I could pretty much turn off my brain and appreciate Google for just being Google.  I was wrong!  Like, REALLY WRONG!  My new Google Hero, Amy Mayer, presented so many new ideas, I couldn’t keep up.  I think a lot of attendees had the same thought I did, because every time she mentioned a tip, trick, or gadget, the whole room collectively “Hmmmmd.”  Here are some highlights:

(These are all tools that can be added to Google Drive – I know, who knew, right? You’ll find them in the Chrome Web Store, under Collections, then Google Drive)

  • Lucid Chart for Education – This is a tool that allows you to create flowcharts.  I was able to create a basic flowchart in about five minutes.  
  • Pic Monkey – This is a photo editor that can be integrated into Google Drive.  The great thing about this editor is everything is saved right to your Drive account.
  • WeVideo – I didn’t think I could love Google Drive more, but this tool is just downright irresistible! Using Google Drive as storage, you can collaboratively create and edit video projects.  I’m experimenting with this with my own kids, and it’s very, very easy to use!

edcampfw5I’m thankful to the great educators at Waller ISD for hosting this amazing day of learning, and I’m looking forward to seeing my Twitter friends again this summer at EdCamp Fort Worth!  You should come, too!

Why We Need “Timberview Dads”

Timberview dads logo

(Photo courtesy Davis Wright)

Timberview Dads is a newly created organization for the dads of our students at TMS.  The purpose of the group is to provide support to the school through mentoring, volunteering, and service opportunities.

Why We Need “Timberview Dads”

Some interesting statistics:

  • More than 24 million kids in the U.S. live without a biological father.
  • One-third of all children from father-absent homes have no contact with their dads.
  • The average father spends less than ten minutes a day one-on-one with his child.
  • When fathers are involved in the education of their children, the children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.
  • The active involvement of fathers who do not live with their children can have a lasting and positive impact on their educational success.
  • The presence of a father greatly reduces disciplinary problems at school.

(U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Fathers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools, NCES 98-091,by Christine Winquist Nord, DeeAnn Brimhall, and Jerry West, Washington, DC: 1997.)

We need dads in our schools!

We have created Timberview Dads to encourage men to be involved with our school.  There are opportunities for every dad, regardless of schedule, talent, or interest.  Dads can help by mentoring other students, helping with service projects, chaperoning events, or hanging out at lunch. They can volunteer for a day, an hour, or any time that fits their schedule.  You can sign up to be a Timberview Dad here!

Our next event is “Timberview Dad’s Coffee Shop.”  We are inviting dads and their  students to come kick start their morning with coffee and donuts this Friday, from 7:30 to 8:30 in our library.  Sign up here!