Last week I posted how excited I was about the first-ever nErDcamp, hosted by the Nerdy Book Club. It did not disappoint. In fact, is was one of the best PD opportunities that I have ever attended. For those of you who don't know, an Edcamp is an "unconference" of sorts. 1.) They are free. 2.) Conference attendees create and run the sessions. 3.) They are fun!
My colleague and I arrived in Battle Creek, Michigan on Wednesday night, after what turned into about a 6-hour drive because of weather and traffic. After grabbing dinner and drinks, we hit the hay at the Holiday Inn, Battle Creek because it was going to be an early morning. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant-free, thanks to my husband's Platinum Priority Club status, and headed to Lakeview High School, the site of nErDcamp. The first 150 people who arrived were greeted with swag bags, full of ARCs and posters! Awesome! We headed into the "Black Box," quite literally a black, square room possibly used for theatre or band. The room was set up with tables, a screen and projector, and several books for people to explore that would be given away later. After giving everyone time to settle in, Colby and Alaina Sharp, nErDcamp organizers-extraordinaires, told us how the day was going to work. When asked, very few people in the room said they had been to an Edcamp before. This was a new experience for most attendees!
The day had four sessions-two morning, two afternoon, with a lunch break in-between. After a welcome and brief overview of how things were going to work, we were set off to begin discussing what kinds of sessions we would like to see. I felt so inferior to so many people in that room, that I mostly sat and watched, in awe. Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, Jillian Heise, among MANY others-all people whom I look up to as a reading teacher. Sessions started forming. Alaina put session titles into an "Idea Board" Google Doc, to which everyone had access. Sessions brainstormed included "Everything Evernote," "Flipping 101," "Twitter 101," "Book Talks," "Skyping and Connecting with Authors," etc. Twelve possible sessions into two one-hour time blocks. How's a girl to choose?! Let me tell you, it was difficult. I chose to go to "Everything Evernote," hosted by Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, and Alaina Sharp. I used Evernote in my classroom last year, and I wanted to learn more about it's possibilities. Wow! That's another post for another day. The second session I chose to attend was "Motivating Reading and Writing Through Technology" with Donalyn Miller and Suz Gibbs. The cool thing about Edcamps are, even though there are session leaders, everyone is encouraged to participate and give input. Some things I took away from that session is Biblionasium, a site for students to record their books, and Booksource, a way to catalog your books digitally. Book trailers, Prezi, and Edmodo were other things discussed at this session. Suz Gibbs also showed an amazing book trailer created by one of her students!
After lunch, we went back to the "Black Box" to brainstorm ideas for the afternoon sessions. Once again, some wonderful ideas were offered. Sessions included "Graphic Novels," "Special Ed and Literacy," "Sister Classrooms," "Battle of the Books," "Genius Hour," "Nerdy Book Club Needs You," among others. For the afternoon I chose to attend "Sister Classrooms," hosted by Jillian Heise and Brian Wyzlick and "Genius Hour" with Amanda Ferrari. I was interested in Sister Classrooms for two reasons. One, I follow Jillian and Brian on Twitter and I am seeing their back-and-forth about things they are doing in their classrooms. Jillian lives in Wisconsin and Brian in Michigan. They have connected their classrooms in many ways. Another reason I was interested was because my colleague and I will be in different buildings next year, both teaching fourth grade. We want to connect our classrooms in this same way. When I get done writing this post, I am going to create a Google Doc for she and I to share ideas on ways to connect-one thing Jillian and Brian recommend. The final session I attended was "Genius Hour." Once again, I had heard about it on Twitter and wanted to learn more. Twitter is amazing PD people! The idea behind Genius Hour comes from Google, who allows their employees 20% of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. They believe that employees will be more productive when people work on something that they are passionate about. Genius Hour in the classroom is allowing your students 20% of their time to work on a project they care about. I really like this concept, and look forward to learning more.
The best thing about nErDcamp was the interactive idea board and notes taken at each session. If you click on each session number on the idea board, it links you to a notes page taken in the session! How cool is that?! So, if I have mentioned anything that sounds interesting to you, or you would like to read more about the different sessions offered, go to the idea board and get clicking!
I was so inspired by the number of teachers that attended nErDcamp. Everyone gave up a day from their summer vacation to learn and grow. Many traveled hundreds of miles to get there and I would be willing to bet that everyone said it was well worth it, it certainly was for me.