I've been to one EdCamp in Cincinnati, Ohio, about two years ago. Other than that, my experience with the EdCamp format has been limited, aside from what I have read about on Twitter. (Here is more information about what an EdCamp is all about.) When I first heard that Colby and Alaina Sharp (@ColbySharp and @SharpsGalore) were hosting a nErDCamp Battle Creek, an EdCamp with a literacy focus, I knew I had to attend. The amazing thing about nErDCampBC is that about 90% of the attendees had never been to an EdCamp before. This just goes to show that when people are passionate about something, they are willing to try anything to share and learn about their passion.
I had to opportunity to participate in some #carPD on the way to and from nErdCamp with my carpool friends; Karen Terlecky, Franki Sibberson, Katie Strawser and Cathy Mere. We were able to learn so much from each other, specifically; what to do when you are driving through tornado warnings, navigation, neurology, stalking and of course books, books and books. When we arrived in Battle Creek, MI on Wednesday night, we headed over the to Dark Horse Brewing Company for some dinner and conversation with other nErDCamp attendees. What I loved about this dinner was the friendliness and conversation that flowed between everyone, all because of our common love of reading.
Thursday morning we woke up bright and early and headed over to Lakeview High School, in Battle Creek, to start a day of learning and sharing. The first 150 people to register received very impressive swag bags, thanks to some amazing sponsors.
Travis Jonker has done an amazing job describing the introduction and process of selecting session at nErDCamp on his blog!
As for me, I decided to start my morning off in the session discussing Engaging Accountability: Keeping a Record of your reading life! This was a session where everyone participated. People shared, around the room, ways they are able to help students keep track of their lives as readers. Overall, I feel we need to present students with a variety of tools to use. This should be a tool that can help students grow as readers, reflect on their growth and plan where they want to go within their reading life. Letting students decide on the tool that works best for them, whether it be a paper/pencil journal or log, blog or Goodreads/Biblionasium, is the way to help students continue this form of accountability long after they leave our classrooms.
For session 2, I decided on something a little different than most of the other attendees. I attened a session about reflection on teacher evaluations. I feel that reflection is a very important piece of education, but one that is often times overlooked. I know I struggle to admit my weaknesses because of a fear of people using those weaknesses against me. The consensus in the room was that many teachers are not honest with areas where they feel they could improve, in fear that it will be used against them on their teacher evaluations. In reflecting on this session, I started to think about my own students. Do I allow them time to honestly reflect, and then help them work towards improvement? Or do students, in my class, falsely reflect because they don't trust that I will help them find a way to improve? I feel we need to be teaching students that failure is okay, and expected. It's the initial attempt, awareness of what went wrong, and plan of fixing the problem that matters the most.
I was very excited when I saw someone in session 3 wanted to discuss Special Education and Literacy (a session I wanted to lead, but wasn't brave enough to suggest it). Ben Gilpin (@BenjaminGilpin) is an elementary principal in Michigan, and was the facilitator for this session. (I also discovered he writes a blog at http://colorfulprincipal.blogspot.com/ ). He presented us with the question, "What do we do when students only want o read the same type of books?" He framed this in the context of students with autism only wanting to read books about what they are interested in. This is something that I am very passionate about, and plan on writing more about on the blog later this week. Overall, my feeling is that we should let them read as many independent books on whatever they are interested in. Celebrate the fact that the student is reading, suggest books about the same topic in other genres, and then take a step back and learn something from this student about their passion. As the session was ending, I suggested a great book, one I have read multiple times, to Ben about this exact topic. I highly suggest all teachers read A Land We Can Share: Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism by Paula Kluth and Kelly Chandler-Olcott.
The final session for the day was lead by Jillian Heise (@heisereads) and Sarah Anderson (@YAloveblog) about using picture books in middle school and high school. I was shocked by the number of people in the room who shared they use picture books, but sometimes feel as if they are cheating. Pictures books are a small text with big ideas! Teachers can use picture books in a variety of ways (check out the notes for the session for some great ideas). One fantastic idea was to use picture books to do an author study. These books are short enough to read several during one class period, and also provide students with many amazing ideas and inspirations. One of my favorite books, as of the last week, which was mentions is On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. This is not only a story about Albert Einstein's life, but a story that will inspire students to ask questions and wonder about the world around them.
As the day came to an end, nErDCamp was wrapped up by holding an AMAZING giveaway! Names were randomly selected, and participants could pick from a variety of books and educational products. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people selected, so I was able to finally get my hands on a copy of The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, which also came with a copy of The Center of Everything by Linda Urban (Colby informed us that he predicts these are going to be the 2014 Newbery winner and honor books #yearoftheU) . Many of you know I threatened to bring my boxing gloves and fight for a copy of The Real Boy, so I am happy to report I did not have to fight anyone to win a copy of this AMAZING book!
I cannot wait until nErDCampBC 2014 (which will be the week after Independence Day, next year). If you did not get a chance to attend this year, I highly recommend you attend next year (did I mention it was FREE). This has been one of the most interactive forms of professional development I have ever participated in, face to face. A variety of opinions, techniques and beliefs were shared by everyone, not just the participants facilitating the sessions. Everyone had a voice, and their voice was appreciated!