EdCamp: A Review of Our First One

Angela and I attended our first Edcamp this past weekend in Burbank, CA. As first time attendees, we weren't sure what to expect.

Edcamp is touted as being the "un-conference" - whatever that means. Having attended a handful of EdTech GAFE conferences, I was interested in finding out what an "un-conference" was and if it was better/worse than the paid conferences I had already attended this year. (Another plus - the Edcamp was free!)

Coffee in hand, Angela and I showed up bright and early on Saturday morning to a middle school auditorium in Burbank. Freebies were laid out on tables (you better believe I stocked up on some more stickers for my laptop), along with a nice breakfast buffet of pastries, fruit and more magical elixir (read - COFFEE!)

We went into the auditorium and I waited for the seats to fill up...and waited. And waited. Ten or fifteen minutes after the "start time," the event presenters decided it was time to get started - with all 17 of us. Yes - 17 attendees! I was a bit surprised that not more teachers/educators/education professionals weren't up at 8am and joining us for some FREE professional development.

Now, on a side note - as a broke teacher half the time, I am ALL FOR professional development opportunities that don't cost me squat except for a little gas out of my tank. Conferences (or at least the bulk of ones I have been to) are expensive, rarely local, and at times - elitist.

So, here's what I learned about Edcamps:

  • They are very informal. You show up, you mingle, and YOU get to create and generate "sessions" via a session board with post-its.
  • You attend the sessions you're interested in, much like any other conference. You might have 10 or 12 educators in a room...or you might have two other people and yourself. And if you start the session then feel that it's not the right one for you, you're encouraged to get up, leave, and go find another session you're interested in. No harm, no foul.
  • Edcamps are truly about the conversations, reflections, and connections. Not being from the local Edcamp district, it was a great opportunity to hear what other districts outside of my own were doing with technology, ELA, and flipped learning. Teachers, TOSAs, and even school counselors had the opportunity to talk and get real with what good things were happening in their classrooms and districts and what areas could be met with improvement.
And, as if the ideas and takeaways weren't great enough...everyone left with a raffle prize. Now, who doesn't like FREE swag!? (Especially a $50 STEM kit from Lakeshore!)

Angela and I left feeling inspired - and with a desire to host an Edcamp for our local area further south. Maybe another Edcamp is in the not-so-distant future for us...

#Sketch50 and Growth Mindset by Angela

You've probably seen the wide-spread phenomenon of #Sketch50 across Twitter - If you haven't, check out the website here.

Here's My take on this movement and how it can be used in the classroom.

#Sketch50 and Growth Mindset by Kristin

I first learned about #Sketch50 when Angela and I traveled up the Central Valley back in the fall for their Central Valley CUE's "STEAM Powered Education" summit. We ventured into a session with Cate Tolnai - co-founder of the #Sketch50 movement and CUE's Director of Member Engagement.

Now, granted...I had never used sketch notes a day in my life prior to this session. Like, ever. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know if it was something that I could use with my special learners.

But I liked the message - one of the first things out of Cate's mouth was something along the lines of "leaning into a growth mindset." I wasn't an artist - YET. I wasn't good at drawing - YET. I couldn't teach this - YET. I had been hearing a lot about growth mindset through my talks with other educators but I didn't realize that it could be applicable to a skill that I could pick up as a teacher. Until I went to this session and learned that my own teaching practices and skills could be developed and polished - even if I was starting at a "novice" level.

My first sketch using the Procreate app (with final editing in Photoshop)

Since that first session with Cate back in November, I have participated in the #SketchCUE 25-Day challenge, along with the more recent #Sketch50 2.0. I've learned that as badly as my OCD, Type-A self would like things to be pretty and perfect...these movements aren't about that. They focus on the process and development of skills rather than the final product. (Granted, some of my sketches haven't turned out half bad!)

Participating in #Sketch50 2.0

Although I already had the Apple Pencil, I didn't really start using it until this past fall (and I've had it since last April!) I invested in the Procreate app - the only program I really work with when sketch noting. As someone who grew up using Photoshop and learning how to create and manipulate layers in an image, Procreate was much more familiar and easier for me to navigate in the long run. I also preferred having the ability to upload my own brushes on Procreate - something that I was very familiar with doing on Photoshop. Other apps didn't offer this feature. So, the $9.99 investment for the app has definitely been worth it.

A sketch from the #SketchCUE 25-Day Challenge
So some of my take-aways...

  • Practice Makes Progress - not Perfection! I tell my students this ALL. THE. TIME. Yet, I didn't really take it to heart for myself and my own learning until really embracing the growth mindset and applying it to these sketch challenges.
  • Tools Enhance but Aren't the End All. Yes, it's great if you can afford to have a tablet, or the Apple Pencil, or invest in (expensive) apps like Procreate...but do you absolutely need them to just go and create? Absolutely not. I use paper and pencil...and my trusty PaperMate Flair pens. But even those aren't a necessity. Tools don't make the artist.

And the biggest ah-hah...just do it! Really - it's not just a Nike mantra. Take the prescribed five minutes (or 15, if you're like me) and just start drawing. It may not be pretty. It may not be polished. But it will be a work in a progress and something you can say you've tried...and in the end, isn't that what we want to teach our students? Success isn't just the end product - it's the attempts and failures we've endured along the journey.

Welcome to Our Tribe!

Welcome to TechTribeEDU - A place where teacher technology-users of every ability level can:
  • Learn
  • Gather inspiration for ideas
  • Read about our "tried and tested" adventures in technology

We hope that this will encourage others to try these tools and activities in classrooms that are using technology and feel confident when doing so.

We are two teacher buddies that have taught together at a Title I, high-poverty school in Lakewood, CA.  This school site is currently integrating 1:1 Chromebooks in grades 2nd-6th.  Our Transitional Kindergarten (TK), Kindergarten, and 1st grade classrooms will be joining us on our 1:1 roll-out next school year (2018/19)!

Our Why:
We started this venture as a means of connecting with other educators who were in the same place as us...we were given the technology, but not a lot of instruction on how to implement it effectively, efficiently, and in a way that reached ALL of our students. We also don't have the luxury of an official district technology TOSA.  So much of our learning and implementing has been done on our own terms - with skills that we've had to pick up and acquire along the way.  Our goal is to share what we know and have learned to help other educators use technology in a meaningful way.

To learn more about us check out our pages here Angela & Kristin or in the menu bar.