Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fired up for Education - An #edcampGB Reflection

After attending my second edcamp, I find myself even more in love with the concept and excited to attend the next one!

If you haven't been or heard of edcamps before, they are free professional development opportunities that have no set schedule. The participants actually build the schedule with ideas of things they would like to learn about or lead on.  It is almost magical how things come together, but it almost always turns out awesome. Today was no different!

For the first time, I was involved on the back end, planning and preparing for the event. It was also incredibly exciting for this to be held at Denmark High School, a place I get to work with students and enjoy being. Probably the most amazing part was that one third of the participants were from Denmark School District. Rock on!!

Personally, I felt like this was really a chance for me to really get networking and assert myself.  Naturally, I consider myself introverted and typically shy away from any social situation that could result in awkwardness (aka all of them).  But as an educator, risk-taker, optimist, and someone who really wants what is best for students, I knew this was my opportunity to stand out and show that I have things to share that can help teachers help students.

The two sessions I was lucky enough to lead were on screencasting and Teach Like a Pirate, two things that have probably defined my career to this point, meaning they've made me the teacher I am.  I loved being able to show a group of teachers the magic and ease of making lessons online for students, opening up a world of possibilities for flipped classrooms, differentiation, and online/blended learning.

My favorite session was the #tlap session.  I am still infatuated with this book even though it has been over 6 months since I read it.  Dave Burgess is an amazing man and provides so many good ideas for improving engagement that I have a tough time NOT sharing about it. Thankfully, I had some great folks, such as Ben Brazeau (@braz74) and Ashley Goral (@agoteach), in there to help me out when my memory was a little fuzzy. It was fun being able to challenge everyone with "if your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?" The best part may be that this was one of the most popular sessions of the day. It makes me feel good that so many educators really want to be invigorated and provide the best possible experiences for students. As an added bonus, Dave Burgess replied to our tweets, and gave away some pirate swag to our group!

Edcampgb, I will remember you fondly.  This is an amazing profession and these days show just how awesome us teachers are.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Teach Like a Primary (teacher)

Last year, I read a life changing book - Teach Like a PIRATE by Dave Burgess. If you haven't heard of it yet, it gets at what educators need to do to reach this generation - passion and engagement. So what does that have to do with primary teachers?

I had the fortune of getting to work in an Elementary School this year, teaching keyboarding to 300 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  The added benefit of this awesome experience is the fact I get to work with and interact with Elementary school teachers. Now, granted, I've only "taught" in two elementary schools in my career, but primary teachers seem to be the most passionate teachers around.

So what do I hear?  Excited and happy voices.  Students saying how much they love their teachers. What do I see?  Students giving hugs, looking to help one another, engaged in the material, HAPPY to be there. Classrooms that are full of FUN.  Now, some of this is definitely developmental (I'll be writing a blog post later on the System vs. Pyschology), but I can't help but wonder if these students are also very engaged because of the educators they have.

I find myself invigorated and infected (for lack of a better term) by those around me.  Even though TLAP helped me realize I could be silly in front of students, being around primary educators further solidified this.  I am even carrying this over when I teach high schoolers in the afternoon.  By all accounts, I believe things to be going very positive there as well.

I believe that many elementary teachers, especially the ones I work with, embody the traits of passions and unconditional love for their students. They aren't afraid to get messy and be crazy.. I look forward to being in a building full of smiles and love. Sure, they are small children and they naturally love their teachers, but perhaps if we kept these teaching styles going, students would enjoy school a little bit more as they got older, and I guarantee the teachers would too!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Google Web Designer - It's About Time!

Now before I start this post, I know what Google's focus was with this program. However, we need to be innovators, and that means using tools in a way they weren't exactly meant to be used.

Yesterday, I saw something about Google Web Designer, so I had to check it out.  Today, I went ahead and downloaded it.  It was fairly simple to use, and allows creators to make graphics and webpages all in one.  Although it certainly isn't a robust editor like Dreamweaver or Fireworks, I believe it can be a suitable fill in for both.

I've been looking for a Fireworks replacement for a while, since it is an expensive program. This program could help fill that void.  You can create 3D animations for the web, using HTML5. In addition, you can see the code as you do it, so if you are a serious web developer, you have ultimate control over your project. By putting the graphics and the web design elements together, you create a powerful all in one package.  Oh, did I mention that like most Google products, it is free?

If you like to design websites, graphics, or just like to play around with something new, I highly recommend this. It can be a fun little toy!