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.


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.


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.


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?


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.





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? 

Global Collaboration Day

Last Thursday, September 17th, was Global Collaboration Day. Classrooms around the world connected through a series of projects, events, Google Hangouts, and more. According to their website, the “primary goals of this whole day event are to demonstrate the power of global connectivity in classrooms, schools, institutions of formal learning, and universities around the world, and to introduce others to the tools, resources, and products that are available to educators today.”

There were a ton of different events held on the 17th – from book studies to Twitter chats and collaborative documents designed to end discrimination. You can see the full list of events here. Technology sometimes gets a bad rap for making us more isolated, but I love events like these, that would simply not be possible without technology. Just as we can use spray paint for destructive or helpful purposes, so too with technology.

Check out the map of all the different events taking place on the same day! So neat!

Check out the map of all the different events taking place on the same day! So neat!

Cavanaugh STEAM Elementary – one of the schools I work with – chose to collaborate with classrooms across the United States around the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The premise of the book is that Rosie needs to help her uncle, Zookeeper Fred, solve a problem. She designs a hat to help him keep snakes off his head. On Wednesday, Mrs. Stevens read the book to 1st grade students, and then we discussed it.


We brainstormed some problems students had that could be solved by creating a special hat. Mrs. Stevens shared the hat she made and explained that she has a hard time seeing in the dark when she is taking her dog out in the morning. She has a big dog and it’s too hard to hold the leash and a flashlight. So, she designed a hat that lights up.

Once students had their designs sketched out, drawing and creating was next! Students were very creative and excited to share their ideas with me! On Thursday, students were excited and ready to share their designs with seven different classrooms in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Mississippi. We used Google Hangouts to connect. It’s always so much fun to see students get super excited about seeing themselves “on TV” and sharing with others.

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Each classroom chose 4-5 students to speak and share their hats. Students everywhere were VERY creative. Some designed hats that held all their art and school supplies. Another student made a Buddy Hat. This hat let you blow a bubble, which turned into a buddy you could play with! Others wer more practical; one boy lives with two sisters and his house is always LOUD! He made a hat that muffles sound.

This was the first Global Collaboration Day I participated in, but it won’t be the last. It is crucial for us as teachers to continue to provide these types of learning opportunities for students. Not only did they have fun, but they got to see students in other parts of the country. In addition, they got to make real world connections to what they read. As a STEAM school, we focus a lot on the arts, literacy, and the engineering design process. It was fun to bring all of those elements together!

What about you? What did you or your school do to participate in the Global Collaboration Day?