I was so excited about #EduCampWelly that I did not sleep much last night. I was up until 3:30 am! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE EDCAMP and all other PD like DEN (Discovery Educators Network) events!! When I found out about #EduCampWelly on twitter, I could not contain my excitement!
I was set to meet Nessa, my Fulbrighter friend and sister in all things silly at a nearby bus stop at 8am but I got there are 7:50!! The air was breezy and a little cool, but not too cold. I felt alive and refreshed even with very little sleep. I was running on adrenaline with the anticipation of meeting and connecting with other forward thinking likeminded educators---
Below is a picture of me "killing time" with selfies. Behind me is Unity Books an independent book store, and TANK, a good place to get high quality smoothies. And as an aside, Wellington has a lot of independent bookstores) which is very nice to see!
Nessa arrived at 8:00 am and we got on the #3 Bus near New World grocery store on Willis Street and we only had to wait a few minutes for our Snapper Chariot to arrive.
It took us right to the doorstop of our destination, the Karori Normal School in under twenty minutes. You might be chuckling thinking what does the word “Normal” mean? Great question! I will explain that another day!
At the school, each classroom is an individual building, unlike many schools in the US where all rooms are often in one building, especially at the primary school level (with the exception of overcrowded buildings and the use of portable classrooms aka trailers).
The first place we started in was the registration area which featured the “pimp your name badge activity!
I have never seen such a huge name badge decorating spread! There were glue guns plugged in, stickers, and many other materials to personalize the name badges!
There was even a young lady instructing us on how to use some of the materials. Because I have the attention of a fruit fly when I see so many new and shiny things, I asked her to please make me something for my badge--
She made me this butterfly for the back of my badge :) Thank you, Elizabeth I will always treasure this because you made it for specially for me. I love all of the effort you put into my butterfly and you used pretty colors!
When we moved to a meeting space, we were greeted by a very friendly, outgoing, hospitable school principal, Conrad Kelly. He “spoke our language” and hit all the high notes on the importance of educators empowering themselves to take charge of their professional development. Despite his many years in education, he was full of ideas and vitality. I immediately felt energized and knew the day was going to be great given its strong start!
Here is a little background about the first general session—The organizers sent out a google slide “Smackdown” presentation template so that anyone could add a resource to the preso.— Each person who chose to contribute had about one minute to show and explain their website/app/resource during the Smackdown and discuss its utility.
In general terms, for those not familiar with a Smackdown as the term relates to edu conferences--someone gets up and has to talk pretty fast and persuasively about the resource they are presenting in a limited amount of time. If they run over, the buzzer goes off. At the end, in some cases, people vote on what the best presentation was (usually based on how much they like the resource but sometimes based on the actual performance of the presenter). There are many slight variations but it always involves the presentation of resources and usually by different people. I chose to share information on two of my favorite tools, Smore online flyers and the Green Screen app by Doink.
While in the US we typically do the “Smackdown" as a “closing session” at an edcamp or conference, I saw the benefit of doing it early on. By showcasing ideas and resources at the start, people had the opportunity to catch up with one another, to make inquires, or to discuss the area of interest further. This is very logical since 100+ great minds are in one place and available to share what they know in real time throughout the day!
Next, we wrote down topics of interest on sticky notes, which were later sorted by a group of educators by topic strand—Then, teachers volunteered to facilitate those topics—Each session was very well attended and in all cases that I was a part of, each facilitator empowered the group by seeking input and interactivity in their session (versus strict Sit and Get) format that can be typical in a “more traditional” PD setting in a US school. Everyone was involved and everyone’s voice was heard. Here is how the board looked when the topic strands were selected:
The first session I attended was a “Socratic Smackdown”-My understanding of what I saw: In this session, brave volunteers modeled what a student debate would like look using a socratic method of discussion. There are scorers that keep track of the various communication and social skills that are used by the students. They are encouraged to locate and cite evidence for their positions which is standard that we have been focusing on in my state over the past few year in my state (GA). Students also learn to engage in typical discussion patterns such as turn taking as we do as adults- raising hands is not what we do in “real life”—I agree that we need to prepare our students for the world they actually live in and I thoroughly enjoyed this demonstration.
In this picture, Rachel Bolstad (white polka dots) from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research is talking about game based learning. The fellow next to her is the developer of gamefroot.com
In the third session, I learned about the ways educators are using SeeSaw to communicate with families and share student work. I know many people that use this program but I have never actually logged into an account and taken a look at it. We had a great walkthrough of all of the functionality today! I appreciated this very much since most people in the room were already familiar with the application. I left understanding the ins and outs of the program and will definitely put it to use when the opportunity arises. Being a Teacher-Librarian, it seems a bit daunting to try and communicate with 450 families but perhaps I can use it with the families of students in school clubs I sponsor.
During the fourth session, I went over the makerspace room and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I watched Rachel demonstrate the game “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes!” Even though this is not “an educational game” I could see instantly that students could learn a lot from it. Try it for yourself but it is a multiplayer game—your friends have to read you instructions so go grab a friend or two and head over to this site http://www.keeptalkinggame.com/
The beautiful and stimulating day wrapped up with complimentary pizza provided by one of the lovely sponsors and some final networking opportunities. This event went off without a hitch! Thank you #EduCampWelly @Welly_ed and all sponsors including the Karori Normal School.
I am sorry I left out names and twitter handles. There was a lot of new info for me to process and I am trying to complete this post in a reasonable amount of time. Please feel free to flick me a message if you are featured in this post and I will add your name/handle! Thank you to everyone for giving Nessa and Me a big Kiwi Welcome today at #EduCampWelly- We are very grateful to you!
Ka kite anō (see you again) @staffdevjnkie
Some snaps from today-Everyone is so awesome!!!!
Sue is a teacher and school librarian living in Atlanta, GA, USA. She was in NZ as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher from Feb-June 2016.