DEN Open House – “My Introduction to the DEN”

My first official DEN event was in June 2008 at the Colorado Technology in Education Conference.  Discovery Education was hosting an “Evening with the Stars.”  My friend Gwynn and I signed up because we love Discovery Channel and we thought it was going to be a stargazing event.
The Colorado TIE Conference is held at the Copper Mountain ski resort.  On the evening of the event, we caught the shuttle bus down the mountain to Copper Station which is surrounded by the golf course.  Gwynn and I walked towards the rear entrance expecting to see telescopes all over the fairways.  All we saw were golfers.  So we went inside and climbed the stairs up to the South Hall thinking the balcony would be a great place for stargazing.  We still didn’t find telescopes, but we did find the best tapas spread we had ever seen.  We ate and mingled, and about an hour into the evening Kim Randall pulled us all upstairs to the Mezzanine for a presentation.
Gwynn and I had been using United Streaming for a while through our district, but this was our first introduction to DEN Stars.  The idea of collaborating with and learning from other United Streaming users from across the country was very exciting.  We were ready to sign up right then and there.  (Too bad we didn’t have our laptops with us that night.)
The evening’s fun wasn’t over with the tapas and presentation.  Several door prizes were given away, which winners could only receive after doing a “happy dance” for the entire audience.  That night I learned that most teachers are very bad dancers and have absolutely no shame when it comes to getting a great prize for free.
After a little more mingling and a little more eating, Gwynn and I raced back to our room to finish signing up.  Gwynn made it online first, so she rewatched the video, answered all the questions, and logged her first event.  I was able to log on shortly after, and by some miracle all the answers were already filled out for me.  I’m sure it was just a glitch in the system, but I took it as a sign that I was destined to be a DEN Star.
A few weeks later our welcome packages arrived.  We both received a DEN Star pin to wear, a plaque declaring us DEN Stars, a notepad and pen, and a fabulous DEN Star laptop case.  (My case has been carried everywhere and used so much that it has since fallen apart.  Boy do I miss that case!)
Four years later and I am still a DEN Star.  I have presented at conferences across the country about DEN products and uses.  Last year I became a founding member of the Colorado Leadership Council and a member of the DEN blogging community.  I still get to collaborate and communicate with teachers across the world in DEN webinars and the forums. I’ve been able to access materials like the DE Science Techbooks that my district can’t afford to provide right now.  And best of all, I have been able to share those resources with my students to create a richer and more engaging learning environment.  One of my all time favorite classroom moments was during an introduction lesson to lunar exploration.  I asked my students what they knew about the moon and where they learned what they know.  Every single one of them answered, “From the Discovery Channel.”
I don’t like to talk about or promote materials I don’t believe in.  Being a DEN Star has been a wonderful addition to my professional development and my professional learning community.  I have learned so many new ideas from fellow DEN members.
Teachers are always concerned with time.  Our job carries a lot of responsibilities and very little time in which to complete our required work.  Taking time away from our families for outside causes is hard to justify.  To all the teachers out there who feel that way, please trust me when I say that any time you give to participating in Discovery Educator Network events, webinars, trainings, etc will come back to you ten-fold.  It is truly the most valuable professional organization on my resume.
I am so glad that 2008 “Evening with the Stars” wasn’t a stargazing event.  I would have enjoyed a night of astronomy, and probably picked up a fact or two to share with my students.  Instead I have gained years of ideas, resources, lessons, and activities that have had a direct impact on me, my classroom, and my students.

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