My First Edcamp!!!!

I did it! I went to my very first edcamp, edcampWNC, yesterday…and now, I am HOOKED! I loved every minute of it and I can’t wait to share my experience with you all!

I have been reading about edcamps for a couple of years, now. I knew they were “informal” conferences of some sort for educators (who Tweet a BUNCH) but wasn’t informed much on the agenda, structure, purpose, etc. My PLN on Twitter talk about their favorite edcamps ALL the time, but since I had not yet shared the special experience, I couldn’t relate and, honestly, dismissed much of what they said. Well, dismiss no more! I am a proud edcamper alumni and I want to share my experience with YOU so that you can join me at the next one (or go to one near your home).

I first learned about edcampWNC on Twitter (I mean, seriously? Where else would @Thatmathlady hear about something related to education?) from my NC PLN. I think @jaymelinton is the first person I saw tweet about it, followed by @mrjamesfrye and then @curriculumblog. These are PLN members who I have followed on Twitter for a very long time and I really wanted to meet them face-to-face. So, I signed up for edcampWNC not really knowing where I was going or why I was going other than to meet these fabulous North Carolinian educators.

I drove 3 hours (yup, left the house at 5:15) and started my journey into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I pulled up to the North Carolina Center for Advancement of Teaching campus around 8:30 with some butterflies. I was on the doorstep of my first edcamp and I still had no clue what I was in for! But I immediately spotted @jaymelinton and @ashleyhhurley – and they immediately recognized me and greeted me so warmly – and I just knew I was in for a treat!

Breakfast was still being served, so I surveyed the room of NC educators, desperately searching for faces I may recognize from Twitter. I didn’t recognize a soul, so I grabbed some coffee and sat down on the floor next to a teacher who was hanging back and people-watching like myself. I’m not one to start up conversations with strangers, but I’ve learned that I can talk to almost any teacher about any school topic. Teresa (@NRMSLiteracy) and I chatted about her doctoral work, my aspiration and obsession with starting grad school, and this, that, and the other thing. Before I knew it, our first session was ready to begin! So, the cool part about edcamps is that there is no hidden…or obvious…agenda. The participants create the agenda on the spot in the first session. (We used Google Moderator to “shout out” and “vote” on ideas. I will DEFINITELY be using that in the future!) After 15 minutes or so, we had 16 unique sessions to choose from throughout the day. Wow, just like that. Now, I just had to choose which sessions I wanted to participate in. So many great choices! Can’t I attend them all!? Well, yeah, I could have! Edcamps allow you to move in and out of sessions as you choose. In fact, it is in the “Edcamp Rules” (See: The Rule of Two Feet). The “Rules,” – totally thought of Fight Club when Jamie read these off – which aren’t really rules, prevent you from wasting your time in a session that doesn’t work for you and promote genuine think-tank type of conversations.  

While I saw a few individuals duck in-and-out of sessions, most people who wanted to attend each session participated and were fully engaged in hearty conversations about…well, almost everything education! I went to sessions about implementing 1:1 blended learning, creating learning spaces, things that suck about education (and how to fix those things) and classroom management. I felt like the day was totally tailored to MY needs as a teacher. I needed to talk about ways to improve my classroom – both the relationships with kids and the furniture they sit in – and I wanted to know how other districts roll out 1:1 programs with success. To be honest, I felt like this edcamp was designed specifically for me! I can only hope other educators felt the same way.

But, the best part of my edcamp experience? It was the connections I made face-to-face with the other educators I admire and follow on Twitter. I have an amazing PLN on Twitter, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I really learned that I have an amazing PLN within my home state of NC. I realized during lunch that edcamps draw the best and hardest working educators together to share ideas  and promote growth within the profession. While we were there to learn, we were also there to share ideas to make our community of professionals BETTER! Do all teachers do this? No, not all. But can you imagine how much stronger our schools would become if they did?!  

Needless to say, yesterday’s experience at #edcampWNC was amazing. I have already signed up for my next TWO edcamps in the Queen City. I can’t wait for January and February to get here so I can do this all again!!

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My NCCTM Experience

IMG_1828I had the fortune of attending the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2014 Regional Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. On top of that, I had the greater fortune of presenting – for the first time EVER!! – TWO SESSIONS on a topic that I am very passionate about. I have been looking forward to this conference for weeks and boy, it did not disappoint!

I attended this conference in 2012, and what I had forgotten – which I quickly remembered after a session or two on Thursday – was how much I LEARNED at this conference. I can’t put into words the value of the resources and amazing educators at this conference. I took away so much from the workshops and sessions I attended. Instead of me rambling on about how amazing this experience was, let me get started on the highlights of my two days at the NCCTM Conference:

 

Sheila Brookshire and I pose with the TI Inspire.
Sheila Brookshire and I pose with the TI Inspire.

1. Learning about the TIinspire. The first workshop I attended on Thursday morning was given by Sheila Brookshire, a veteran teacher in Buncombe County Schools (NC). She taught us some cool tricks with the TIInspire – a device I had never used – and gave us some other fun hands-on resources to teach stats to grades 6, 7, and 8. The 90 minute workshop FLEW by and before I knew it, I was off to my next session!

 

 

 

 

 

2. It Ain’t the Kidz. I didn’t go to any keynote speaking events in 2012 and I really regretted that. So I made sure I hit up two of them at this conference. The first one was delivered by Lee Stiff, a professor of mathematics at NC State. He was

Lee Stiff and I after his "It Ain't the Kidz" Keynote speech!
Lee Stiff and I after his “It Ain’t the Kidz” Keynote speech!

discussing his research on urban education and the achievement gap. He discovered that the achievement gap isn’t at the fault of the teachers OR the students, but the system. If we don’t start reaching kids at their own pedagogical level,and provide for them a solid foundation of identity, security, and validity, we will never reach high achievement in our urban schools. This hit close to home for me since I currently teach in an urban math classroom. Dr. Stiff is very passionate about reaching students with more active and engaging classrooms…and listening to his keynote address gave me the reassurance to know that I can make that happen. I can meet my students where they are and help them succeed.

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I was so happy to have a chance to meet Juli Dixon and her inspirational daughter, Alex!

 

 

3. The CCSS Mathematical practices should always be considered by teachers and students. The other keynote speech I attended was given by Juli Dixon. Her keynote was focused on the five essential instructional shifts that she has identified that change the way teachers view and teach the eight mathematical practices. I can’t claim to always think about the mathematical practices when I’m teaching (probably because it is like second nature to me) but it got me thinking. The mathematical practices are just as important as the content we teach.  Yes, students need to know how to multiply; but they also need the meta-cognitive skills to know how they are multiplying. Teachers need to start focusing on the specific practices we are teaching just as we are focusing on the content.

 

 

4. Interactive notebooks are taking over the world! I went to THREE different sessions that highlighted the use and importance of INBs. I saw some GREAT ideas…some I’ve implemented already in my students’ INBs this year, and ideas that I will remember for next year. I love interactive notebooks. I’ll have to blog about those later this year…because they are FABulous!

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A found a fellow GTN member…from Michigan!!

 

5. Common Theme: Grades are still motivators and successful students take ownership for their learning. I know a rapidly increasing number of educators who are jumping off the “grades” bandwagon. However, I found it odd that so many presenters were still mentioning that the top motivator in their classrooms are grades. I’d see a unique implementation of an activity or lesson and ask, “How do you get your students on board with that?”  The reply? “Well, they get graded on it, so it isn’t optional.” Well, it is optional if your kids lack interest in their grades, as several of mine do. Grades still rule the classrooms (in classrooms where good grades are important.) And the students with the best grades are the ones hat take ownership for their learning. (No surprise there.)

I saw so many unique and AMAZING uses of technology at this conference! Blendspace and Presentain (the presentation website I used in my session) were two of my faves!
I saw so many unique and AMAZING uses of technology at this conference! Blendspace and Presentain (the presentation website I used in my session) were two of my faves!