Blended Learning Day Camp 2017

Remember when you were a kid and you went to camp – and it was awesome? Well, last week I got to go to “camp” – and it was awesome! Michigan Virtual University has put on an annual Day Camp for the last three years. Centered around implemented blended learning, the conference features both inspiring speakers as well as examples of teachers implementing blended learning in their classrooms.

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Not only did I get to attend, I was asked to be a Camp Counselor and have my own cabin of campers. Each camper was assigned a cabin (table) and a seat, which was designed to get people out of their comfort zones and to network with others. Our table was split into two cabins – 12A and 12B – and each cabin had a counselor. Most counselors at each table were instructional technology specialists or building leaders. We acted as the moderator to help break the ice with our campers, facilitated some lunchtime discussions around our practice, and helped to manage the GooseChase scavenger hunt.

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And we got some sweet swag! There’s a fanny pack hiding in that coffee mug!

The Keynote speaker for the event was the incredibly inspiring Pernille Ripp. She’s a middle school teacher in Wisconsin who has a really interesting story about how she became a teacher and landed in her school. Aside from the hard work she engages in as a teacher, Pernille also is the founder of the Global Read Aloud, which several teachers in our district have participated in.

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We hear a lot in education about doing what’s best for kids, but we don’t often actually ask kids what it is they want we teachers to do. Pernille does this – and then she makes changes to her instruction and how to interacts with students. Not only does this create an environment where students feel comfortable to contribute to their learning, it also demonstrates to students that their voices are valued and matter. When we think about how we want to teach our students to engage in the world, what better way to model that for our students than to ask them to use their voices and have conversations about those wants.

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I could go on and on about how much what Pernille said resonated with me, but something she has been promoting for a few years is around behavior charts. I couldn’t agree more with her. Whether or not I’m having a bad day should not be public knowledge. Continually publicizing students’ behavior issues really doesn’t seem to make a difference in student behavior. I have seen behavior charts used in classrooms. The well-behaved students continue to behave well. The students who are on “yellow” or lose points become disgruntled or upset and continue to act out, until they go to “red” or lose more points. Of course eventually, those students on “red” lose other privileges. I think about how I would feel if I went to a conference session or a work meeting and was called out for talking or being off task. I certainly wouldn’t engage in the rest of the training with an open mind, and the next time I had to work with that presenter or leader, I’d have an attitude and would have my guard up.  Why would we expect any different from our students?

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There were a few big takeaways from the Blended Learning Day Camp for me. First, I loved the scavenger hunt component using the GooseChase app. GooseChase makes the work of a scavenger hunt super easy. You create a game, others join your game (you can password protect them), and then they complete the various challenges within the game. You can have participants take photo evidence, use GPS location, take a video, or write a text response. I love the multiple modalities incorporated into the app, and it’s so easy to create a game or participate in one. I’m definitely going to incorporate this into some of my day-long trainings this summer.

Another takeaway was the opportunity to get up, network, and play with a small group of teachers. Throughout the day there were multiple times when we were able to stand up, solve a problem, make something, or explore. We had a playground/Makerspace with a variety of “toys” – Spheros, MakeyMakey, Little Bits, BryteBites, etc. There was also a BreakoutEDU game. If you haven’t done one yet, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. You can order a kit online, or you can make your own. It is a WONDERFUL community-building activity, first week of school, “brain break” activity. It requires students to work together to solve a common problem – with some tension added in as they are fighting against a clock and other teams. The GooseChase game also asked participants to find areas outside of the conference space, so it was fun to get outside and walk around.

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Lastly, I’m excited to participate in a book study with author Liz Kolb, who just published a new book called Learning First, Technology Second. We got to hear about the impetus behind her book and some of the highlights of her research findings. I’m not-so-patiently waiting for my book to arrive from ISTE so I can dive in and really participate in the online book study.

Your Turn: What were some of your favorite summer learning/professional development experiences? What made them so awesome? 

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I’m Building an Empire Here

I seriously love podcasts. My husband actually got me into them; he was constantly listening to podcasts when he would do yard work. I finally dove into the world of podcasting a few years ago, and haven’t really looked back since. The challenge now is there are new and interesting podcasts coming out all the time and I sometimes end up with upwards of 10 unplayed podcasts! Then I get stressed out about all the pods I have to listen to!

Many of the podcasts I listen to often include an interview component. One of the newest podcasts I’m listening to is The Planning Period podcast hosted by Brad Shreffler. He and I crossed paths at ISTE this year; he attended our session and reached out afterward. We talked a lot about paradigm shifts that are necessary in education and teacher professional development. He also asked me some tough questions about education and its future! You can check out the full episode here. 

So, now I’ve officially “made it” as a podcaster. I’ll just retire now.

 

Kidding. But, it was really cool and I enjoyed being on the other side of the microphone.

Eric and I were able to finally connect this week and record a podcast recapping our takeaways from ISTE. We shared some big themes and takeaways from ISTE. Common between the two of us? The opportunity to network and dive into deep conversations with teachers and other industry leaders. One of the best parts of the event was the conversation we had with Rushton Hurley at the MACUL meetup. We talked education policy and how it looks different in New Zealand, the U.S. and even varied among different sates. Check out our episode here.

Moving forward, it’s time to start implementing some of the ideas and models I learned about with some of our schools. Scalability and replication of models is important, and I want to make sure that what I bring to our school leaders and curriculum team is realistic for implementation in our district. We are focusing a lot of our professional development this year on 8 schools that are being redesigned with new flexible seating, interactive flat panels, and focusing our teaching and instruction around student interactivity, creation, and sharing their learning quickly and easily with their classmates, teachers, and the world at large.

What are your goals for this school year? 

Did you attend ISTE? What were your key takeaways? 

Camp Google

Sometimes I am super jealous of young people today. They have so many amazing and unique opportunities available to them! I was recently at #ISTE2015 and attended a session about developing the innovator’s mindset. One of the things the presenter said that struck me was that the technology we have today is the worst it will ever be. Take a minute to let that sink in!

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In that vein, one of the coolest things I have seen Camp Google. Students can “go to camp” with Google. According to their site, “Google Camp is a free camp for kids, full of fun science activities and adventures led by experts.” There are several different themes and areas to explore, including Ocean, Space, and Nature. Google partnered with the National Parks Service, National Geographic, and Khan Academy to bring innovative and interactive activities for students. What an awesome way to spark creativity and curiosity in young people.

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Camp Google is designed for students ages 7-10 and students don’t need a Google account to participate. Students can participate throughout the summer; there aren’t set times or deadlines. Many of the activities ask students to use household items, but the camp itself is completely free! I love the idea of students learning and then creating something new. Providing students options to be active and connected to their learning is so powerful.