Tuesday, May 10, 2016

EdCamp Organizer Summit

Wow is the word!

I first became enamored of the EdCamp movement about five years ago when I started on Twitter. (Funny how so many of my journeys began when I discovered Twitter!)  I subsequently found numerous articles in education magazines and blogs detailing this exciting, grass-roots professional development movement by teachers for teachers.  The "unconference", it seemed, could revolutionize and personalize PD in a way I had not previously experienced.

It was not until the fall of 2014 that I was able to attend a semi-local EdCamp -- EdCampUNY in Queensbury, NY.  What a fantastic experience!  Coincidentally, I met Rachel Murat, a social studies teacher from Maine Endwell with whom I had previously connected on Twitter.  One of the greatest things I have found about connecting with professionals in the virtual world is how strong the instant connections are once we meet face to face (IRL).  I also connected with Christina Luce from Liverpool, and the three of us were part of the organizing force behind the first EdCampCNY in July 2014.

Less than a month later, Christina contacted me to collaborate on the second EdCampCNY.  There was a funding opportunity that was too good to pass up, so we jumped on it.  A few kinks in the machine later, we successfully ran the second small but sincere EdCampCNY.  I was hooked!

When the EdCamp Foundation sent out word about the first Organizer Summits, I jumped at the chance to reach the next level of learning.  I was not disappointed.  Truly, the experience and subsequent fallout were more than I could have anticipated.  I periodically checked the RSVP list, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming some of the names I saw (Adam Bellow!!!).  But after the weekend summit, I finally learned that one of the greatest parts of EdCamp is that no matter how well known any attendee might be, no matter how much of a rockstar, no matter how many Twitter followers, how many books published, at EdCamp, we are all equals.  Part of the EdCamp philosophy is "check your ego at the door", which is an easy platitude to spout, but which was truly demonstrated at every step of the summit.

I met some great people right away at the opening session, despite my normal discomfort in groups of people who are unfamiliar to me.  Once we broke into sessions I immediately connected with Fran Siracusa, who I mentioned two posts ago (which was only three days ago...some kind of record for me, I think, so I must make note of it!).  My discussions with Fran in the session about Global/Virtual EdCamps convinced me to (re)download Voxer onto my phone.  She added me to the EdCamp Virtual Voxer Group.  The group is currently inactive, because EdCamp Voxer is not until July, but my mind is officially BLOWN by the idea of a virtual EdCamp!

Over dinner, I met two other fantastic educators with whom I am extraordinarily grateful to be connected.  Margaret Sisler, a tech coach out of Virginia whose sketchnotes gave a fantastic summary of the sessions she attended:

The connection that I made that so far has had just an overwhelming impact and exponentially increased my professional connections is Sarah Thomas.  What an educational powerhouse in such a humble and human individual. Sarah is the creator of EduMatch which, although billed as an "Educational Matchmaker" has absolutely nothing to do with dating.  (No, really.)  Here's the thinglink image to really demonstrate the reach of EduMatch:

So, having just rejoined the Voxer world, I started with the EduMatch Voxer group.  Holy Active Batman!  Easily I receive 150 Voxes a day.  It is very easy to fall behind, but the conversations are so interesting, and unlike Twitter, known as a microblog, most of the exchanges on Voxer are what I might call micropodcasts, because they are voice recordings.  That is not to say that texting isn't an option, because there are members who prefer to text, or there are simply times when it makes more sense.  Images are shared as well.

The snowball effect certainly happened here.  One of our threads in the EduMatch Voxer group let me to request being added to the Snapchat! Oh Snap! Voxer group on using Snapchat in the classroom.  Because clearly I needed another tech tool to become obsessed with.  Or not.  But there it is.

And then Sarah posted a list of Voxer groups for educators.  Did I start this post by saying Wow is the word?  To make a long story short, I am now a member of the following groups:  Connected Educators, Breakout Edu Chit Chat, #satchat Voxer, Gamification in Edu, Seulement Français, and Solamente Español. Oh wait, I forgot Genius Hour, Makerspaces, PBL, and 20% Time. Now none of these groups is as active as EduMatch, but the connections are valuable nonetheless.

And that's just the first EduMatch tool. The reach of the potential connections is endless. Truly. This is the tip of an enormous iceberg. Also the end of this post, because there are so many more things that need their own posts to be fully explained. Can I get another one in before the weekend?

What are your EdCamp experiences? If you haven't yet attended one, what's stopping you?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Did I Really Wait This Long to Get on My Soapbox?

Those who travel in the relatively insulated circles of World Language teachers in New York State might know that in the past couple of years a focus of my presentations has been bringing World Language into the STEM world.  It is something I am very passionate about. The underpinning of my argument is that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are all well and good, but none of the ideas that spring from these disciplines can be expressed without language.  Meanwhile, with technology bringing the world into our personal and professional spaces, learning a second, third, and/or fourth language is not only beneficial, but critical to global citizenship in the 21st century.

To that end, I have been on my soapbox taking advantage of opportunities to present and share my views in as many venues as possible.  I was lucky enough to be selected as a 2016 NECTFL Mead Fellow, and my project is based on connecting level 1 and 2 curricula in French and Spanish with Earth Science and Algebra 1 curricula.  This is extremely exciting for me, because it is giving me the chance to put into action something that has primarily been philosophical up to this point.

When we had our group meeting with the three Mead fellows, our mentors, and prior Mead fellows, it was strongly recommended to me that I do a school visit to an immersion school to get a better sense of how content can be taught in the Target Language, because that is the approach I wanted to take with the integration of language and content.  Due to the efforts of Mead Chair Amanda Seewald, I was able to visit the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware.

I first visited a third grade math class.  I was blown away!  The teacher was a native speaker who spoke at conversational speed.  The student materials were all in Spanish, and the students were all speaking Spanish.  Culture was integrated in the word problems, and the students "policed" each other if they lapsed into English at any point.

The science class I found particularly fascinating.  The unit was based on the life cycle of a plant.  Class started with a children's book about the life cycle of a squash.  Then students who had not finished a writing assignment (all in Spanish) on the life cycle of an apple tree were allowed to finish that, while other students worked on a new project that extended their learning about the life cycle of a squash.

It was truly fascinating and inspiring to see students learning language and content in this way.  I left with my head exploding with ideas, and more direction for my project work.  More than ever I believe that this type of program is necessary to teach our children to be global citizens and to adequately prepare them for the world they will graduate into.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What Does It Mean to Go "Glocal"?

The last couple of weeks have been very exciting for me from a standpoint of connections that have just sort of erupted with very serendipitous timing.  Several (I think) years ago, I crossed cyberpaths with Fran Siracusa, co-founder of Calliope Global and global learning revolutionary.  I found her work intriguing, but (as with so many things) her name got shuffled into the Twitterstream, and my projects and priorities continued their constant shift.  Last December, we reconnected, and she was very helpful directing me to resources for my first Mystery Skype session.  She connected me to her Virtual Postcard Project on Padlet, but again, the timing just wasn't quite ripe for collaboration.  Fast forward to this April (yes, it's still April), when I got an invitation from Fran to attend a webinar with an organization called Matone de Chiwit to attend a webinar. I accepted the invitation because after reading about the organization, I was intrigued.  The larger concept is to bring water to regions of the world (Matone means "drops" in Swahili, de means "of" in Spanish, Chiwit means "life" in Thai) where water scarcity is a growing concern.  The webinar was also very conveniently scheduled at a time when I was to be available...that is until a flat tire delayed me, and I missed the first half.  Fortunately, the second half, due to the dedication, passion, and presence of Matone de Chiwit's founder and Executive Director Karishma Bhagani drew me in, and I reached out to Fran and Karishma to try to schedule a webinar with her, to further promote her cause.

April 18 Fran invited me to join Our Blue Earth -- a Google Community she created.

Our Blue Earth is described as follows:

 "This Earth Day 2016, under the focus of WATER, we promote individual investigations, global discussion/collaboration, & a call to action."

Although my priorities are constantly in flux, and I am forever starting new projects, I like to think that the "good stuff" never gets totally lost, it just hides in the depths of my cluttered brain waiting to be drawn out by the right connection.  So it is with the global (and glocal -- yes, I'm getting to that) impact of water.  I tell everyone who will listen that one of my favorite professional development experiences all year (and I do not say that lightly, as I am an admitted PD junkie) is the International Studies Summer Institute put on by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University.  The topic of the 2013 ISSI was The Cultural Geography of Water.  It was in preparation for this institute that I first watched the movie También la Lluvia, a dramatization of events of the Water Wars in Bolivia in 1999-2000.

So lightning struck, and I threw together over the weekend numerous resources on the impact of mining on water supply contamination, video campaigns promoting water conservation, and (most importantly) was able to schedule the webinar with Karishma.

Karishma, with Fran's help, has been promoting her organization through a series of webinars with schools, encouraging the students she meets virtually to assist in her marketing campaign, and most recently, an informational webinar with students and faculty at NYU.

On a recent trip to NYC, after our webinar with Karishma, I had the opportunity to meet her in person and chat more in depth about her project. She was even more impressive in person!  I am anxious to see her project develop from the ground up, and very hopeful to be a part of it!

So while we are acting LOCALLY, we are and will be making a global impact:  Going Glocal!

The overarching message for students and educators is that we all can make a difference, perhaps even a major and significant difference, even by acting only in our...Realm Of Control.