Everybody is new at some point in their lives. This year, I am definitely no exception to this rule.
Not only am I working at a NEW school in an entirely NEW position while living in a NEW neighborhood, but I am now assuming a NEW leadership role of helping organize Edcamp Atlanta!
Organizing this event, yet having never attended an Edcamp before, puts me in a unique position. I find myself examining past session boards to quell my excitement and curiosity over what this year’s Edcamp Atlanta experience will be like. I can’t wait to see what innovative topics teachers will bring to the table and what new ideas and I can adopt and implement at my own school. Being new, however, is a little more complicated than just excitement alone.
Part of being new is identifying the parts of a new experience that feel like ‘home’. In education, we consider a student’s sense of ‘home’ by activating their prior knowledge. This is pivotal in planning lessons and units. Not activating prior knowledge sufficiently could result in the curse of a mal-prepared teacher: confused stares and disengaged students. [Cue ominous piano tune here].
Glimpsing at past session boards, I find my own prior knowledge awakening. Some topics greet me like a friendly neighbor to my fence - flipped classrooms, we meet again! Hosting my own Twitter chat conjures memories of meetings past where educational professionals across the nation joined to watch hashtags cascade down their computer screens like snowflakes softly falling to earth on a winter day. The point of activating prior knowledge is to build upon pre-existing concepts and get students excited to learn. So yes, past session boards, you are doing a great job of doing just that! I am excited and feel quite at home discussing topics I am familiar with and have experience implementing.
Some session board topics don’t greet me as neighbors I know and love - they greet me as the new family moving in on my street, or maybe even celebrities I can’t wait to spot in real life! Tech coaching WITH teacher buy-in, where have you been all my life? Culture of sustainability, dare I spot and fully integrate you into our fantastic learning culture as well? I cannot wait to hear about impromptu topics raised by my fellow educators, topics I have heard a bit about and can’t wait to implement myself.
Part of being an educator is coming to terms with the fact that growth sometimes comes from confronting that which we are not comfortable with at all. Perhaps that is where the most growth occurs. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t mention the past session board topics I’ve read that I have never even heard of. Topics so foreign could be a bit intimidating. If I’m such a great educator, why have I not encountered them before? Brand new topics could run the risk of making me feel like an ill-prepared or insufficient educator.
The truth is that good teachers are always learning, and we cherish the environments that allow us to learn without restraint or shame. This conference, at the core of its being, is created for teachers to learn from each other and refine their craft in a fun, personalized and deeply invigorating way. We are all new sometimes. Edcamp seeks to share tried and true teaching techniques, memorialize new methods and pedagogies, and embrace entirely new ideas with our dearest (and most daring) colleagues by our side.
I am so excited. Newness can be scary sometimes, but in the right environment, it can be absolutely invigorating.
Tara Vito, Lead ML/UL Librarian, Edcamp Atlanta Organizer
Until January 28 I had no idea that peace and tranquility was a new movement in education. I learned this at Edcamp Savannah in a session called Student Ninjas facilitated by a high school history teacher. For those of you who are new to EdCamps let me start from the beginning and work up to session boards. When you arrive, plan to mingle over coffee and pastries, catching up with friends from other schools and admiring the bright and colorful Middle Learning Commons. Friendly faces will great you at the registration table and provide nametags. You are encouraged to bring teacher-friends.
It’s a good idea to add your Twitter or Instagram handle, or email address to your nametag for easy sharing. You will be called to order at 8:30 and welcomed officially. The EdCamp methodology will be clarified for the group and you will all be called to action. It may feel too early in the morning on a Saturday to think, but this is actually the best part of EdCamp. It’s where the ideas emerge and creativity is displayed. You get to come up with topics to add to the session board.
You see, no sessions are scheduled in advance. You may have something in mind before you attend; topics such as Things That Suck are classics. Just look at this Haiku Deck, called Building Sessions and you will have a better understanding of the process and inherent opportunities. Once the board is full, the sessions begin promptly at 9:00AM. They run in increments of 25 and 50 minutes, allowing time for transitions. At noon we all meet back in the Commons to share highlights and share giveaways. We wrap it all up by 1PM. You may even want to extend the experience by making a lunch date with some new friends, but like everything else at EdCamp, that’s up to you.
Returning to my original thought, Peace and tranquility in the noisy world of STEAM and PBL does make sense to provide balance and think time for the learning to happen. Maybe someone will post a topic about the value of quiet in the classroom at EdCamp Atlanta. Maybe we’ll all meet one new person and take home one new idea to use in the classroom. We’re all there for the same reason in the end. We’re there to become even better educators, to grow our craft so we can continue to provide our students with the very best educational experiences. -by Kathy Shields
image credit: "Barn Owl" Georgia Sharp licensed by CC NC 2.0
Leah is a grade 5 student at The Davis Academy in Dunwoody/Sandy Springs.
My name is Leah. I am one of the Davis Network Sherpas. I remember the first meeting we had. I was the only girl out of five Sherpas. Being a Sherpa is really fun because it is a great learning experience. Every time we have a meeting, we learn something new. It is a great learning experience not only for the other Network Sherpas but also for the teachers that we help. Sometimes the teachers even learn from the kids!
Today, we learned about servers. It was very interesting. We learned about where all of our documents go after the children at Davis save them. We learned about all the telephones in the school, which was also very interesting. Also, the Network Sherpas will be learning about imaging next Thursday. I am so excited for that subject.
Even though I am the only girl, the boys are good to work with because they are really smart and really nice. At home, my dad and I love to build things together. For example, last year we made a menorah. It isn’t just your run of the mill menorah, however. He programmed each candlestick to light for a certain amount of time for each night. It was beautiful to look at and really easy to use.
Even though being a Network Sherpa is fun, we still have to be at school before the doors open. We have our meetings before school starts. I don’t know how we learn so much in just thirty minutes! In my opinion, I think younger Davis students should grow up to love building robots and all the other gizmo gadgets that are out there. I think the younger students who would love to do what I do at Davis should sign up to be a Davis Network Sherpa. I have a little advice for the younger kids: never stop believing in yourself and don’t get frustrated when things don’t go your way. If you fail the first time, try try again.
Thank you for learning a little bit about our Network Sherpa program and remember, never stop trying.
About Network Sherpas at The Davis Academy
We have a new team of 5th graders, aka Network Sherpas, that will be visiting your classrooms to help you update your software on your iPads, update your apps, and provide any additional tech support that you may need. Examples include volume issues, needing to reload printers with paper, discovering new apps for your classrooms and more. We had our first meeting this morning and they are very enthusiastic and eager to assist. Therefore, don’t be surprised if a Network Sherpa comes by to offer you their assistance before or after school.
The Media/IT Team
Cutia Blunt, one of this year’s organizers, originally wrote this in September 2012, immediately
after returning from the inaugural EdCamp Atlanta. We thought it would be an interesting look back at where EdCamp Atlanta began.
In April of this year, a friend informed me that a team of educators were looking for more folks to join
the planning committee of a new-ish type of professional learning conference called EdCamp.
EdCamps have occurred in many cities around the country, but 2012 would be the first that one
would be held here in Atlanta. From its website, "Edcamp Atlanta is a free “un-conference”
committed to reaching educators in public, private, charter, and higher ed environments to share
innovative instructional strategies and pioneering technologies that transform education for all.
I eagerly went to the planning meeting and was impressed by the dedication and energy of the other
attendees. Unfortunately, I had a major accident about a week before the second planning meeting.
Since I was down for the count for about 9 weeks, I was obviously unable to attend or contribute
much to the planning process. Nonetheless, I still made plans to attend the actual event and even
promoted it in my school district and on Facebook.
Several days ago, a friend asked via Facebook if I was going to present. At that point, I was undecided but was leaning towards "no". Even this morning, that didn't change...until about 3 different people (who I met at the first planning meeting) asked me on separate occasions if I was going to present. I sat by myself and thought about it for awhile, but eventually gathered up enough courage to sign up!
Those of you that know me know that I have NO problem presenting for colleagues or strangers.
BUT...every session I've ever presented has come with the opportunity to spend HOURS - not
MINUTES - preparing. Few things excite me more than spending a whole hour selecting different
fonts to use in the presentation! But EdCamp is different - the sessions are determined on the spot
and delivered on the fly. That's stepping waaaaaaay out of my box - but I did it, and rocked it! :)
"So yes, I'm going to present!", were my words to my school district's Associate Superintendent (who
arrived while I was still contemplating) and the fellow planning team members. Of course I'd cover
iPads, but I need a sub-topic...quick! In my humble opinion, you can't TEACH with iPads until you
get a grasp on how to MANAGE a school (or class) set of iPads. So I spent the next 10 minutes
jotting down 'Things to Cover'. I signed up to present during the third time slot. I sat through two
other brave souls' sessions, then it was showtime.
My session was well-attended and I covered everything on my list. I believe it was delivered in the
true EdCamp format - my session's attendees often jumped in and shared how they manage iPads
too. I received lots of great feedback from the attendees. But the highlight was the fact that my
Associate Superintendent, a) popped into my session twice even though he actually chose to attend
another session during my same time slot, and b) tweeted about me and my session afterward. I
felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment when my time was up.
Cutia Blunt is an administrator at The Galloway School in Atlanta and an EdCamp Atlanta organizer. You can follow Cutia on Twitter at @appsforclass.
EdCamp Friends and Future Friends,
We are just 25 days away from EdCamp Atlanta 2016!
We hated to postpone due to the January "Snow Scare," but we are so excited to round out the school year with a collaborative, innovative and energizing gathering at Atlanta International School. We can't wait to experience this unique peer-led event we all create together! (Be sure to register or re-register for our new date -- spaces are limited)
While most of our sessions will be true "un-conference" style conversations that we create and schedule on the morning of our event (see How to Be Awesome at EdCamp --->), we are thrilled to announce three special features:
Get Coding in Under an Hour!
Dr. April DeGennaro from Code.org will offer a series of hands on "Coding in the Classroom" sessions using the amazing FREE resources from Code.org!
Come & Play at the STEAMnasium!
Ronnie Thomas, AIS STEAM Coach and CFO of @FunWeirdScience will host the "EdCamp Atlanta Steamnasium" -- a STEAM Playground full of hands-on, creative, Maker-inspired activities and resources
Can you Breakout before Time is Up?
Are you new to BreakoutEDU? Obsessed with BreakoutEDU? Join us in a daring BreakoutEDU experience during EdCamp Atlanta. Come experience these addictive immersive learning games for yourself!
Comment below and tell us why you are excited to attend EdCamp Atlanta!
See you soon,
The EdCampATL Team
We are SO excited and we know you are, too! The new date for EdCamp Atlanta has been set - May 7th! If you've registered and are planning on attending, keep an watching this space for details. If you registered and have conflict with the new date, please visit your EventBrite page and cancel your registration. That will free up the tickets available for others.
Make sure you connect with us on Twitter at @edcampatlanta, like our Facebook page, and keep up to date on this blog for details to come. And don't forget to keep the conversation going using the hashtag #edcampatl! We'll see you on Saturday, May 7th!
We are cancelling this Saturday's EdCampATL2016. We know. We're sad, too. We considered holding the event in spite of predicted winter weather, but with educators coming to the event from across the tri-state area we felt the safest course for participants and organizers was to reschedule. Edcamp is foremost about people.
We'll email you in the coming weeks with a new date. Until then, connect with us on Twitter at @edcampatlanta, like our Facebook page, keep up to date on the blog at www.edcampatlanta.org, and keep the conversation going using the hashtag #edcampatl.
We hope to see you soon!
Shelley, Wanda, Kathy, Drew, and Cutia
If you've attended EdCampATL in the past, you know that EdCampATL is a catalyst for idea and creativity. When educators gather for the sheer joy of collaboration, good things come from the relationships you form. Good things for your students, your professional knowledge, and your role as a teacher leader. EdCampATL is an opportunity to take risks in a space that nurtures and values you. That's why we'd love you to be thinking about sessions you'd like to attend and or facilitate. This is an unconference, not a typical conference with keynotes and sages.
I met Tanya earlier this fall when I attended one of her free full-day Code.org PD sessions for teachers. I learned so much, had such fun, and was so impressed by the quality of the instruction and experience, that I couldn’t wait to encourage my educator friends and colleagues to attend a workshop. Atlanta International School has partnered with Tanya and Code.org to host several FREE workshops that any educator can attend. Do it! You'll love it :) (Upcoming dates are February 12, March 5 and March 19, 2016).
I asked Tanya if she would share with us a bit about herself and her commitment to bringing coding to classrooms.
Can you tell us why you believe computer science and coding are essential for all learners?
Students of all ages should be learning computer science, which is a much broader field than coding. It involves learning how technology works, learning how software is changing our world, and how they can participate in the world around them. Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and teaches them how to create—not just use—new technologies. Computing is not a goal in and of itself, but the means to an end, enabling students to take control, solve problems, and build futures based upon their imagination and creativity. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate ﬁeld of study or occupation.
Tell us why Code.org is so awesome…
I have never, ever seen my students so excited about learning -- plain and simple. The enthusiasm for learning is contagious. The high level of engagement coupled with the obvious...“IT”S A TOTALLY FREE PROGRAM THAT IS AMAZING!!” is what continues to motivate me to teach computer science using the Code.org tutorials as well as recruit as many teachers as I can to do the same. Through problem solving, students learn grit, determination and perseverance. They look at failures as clues and they fix programs to get the results they want. Young coders learn to struggle through challenges while maintaining their self-esteem and this lesson transfers into other areas of life. Students learn that failure is an option… as well as an opportunity.
Tell us three things about you...
PS: Tanya holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and is a veteran elementary school teacher with 27 years of classroom experience. She currently teaches Gifted classes at a public elementary school in Forsyth County, Georgia.
We are excited to have Tanya bring Code.org to EdCamp Atlanta!
[Shelley Paul is Site Director for EdCamp Atlanta and Head of STEAM at Atlanta International School]
EdCampATL on Flickr