Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend my first EdCamp! EdCamp Kansas (the first ever in the state) was held at Wichita State University on August 3, 2013. I stumbled upon this event a few months ago when I had just started using Twitter for professional development. As a native Kansan, the Kansas ed chat (#KSed) was one of the first ed chats I became interested in, even though I teach in Oklahoma. I lurked for several weeks, reading through the discussion. During one of the discussions, the participants mentioned an upcoming EdCamp, so I Google searched to find out more about it. After reading about the general EdCamp format and specifically about #EdCampKS, I knew this was something I wanted to attend!
Here’s my recap of the events:
On Friday night, the #EdCampKS organizers hosted a TweetUp at Public at the Brickyard in Old Town Wichita. This gave #EdCampKS participants an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face before the official EdCamp on Saturday. At first I decided to skip the TweetUp because I would arrive late to the party. Few things in life make me more nervous than having to walk in late by myself to a social event. Eeek! Fortunately, one of the #EdCampKS founders, Anthony Purcell (@MrP_tchr), is from my hometown, and we were in high school at the same time. We reconnected on Twitter, and he encouraged me to come to the TweetUp. Once I arrived, he saw me walk in, found me a chair, and promptly introduced me to others. (Thanks, Anthony!) I’m glad I didn’t miss the TweetUp. Having the opportunity to meet others before the main event helped me feel a lot more comfortable on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, I arrived at the Corbin Education Building at WSU. I was armed with my parents’ iPad Mini, so I could take notes using Evernote and participate in the conference’s backchannel on Twitter. I checked in and took in my surroundings. Five poster boards, each with a classroom number at the top, were lying on tables. We would be using these five classrooms for EdCamp. The organizers had decided that we would have five one-hour sessions (9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 1:30, 2:30), so each poster board was divided into five time slots. Some of the time slots on the various posters were filled, but many were still blank – waiting for an attendee to fill it with a topic they would present. Any EdCamp participant can choose to lead a session.
The first session I went to was about Minecraft PE (Pocket Edition) presented by William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain), his wife, and his two daughters (Aidan and Quinci). Using AirServer, the girls’ mobile device screens were displayed on a projection screen, so we could watch them play Minecraft. Aidan explained the basics of the game and told us several things she had learned from playing. Other educators in the room shared how Minecraft (and especially Minecraft PE) could be used in the classroom. Minecraft PE is worth looking into for classrooms that have 1:1 iPads. Quinci also gave a quick demonstration of Toontastic (Pirate version), which is a story-telling app. The app gives you the start of a scene, and then you decide how to finish it by moving the puppet characters, recording your voice, and adding background music. After recording all of the scenes, they are put together to form the story, which you can watch from start to finish. The app allows you to pick which story elements (intro, rise, climax, conclusion, etc.) to include; this could be a great way to introduce these to younger students.
“I didn’t know Google did that!” was the second session that I attended. The Kansas teacher of the year, Dyane Smokorowski (@Mrs_Smoke) led this informative session about lesser-known Google tools and search techniques. For some reason, I had never used Google Voice to search. It especially makes sense to speak search terms when you’re using a mobile device, so you don’t have to type on your smart phone’s keyboard! We also learned about Google Goggles; something I’ll try on my next travel adventure. Next, Dyane showed us how to access newspaper archives using the News: Archives search feature. This is an awesome way to find primary resources. We then moved on to searching for Images using Google. I’ve used some of these tools before, but I did learn a few new things. For example, I had never thought about searching for line drawings to learn how to draw something. At the end of the session, we spent some time on Wolfram Alpha, a data search engine I’ve rarely used. As a self-proclaimed lover of data and statistics, this site is amazing! We searched for Justin Bieber and specifically looked at a graph that showed his rise in popularity (based on number of daily hits of his Wikipedia page). We also did a comparison of states using Wolfram Alpha search (Kansas vs. Oklahoma vs. Nebraska). This is such a cool way to look at two or more entities side-by-side. I hope to find ways to use this in my classroom this year.
The third session I attended was an opportunity to play with and learn more about Google Chromebooks. Dr. Moody from Fort Hays State University brought 30 Chromebooks to EdCampKS to give educators a chance to try them hands-on. After logging on to the Chromebooks with our individual Google accounts, we created a Google+ Community for those of us in the room. This was very easy to set up and manage. We talked about advantages to working in the cloud versus saving work to an individual computer. We also discussed the lower cost of Chromebooks versus touch-screen tablets and why it might be beneficial to have a full, attached keyboard. I really like the idea of students using Chromebooks in the classroom. My school district is already using Google Apps for Education and with the lower cost and high versatility of Chromebooks, I think they could be a great option for us.
Lunch was the next item on the agenda. I went to lunch with Anibal (@AnibalPachecoIT), Lisa (@techintegratio1), and Laura (@LauraGilchrist4) at The Anchor in Old Town. The food was fabulous, especially the fried cheesecake we shared! We took advantage of this time to talk education, Google Glass, Google Fiber, iPads versus Chromebooks, and WordPress versus Blogger. Anibal also shared some entertaining personal stories! I enjoyed the informal learning time just as much as the formal sessions.
After lunch, I went to the App Smackdown session. Session attendees shared their favorite app or apps. We used AirPlay to display each presenter’s iPad on the projection screen. Lindsey (@Lindsey_Hogan), another #EdCampKS founder, started a shared Google Doc and Tweeted out the link, so we could collectively keep track of all the apps being shared. Although I do not currently have an iPad or tablet, I wanted to attend this session to watch the sharing process and possibly learn about a few apps that are also web-based. Some cool apps that I learned about during this session: Zapd (“social websites in 60 seconds from your phone”), Storybook Maker (book maker for kids), Questimate! (estimation game where you make the questions). One educator also mentioned an assignment for students: each student picks an app to research, learns about it, creates a short presentation, presents to the class, and then presents to teachers. I love this idea, and I think I can adapt it so students research educational websites. I would love for my students to present and share with their teachers!
The final session I attended was Rocks and Sucks. Anthony and Dyane facilitated this friendly debate about hot topics in education. One side of the room was designated as “Rocks” and the other as “Sucks”. As each new topic was displayed, every person had to decide whether he/she thought it was an awesome idea or a terrible idea and move to the appropriate side of the room. People were also allowed to be in the middle, but I tried to force myself to make a choice. After everyone had moved, we debated the issue for two minutes on the clock. One or two people spoke for each side and others added their thoughts as time allowed. Regardless of which side I was on, it was fun to hear people’s differing opinions. Dan (@dankrutka) and Levi (@_levi_) played Devil’s advocate when most people chose one side on an issue. Debates like this are always a good reminder that positives and negatives exist for almost every idea.
Wow! What a fun day of learning! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend the first annual #EdCampKS. I enjoyed meeting other educators face-to-face to discuss education and technology and learn together at an “unconference”. I gained a bunch of awesome educator friends from whom I will continue to learn via Twitter and meet up with again at future EdCamps! I loved having a choice of what sessions to attend based on my professional development needs. It was also fun to meet people in my Twitter PLN (personal learning network) in person. And most importantly, I now own an awesome yellow #EdCampKS t-shirt!
Next year’s #EdCampKS will be on June 13, 2014 at Andover High School in Wichita. You should put it on your calendar now and plan to be there! A huge thank you to #EdCampKS founders and organizers: Dan (@dankrutka), Anthony (@MrP_tchr), Lindsey (@Lindsey_Hogan), and Greg (@gormang). Can’t wait until next year!
High School Business & Technology Teacher in Skiatook, Oklahoma.
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