Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm a Nerd

I'll admit it, and I'm okay with it. I'm a nerd.

I've always loved reading and always did well in school (except for freshman biology in college, but....).

I love learning and spend a lot of time seeking new ideas and trying new things.

That's why I jumped at the chance to attend nErDcamp Iowa last Saturday......and it was awesome.

Banner outside Southeast Elementary in Ankeny, Iowa
The Southeast teachers were great hosts!!
nErDcamp is similar to an EDCamp because it is an "unconference," meaning that it's the teachers that are in control of their own learning. Personalized PD, conversations about common topics, and making new connections with others is what it's all about. The difference between a nErDcamp and other EDCamps is the focus on literacy.

I arrived at the location and was greeted with smiles, welcomes, and a "swag bag!" It was full of books and other goodies that teachers love - such as bookmarks and a stress relief ball (definitely could have used that last week).

After walking into the library I was introduced to the "idea board" where attendees could choose topics for the 4 sessions. Then, I was offered some breakfast --- delicious! Coffee, water, donuts, breakfast casserole, and other goodies.

These teachers really knew how to throw a party --- and it was free! I can't believe there wasn't a bigger crowd.

Aren't these NERD balloons festive?
The neat thing about the nErDcamp is that we started out the day with a special guest speaker. We were honored to be able to listen to K-5 School Librarian John Schumacher from Naperville, Illinois, otherwise known as Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads). 

Mr. Schu gave an amazing presentation about getting students connected to books and he inspired us all through his stories. He even gave out a countless number of free books. The book below, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, was my prize for winning the Kahoot book trivia game.

This book smells awesome! (Mr. Schu told us about how he
has his students smell new books) Reminds me of a bookstore!
After the keynote, teachers chose sessions to attend. The sessions were great - lots of amazing ideas were shared. Many of the sessions have notes posted here: idea board.

The great thing about these sessions is that the "ROOM" was the
expert. No one had to get up and be the expert leader - we all shared alike.
I always have trouble making decisions, so having to choose between 3 equally amazing discussions each hour was hard. I enjoyed each session, took a lot of notes and learned some new things I'll be able to implement this year in my classroom. I really appreciated the fact that everyone was able to give & take ideas, whether it was in a larger group discussion or in a smaller conversation.

After lunch and before the afternoon session, we all anticipated the prize drawings. The table of prizes was displayed all day long and it was full of neat items -- books, candles, t-shirts, socks, mugs, website subscriptions, and much more.

nErDcampia prize table!
To my surprise, I was the first name drawn! I did have my name in the drawing a few times though - once for attending, one more for suggesting a session title, and a couple more times for taking and sharing notes at the sessions I attended. So, what did I choose when my name was drawn first?

Yay - a free registration to the 1:1 Institute in Des Moines in April.
Awesome prize for me as it is my first year 1:1 with Chromebooks!!
This was my second "edcamp" experience this fall and it was overall a great opportunity to learn more about something I was interested in -- and isn't that the true meaning of professional development? Seeking new ideas to help you grow professionally as an educator, and having a lot of fun doing it. 

That's a great way to spend my Saturday.

Even though it's nerd-ish.
I came home with a 1:1 Registration certificate, Newsela t-shirt,
9 books, and much more!
Now I'm looking forward to nErDCamp Iowa 2 next year! Join me! 

More info, tweets, and pictures can be found here:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Connect, Collect, Create ~ A Reflection of #ITEC14

The fall conference of the Iowa Technology Education Connection (ITEC) was held last week More information can be found at and for those that couldn't be in attendance, (and even for those of us that were there but couldn't be in a million places at once), many presenters shared their presentation materials at this link:

I was honored to be asked this fall to become a new member of my school's technology cadre. This is an area that I have a lot of passion for and hope to not only use my new knowledge & connections to create an even better learning environment for my students, but also to use it to encourage my colleagues to connect & share the wonderful things they are doing in their classrooms with a wider audience.

I could write pages and pages about my 3-day experience at ITEC. My dozen pictures and 15 pages of notes could probably prove that. But in this reflection I decided to focus on three key words: Connect, Collect, and Create.


My colleague, Kendra Carlson and I were
able to meet author Peter Reynolds.
* I was able to spend some quality time at the conference with my school and district colleagues. Spending time with colleagues outside of the school building is a great way to get to know each other better, share ideas, and enjoy one another's company for more than 25 minutes at lunch. We went to a few sessions together, but most of the sessions we attended were different so it will be great to share and compare new ideas. It was a pleasure to spend time with teachers from my own school including Kendra Carlson, Susan Moeller, and Maggie Knox. I was able to see many other teachers and leaders from my district (Southeast Polk) at the conference which was encouraging.  I hope we can continue moving toward more technology integration as well as positively branding and sharing the great things happening in our schools. 

Having some fun at the Panda Pix Photo booth!
I'm in the back with the pink hat and red heart glasses.
*I participated in a "Classrooms Gone Google" workshop on Sunday that was facilitated by Jamie Fath, our district technology integration coordinator & ITEC team member. Jamie was also kind enough to let me hang out with her for a couple extra hours & really gain an appreciation for the work of the ITEC team behind the scenes. Plus I had the chance to meet Monday's keynote speaker, Adam Bellow.

Some of the #iaedchat leaders and supporters
at Legends downtown Des Moines.
Photo credit: Jimmy Casas
*Reconnecting with people I've met on previous occasions as well as meeting so many of my PLN friends was definitely a highlight of the conference. Meeting the people you have communicated with on Twitter and Voxer in person helps take the connection to a new level. It was awesome to hang out at Legends downtown on Sunday evening with #iaedchat moderators Jimmy Casas, Matt Degner, and Devin Schoening along with Aaron Maurer, Leslie Pralle-Keehn, Timothy Scholze, Erin Olson, Shaelynn Farnsworth, and many others. We had some good discussions while trying to also pay attention to the actual Twitter chat online. Whether it's people you work with, people you've just met, people you've wanted to meet for awhile, and people you enjoy reconnecting with, nothing beats great conversation about common interests and dreams.


*ITEC was a chance for me to collect new ideas and strategies for becoming a more effective teacher. I have great new ideas for giving students more voice through passion projects and blogs, creating instead of just consuming, and using more technology to enhance the learning experience.

*I also collected new knowledge of how to help my students research, capture, and correctly give attribution to pictures and other media to use in their projects. Like many other ITEC attendees, I have a list of new extensions and apps that I'm taking the time to look through and choose for my class to use.

Devin Schoening shared this quote with us
in his "Let Kids Be Amazing" session.
*Besides collecting ideas, I also collected a sense of reassurance that the strategies I've implemented this year and the plans I'm gathering for the future are things that can positively impact my students.

*Collecting new names of people I can keep in touch with was also a highlight of the conference. Each new person I met or had the chance to have a conversation with on Twitter or in person will be a way for me to collect new ideas, get feedback on my own ideas, and learn from now and in the future.


*Many of the ITEC sessions and keynote speakers spoke of creating opportunities for students to be creative, show their strengths, and use their ideas to help others. In creating these opportunities, there is often risk involved: the risk of doing something wrong, the risk of push-back from others, the risk of making mistakes, and the risk of not putting in the effort to make the change a positive one and therefore reverting to old ineffective ways.

Playing with littleBits kits during Aaron Maurer's
"Tink Tank 2" session made me feel like a curious kid again.
*Creating a new path to change is sometimes not easy. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone. It takes support from others in your "corner." It takes time, and it even takes a realization that your "yes" to new things often means a "no" to other things. But change isn't something I'm afraid of.

*The ITEC conference helped to confirm a couple of things that I had been thinking about for awhile. My ideas are still in the planning stage but with some hard work, help from others, and a new way of thinking about learning, I think I may just be able to bring about a path to new change. 

Monday's keynote speaker, Adam Bellow,
was an inspiration to teachers wanting to
go down a new path!

Thank you to everyone who made this 
experience one to remember!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The 14th Goldfish #gra14

"A book is a dream that you hold in your hand." ~Neil Gaiman

One of my favorite parts of the school day is teacher read-aloud. I love how my class of 4th graders eagerly gathers around and anticipates what will be read next!

This year is the first year I'm participating in the Global Read Aloud. This project, created by Pernille Ripp, a Wisconsin teacher, is a 6-week project during which teachers from all over the world choose one of a list of books to share with their class. Teachers are also encouraged to make connections with other classes in the country and world and enlighten their students to the fact that kids just like them are reading and enjoying the same books! More information about the Global Read Aloud can be found here.

Starting today, October 6th, through November 14th, my class will be reading "The Fourteenth Goldfish" by Jenni Holm. It's a brand-new book (August 2014) and we're excited to read and have a collaborative question discussion using Google Docs with other classes from California, Texas, and Minnesota (and maybe more!). 

I was excited to win a copy of a signed book from the author, Jenni Holm, so that is just another neat aspect of reading a new book!

We started off the day with our read-aloud time and discussed what it might be like to stay young forever, or a "fountain of youth." We also watched this book trailer which was a neat way to "meet" the author and see how she came up with the book idea.

We LOVE goldfish! #gra14

We look forward to the next six weeks and all it has to offer. It will be fun to collaborate with the other classes and have some discussions about the book. It will also be great to see the connections we can make to science and to the concept of the impossible becoming possible!

My GRA t-shirt & autographed book!