Monday, August 22, 2011


I'd never been to an EdCamp before, and I had no idea what to expect of the day. I was immensely curious, but I was also immensely stressed. The first day of school was days away and there was still so much work to be done. I really should go to school and work in my classroom...that was the thought that kept rattling around my brain.

I knew what I should do, but I also knew what I really, really wanted to do.

Now that the day has passed, I think we should have an EdCamp every year right before school starts. As I was driving home Saturday night, I felt inspired and re-charged. Exactly what a teacher needs at the end of her summer.

As always, the best part of any conference - or even an unconference - is the conversations in the sessions, at lunch, in the halls, and even at dinner after the conference. Imagine a room full of people all passionate about the same thing having a conversation about the thing that drives them the most. Then imagine the potential energy that could come from that room.

And now, multiply that by five rooms. Ten rooms. That, my friends, is EdCamp.

For those who have never been to an EdCamp before, let me explain a few things. When you arrive, one of the first things you will see is the sessions board:

The beauty of EdCamp is anyone can lead a session! You just need to fill out a card describing your session and post it to the board. Then, we vote with our feet. You go to the session that sounds interesting, and if, after listening for a few minutes you decide it's not for you then you get up and walk to the next session that appeals to you. No hard feelings. We're all there for the same reason: to learn, to connect, to collaborate.

And, by the way, if there isn't a session in any given time slot that appeals to you, guess what! You don't have to go! In fact, one of the best conversations I had at EdCamp was at a time when I "should have been" in a "regular" session. A group of us walked back to the cafeteria to check out the board and ended up standing in front of it having a wonderful conversation. A conversation that led Tina Schneider (one of the founders of LiveBinders) and I to add a new session to the board. "Where Are You?" wound up being a fabulous session where a group of us tried to figure out why there aren't more teachers in California coming to events like this or being involved in social media like Twitter. To be honest, I was surprised that anyone actually showed up to our session! But of all the conversations I had at EdCamp, that was the one that has me most fired up!

Special thanks to Alice Keeler for taking such awesome notes during the session! Here is her Google Doc.

Special thanks also to Catina Haugen for her lovely post about EdCampSFBay and our session! EdCampSFBay Got Me Fired Up!

And speaking of LiveBinders, I'm so glad Tina and Barbara decided to lead a session about their fabulous product!! I've been using LiveBinders for a while now, but I still managed to learn some cool stuff. They've made some awesome updates this summer; I'm especially excited about the new shelfs feature! Now I can "shelve" other contributors' binders for future reference, and whenever a binder is updated my "copy" of that binder will be automatically updated. Very, very cool!! Oh, and don't even get me started on the updated text editor!

Here's the binder the ladies created for their presentation: EdCampSFBay LiveBinder Presentation. The first tab in the binder has some great information on how to use their site. The binder also has some fabulous examples of binders that have been created by a number of different educators. I loved seeing my friend Jason Schrage's Cold War binder being showcased here. Such a wonderful way to assign a project to students!

The last session I attended was run by Dan Callahan, Mr. EdCamp himself. The session was a discussion on how we can use the EdCamp model at our own schools and districts. It really is a fantastic idea! Because it all comes down to choice. Teachers are allowed to choose their own learning for themselves. What an interesting concept!

What would happen if we held an EdCamp for Kids? What would that look like?

Barbara from LiveBinders, me, Lisa Dabbs

Of course, the most important part of EdCampSFBay for me was the people. Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Those are the connections that matter. And that is why I went.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shark Week

As much as I love watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel each year, I don't quite celebrate it with as much style as the folks at Discovery do. This video shows how they manage to attach a shark, complete with a tail fin that is seven stories tall, onto One Discovery Place. Very cool!

Shark Week - Shark Building!
Get More: Shark Week - Shark Building!

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Do You Tie Your Shoes?

I's an odd question for a blog post. But, stay with me. I recently had the privilege of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Seattle, Washington. One of our presenters, Cory Pavicich, shared the following video with us:

While we had a great deal of fun both watching the video and then trying to tie our shoes like the young man does, it got me thinking. [Shocking, I know.] I think this could be a great video to use when working with teachers as a reminder that there are not only many ways to learn, but there are also many ways to teach. I thought I was pretty cool when I saw the second idea in the video and said, "That's how I tie my shoes!" And then the young man moved on to the "really, really fast" version. And it hit me: I may know one way to tie my shoes that has always worked for me, but that doesn't mean it's the best way. It certainly doesn't mean it's the only way.

It's never even occurred to me to look for other ways. I mean, why should I? The way I do it works just fine for me, after all. I've been doing it this way for years! I'm not about to change my thinking on something that works...for me.

Sound familiar? Ever heard another teacher say those words?

The next time I do a professional development session, I'm going to start out by asking the teachers in attendance: How many of you have been tying your shoes the same way for years?

Sidenote: If you haven't used Quietube for videos, I highly recommend it! It takes the link to any YouTube video and creates a clean presentation, with no other videos or ads. Check this link for the same video shown above: How to Tie A Shoelace Really, Really Fast.