A Bit About Me

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My First #EdCamp

Today, I participated in EdCamp Lehigh Valley. This was my first EdCamp experience, chock full of lessons that I'll be bringing to the classroom and to the future EdCamps that I attend. The proceeding is a chronological compilation of lessons that I learned today.

  1. Do not rely on Apple Maps
    • Upon leaving the hotel this morning, I figured I'd just type the name of the school that the EdCamp was happening at into my iPhone, and I'd be good to go. Boy, was I wrong. Apple Maps directed me to the old location of the school, and when I say old, I mean 15 years old! 20 minutes later, I was able to find the correct address and location via Google. Mornings like this morning make me wish I had kept my Android.
  2. Be Brave
    • Don't be afraid to make the first move. This goes for talking to people and for hosting a session. Speaking up allows you to meet others who have similar interests, or who may be in similar situations. It's easy to be a lurker online, in places like Twitter; it's much harder to be a lurker in person. Within two minutes of picking up my name tag, I had already connected with two #eduawesome people.
  3. Eat
    • Bring a snack, just in case. EdCamps tend to be 5-6 hours, and sometimes you just don't know what food will be offered. This morning, EdCamp Lehigh Valley presented us with bagels, cream cheese and coffee. It was nice, and informal, kind of like a workplace lounge. By about lunch time, the spread had been changed to fruits, veggies and chips. The spread made for a nice snack. The thing that is important to remember about EdCamps, is that they are free events, that rely on sponsors for things like spaces, food, free schwag and door prizes. So, if the EdCamp's website or invitation doesn't specify that there will be food, or that they have a food sponsor, then it's best to bring your own lunch (BYOL), just in case.
  4. Interact
    • The unconference experience is meant to be more like a conversation, and less like a setting where you are fed information. If you have input, then give it in the moment. Don't wait for comment cards to come around, because I'm pretty sure they aren't coming.
  5. Take Notes
    • I loved using a combination of a Google Doc and Evernote for this today. Taking notes allows you to go back and re-visit the concepts and conversations that you were involved in. If the Session Host(ess) puts their Twitter handle on the session board, or shares it during their session, then take note, as you may want to follow up with the individual after the EdCamp is over.
  6. Juggle 2 Sessions at Once
    • There were two great sessions that were happening at the same time today, "Computer Programming" and "Even Little Ones Can Tech". I started off in "Computer Programming" (thank you @geekyteach) and about half way through decided to head on over to the "Even Little Ones Can Tech" session. At first, I was afraid that I would be perceived as being rude, but then I remembered that the whole premise of the EdCamp is to basically try all the flavors that you want, kind of like going to Coldstone Creamery. Once I got what I wanted out of the "Computer Programming" session, I went next door to give and get some input on the variety of things that kindergarten students can do with technology.
  7. Host a Session
    • The most intimidating thing about hosting a session, is deciding to host one in the first place. I waited and waited for someone to post a "Things That Suck" session on the Session Board. After waiting for about an hour, and seeing that no one had taken the plunge, I opted to take Bill Selak's advice and host the session myself. Planning the session took a total of about 10 minutes, as you have to choose hot, controversial topics in education.
    • In "Things That Suck", you choose "Sucks" or "Rocks" once you hear the topic. Then, you move to the respective ("Sucks" or "Rocks") side of the room to further discuss your perspective. It's completely fine to be in the middle if you're undecided on the topic that is presented.
    • One suggestion that I received was to explain what "Things That Suck" is all about at the beginning of the day. This way, educators are more inclined to be a part of the discussion. Next time, I present "Things That Suck", I plan to demo it in the morning with the topic of "peanut butter". This way, all attendees can see what the conversation is meant to look like.
    • Today's "Things That Suck" topics included:
      • Snow Days
      • Homework
      • High Stakes, Standardized Tests
      • Student Teaching/Co-Teaching
      • Grades
      • PD Days
      • Interactive WhiteBoards
      • School Funding
      • Common Core State Standards
      • Evaluations
    • Next time around, I'll be including Filter Walls, concluding with a special viewing of Adam Bellow's "Filter Wall".
    • Being the unbiased moderator of this session, it was interesting to see and hear the different perspectives presented for each topic.
    • The cool thing about the "Things That Suck" session, is its transferability to the classroom. Instead of calling it "Things That Suck", Bill Selack's write up suggests calling it "Awesome or Lame". This would be a great way to teach students how to take a side, and defend their opinion, which could also be turned into a persuasive writing prompt.
  8. Stick Around for the Raffle Prizes
    • We were each given 10 raffle tickets when we signed in this morning. At the end of the day, we re-convened into the cafeteria, for the drawing of the various raffle prizes. By 2:30 p.m., it looked as though half of the original participants had left. You had to be present to win the raffle prizes, so several of us one at least one raffle prize. One individual won 5 prizes. So, stick around, especially if you have a chance to win cool things like ChromeBooks, gift cards, or SnagIt software:)
Whelp, that's all for my first-timer lessons. And, just as a random little side note, I must add the following. 

When driving back to Alexandria, VA from Lehigh Valley, PA, I couldn't help but to stop at the Hershey Factory as it was technically, sorta, kinda on the way. The Hershey Store is awesome, but was as crowded as a New York City subway station during rush hour. If I ever head back there, I'd definitely go in the morning, versus visiting one hour before closing. And, if I were a milk chocolate fan, then I would've bought this:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My EdTech Spotlight article

I recently wrote an article on the concept behind EdTech Spotlights, and figured I'd share it with you all, in case it doesn't make it off the cutting room floor.

Here goes...

"This year, we’ve begun a new initiative that highlights the varied ways in which students use technology to enrich their learning experiences. From producing daily newscasts, to coding on iPods, our students are developing a greater sense for the ways in which technology is and can be used in their daily lives. Through weekly EdTech Spotlights, teachers throughout the school are able to see how their colleagues are leveraging the use of technology for academic purposes. This type of Spotlight has led the way to several practices that can now be seen in classrooms on a regular basis.

At Excel Academy, our girls are doing more than viewing technology. They are interacting with it, expanding their learning through it, and one day, we hope to see many of our scholars build technology tools that others can use. During Computer Science Education Week, over 200 of our scholars participated in the Hour of Code. Within this hour, students were able to program a virtual robot to light up a blue tile, using a simplified programming language. By opening our scholars’ eyes up to the world of technology, understanding it from the inside out, our goal is to increase interest amongst young girls for all fields of technology and computer science. Getting girls interested in technology at an early age, will in turn get more women involved in technological developments and related fields of employment; both adding variety and diversity to a field that is traditionally dominated by men."

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Nerdlution

It's been awhile, so here goes.

After reading a few tweets over the last few days, I learned about this thing called Nerdlution. Normally, I don't subscribe to such "nerdy" undertakings, but this one struck my fancy due to its start date and the ability to encompass more than one goal. Plus, having undertaken two whole jobs for the price of one :(, the sarcastic side of me spoke to my gluttonous side and decided that there's no such thing as "too much". While most may select one or two things to focus on for the next 50 days, I find myself choosing 3 equally important things to do. Maybe it's the overachiever in me, maybe I was just bored. Who knows?

My Nerdlution

1.   Read one chapter a day

I read less now, as a 30-year-old, than I ever have in my whole life. This fact alone is really sad when you couple it with the fact that I have over 3 dozen books that I've only opened once (maybe). That being said, this Nerdlution, will force me to finish those books that I can't believe I ever put down, and pick up those books that I've forgotten all about. 

One chapter at a time, I'll likely be able to finish at least 3 or 4 books over the next 50 days. On a really nerdy note, I just finished the book Lean In, today:)

2.   Write daily

For the last 6 years, I've been trying to write two books. One is about the unbelievable events of one's life; the other is about all of the ridiculous stuff that happens in airports. Writing daily will help me get a little closer to completing both of these books. 

The thing that I love about writing is that the very act of writing can encompass so many different forms. Over the next 50 days, I'll focus on writing chapters and vignettes for my books, I'll write blog posts (for work) every Tuesday and Thursday, I'll build my online portfolio and update my resume, and lastly, I'll compose the many short and long responses for my Google Certified Trainer application.

3.   Coding

This Nerdlution couldn't possibly be complete without the inclusion of some simple coding practice. Ever since I began to code over the summer, I've found myself dreaming of creating apps. and building websites. Just imagine all of the doors that can be opened when one learns to code. There's such a movement in education right now centered on the topic of coding, that it would be a crying shame to miss out on learning this new skill.

Whelp, off to coding now. I wish you all a successful 50 days of Nerdlution!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Adventures in Coding: A Teacher's Perspective, pt. 1

Since coding is all the rage nowadays, I figured I'd spend Summer "Break" learning how to code. I must confess that I was very naive at first, thinking that my mathematical genius would kick in and I'd pick up the coding process in a snap. Boy was I wrong.

I've been using this free program called LearnStreet. The website offers beginner courses in Javascript, Python and Ruby. As a novice Techie, I chose the most "popular" course: Javascript. Mistake #1.

In my opinion Javascript tends to be based more on problem solving and logic, and less on mathematical equations and operations. After venting to my Twitter peeps on the many obstacles in Javascript coding that I have been unable to overcome, Mr. Gauthier (@mrgfactoftheday) suggested that I try Python. So, I did. And to be completely honest, it makes a lot more sense to me.

I like Python, because it is more attuned to mathematical procedures and operations, as opposed to Javascript which uses more logic and syntax in order to complete a code. Python has reminded me of theorems from my high school Pre-Calculus and Algebra II classes. Also, in coding practice, I've learned a lot about myself on a very technical level.

For example, I don't tend to follow rules to a "T", in coding, you have to. I also don't read directions when I think that something should be intuitive. In coding, you MUST read the directions, otherwise you'll get lost, and begin pulling your hair out. So, take my advice, for now...if you're new to coding, and you want to travel down Easy Street first, then start with Python, and once you gain some confidence in your abilities, give logic-based, syntax-heavy Javascript a go.

This is your TechTeacherT, signing off.

Until next time, when I conquer the beginner Python course.

Over and out.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Prepping for first-ever #girlsintechchat

On July 2nd from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST, I'll be hosting a Twitter chat called #girlsintechchat. The goal is to pull together ideas and resources for getting more girls interested in pursuing careers in a Technology field. In this day and age, something just seems wrong about having Technology as a field that boys run. I've personally been a fan of Technology, in particular gaming since I was 5 years old, when my older brother taught me how to play Mario Brothers.

By getting more girls in the mix within their K-12 careers, we're more likely to see diversity in the workplace, and a stronger prospect of gender equality. In today's society where a man's salary outranks that of a woman's the majority of the time, it's important that we teach our girls that equality is a goal worth striving for. By leveling the playing field on the Technology front, I hope that this prospect, this idea of equality in the workplace is something that can be achieved sooner, rather than later.

Since this will be the first #girlsintechchat I'll be seeking input as to the preferred time and date of future #girlsintechchat. Please complete the survey below, so that a regular time/date can be set for future chats.

Thanks so much,

#girlsintechchat Time/date preference Survey