Today’s opening session was one that really pulled at our heart strings, or at least mine. Chad Lehman (@imcguy) and Lindsay Foster (@bsgscsfoster), two of my favorite DEN STARS, started off the day with their very moving DEN Speaks, sharing their journeys through life and the DEN. Chad was one of the first DE people I met at my first DENSI in Burlington, and I always felt like he was kind of watching out for me. I don’t know that he really was, but he just always seems to check in with me whenever it seemed like I really needed. I am not the most outgoing, so having cool, calm Chad reaching out to me really helped me to feel more at ease in our rowdy group. On the other side of the spectrum is my friend Lindsay. She shared her DEN story through heartfelt text, exposing how she came to have the DEN-citement that she has and what the DEN has done for her (and for many of us as well)! Where Chad was the calm force for me, Lindsay is my storm! She gets me excited, and motivated, and provides me (and many of you), with some daily inspiration.
Up next was our keynote speaker, Steve Dembo (@teach42). Steve’s presentation was a much needed reminder for me, and timely. I think it is hard to come to something like DENSI and not do some self reflection, which isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes when you see all of the awesome things that others are doing, you start to feel bad that you aren’t doing enough. I know I do. This year was not exception, so having the reminder from Steve was great! Another good point Steve made was that as teachers, we need to do a better job of sharing the great things that we do! It might not seem like a big deal to us, or in my case, I feel like no one really cares what I do, but even if it could help 1 person, it is worth it to be brave enough to put ourselves out there. So, here’s one thing that I’m proud of: my class website, especially my photos and my students’ blogs (under the showcase link)! You can check it out at stfran3.com.
After Steve, we were introduced to Kelli Campbell, the Senior Vice Present of Discovery Education, so she’s kind of a big deal! I loved how she showed us the connections she is working to build between countries and I’m excited to see where Discovery Education is headed! I even got a free trial to DE Coding, which is being prepared for distribution in the US! CAN’T WAIT!
I will admit this to you, I did not take great notes today! I did share some in the collaborative notes, but for the most part the sessions that I attended were very interactive, so I’ll give you an overview and my takeaways from each session. There were also LOTS of great notes taken today by the DEN community, which can be found here. Any I will also provide a link to the LiveStream events HERE.
- In this session, Lea Anne shared how she uses Scratch and Code.org to get her students started with using code. She shared some great student examples, including games made by her students. One great tip was to have the students immediately make a fence or border around their work area to prevent them from “losing” their character.
- Karie then showed us how she used Makey Makey to create a musical loom. To make this, she used conductive thread, tin foil, a cardboard box, alligator clips, buttons, and a Makey Makey. The loom would create music as fabric was woven through it. Awesome!
- Karie also shared how you can write code to control Sphero using Tynker
Scavenging New Realities – Hall Davidson (@halldavidson)
- In this session, the amazing Hall Davidson share an AMAZING activity that I can foresee using with my students. I do many of my lessons as stations/centers, and this would be a super fun way to mix things up! Basically, you are creating a scavenger hunt. You give the students hints/clues/directions using the apps and tools for the students to use while they try to complete the scavenger hunt. It is hard to explain exactly how it works without you actually doing it, but Hall provided some great resources that show you a lot of great apps that you can use. tinyurl.com/pancaching
Mystery Skype – Robyn Theissen @RobynThiessen
- I’ve done quite a few Mystery Skypes, so I am pretty familiar with how it works, but decided to attend Robyn’s session to see if I could find anything new and I’m glad I did. I teach third grade, so typically focus on US Mystery Skypes, but I loved how she connects with classes around the world. We even got to Skype live with a class in South America. I’m not sure if my third graders could handle, but after seeing and international MS, I think I’ll be more willing to try one with my kids!
- A few quick tips from Robyn:
- Be polite. Have your students introduce themselves, use good manners, proper speech, etc…
- Assign roles for students in the class so that they are all involved
- Use social media to form connections, or education.skype.com
- In Cheryl and Kyle’s session, we talked about how to access the virtual field trips and the related resources (view the archive at discoveryeducation.com/events, then select the archive tab)
- We also skyped in with Dacia Jones (@dacia92) who shared some great tips (check out great ideas on her website)
- Don’t be afraid to beg- Don’t pay to have someone Skype in with you!
- Talk to museum docents to help set up and/or facilitate Skype field trips
- Over thank your guests so that they will help you again in the future.
- Provide ways for students to document their travels (scrapbook, passport, blog, etc…)
- Document and share what you’re doing (especially if guests/organizations are on social media)
Things That Rock
After our last session, we were all back together for the annual “Things That Rock”, or as I call it, “Things that make people argumentative”. I actually really like this and was able to speak in defense of worksheets. I do not think they should take on the bulk, or even a large part of a curriculum, but sometimes they are necessary as a means of organization, assessment, etc… This is especially true in my school where not all of the students have internet at home. Since we use the Science Techbook, it would be hard for some of the kids to access the material at home. In class, the students complete worksheets/organizers/datasheets/whatever and glue it in a science notebook to take home if needed. Are worksheets perfect? No, but do they fulfill a need? Yes!
I am always excited for the unconference, and after having just viewed the schedule, I am even MORE excited! NONE of the sessions I want to attend overlap! That NEVER happens! If you haven’t seen the schedule yet, check it out! I suggest saving a copy to your Google Drive, then highlighting the sessions you want to attend.
I love arts, crafts, and technology, so the Maker’s Faire is totally my thing! I showed how to make maps into cute gift bags and was pleasantly surprised that I ended up running out of the maps I
stole acquired legally from the metro and bus stops. That meant I had time to go around and make other people’s stuff! I visited Karie, who was showing off Strawbees. These are so cool and would be a great tool for a Maker’s Space! I also made a guitar pick necklace using guitar picks that I made, a Shark Week tile, a paper plate basket, and a lovely flower.
I think the best part of today was validation. If you have never met me in person, you probably don’t realize how shy I am. I am PAINFULLY shy. I am an introvert through and through, and I’m okay with that, but I worry that my level of shyness can be off-putting to some people. I write this blog mostly for me so I can think about what I did and hopefully keep track of what I have learned; I don’t really expect anyone to read it. A few people have read it though and have left nice comments, or mentioned it to me when I’ve seen them around campus. It kind of makes me feel like a little bit of a rockstar, not what I’m going for, but it is hard to dislike being recognized and appreciated.
So anyway, today at dinner we were having our team meeting and an alert popped up on my phone telling me to moderate a comment on this blog. No big deal, until I read the comment. This is what it said,
“I’ve been following your posts since I found your link on DEN Friends. You have a lovely sense of language and a very wonderful way of recapturing moments. Thank you for your kind words about all of us. I am so glad we met at last.”
Short and sweet, this note just made my heart sing! As I said earlier in my post, I was feeling a little down on myself, so this comment came at just the right time. What made this so special? It was from RJ Stangherlin, a blogger herself and someone for whom I hold much respect and admiration. She had been following MY posts! Mine! I’m a nobody, someone that had somehow made the cut to be here, and RJ was following my posts! RJ’s comment was her stamp of approval (at least that’s how I took it). Having RJ accept me validates my being here. I wondered why I was here. What do I do that’s great? Why am I here and not someone else? I don’t know why it has taken me three years of DENSI’s to figure out, but I’m here to share. I’m here to listen, and learn, and grow, and share. I sit back, listen, participate to the fullest, and speak when necessary, but more importantly, I put the pieces together and share what I’ve absorbed. People really ARE reading this and hopefully are learning from what I’ve learned. So, it is now midnight, and I’ve been working on this post for far longer than any so far this, so it is about time to head to bed, but before I sign off, please know that whether you are at DENSI or not, there is something important that you are doing, you might just not realize it yet! 😉