Monthly Archives: April 2015

Redcamp 2015

Sean Grainger, Redcamp organizer, speaking to the group about the day.

Sean Grainger, Redcamp organizer, speaking to the group about the day.

I was lucky enough to be part of an intrepid group of teachers who got up extra early this Saturday morning to make a road trip to Red Deer.  What was happening that would cause us to make such a trip – Redcamp2015 of course.  This was going to be my very first Redcamp, so I was quite excited. For those of you that haven’t actually gone to an edcamp before, you honestly do not know what you are missing.  An edcamp is where you are in charge of your own professional development, you get a say in what you want to learn about.  You share topics that interest you on the edcamp board, then people vote and pick those topics that most interest them and then the edcamp is built there right on the spot. It is a very exciting process.  Then you go about your day, going to those sessions that most interest you.  And if the session is not quite what you were looking for, you are welcome to get up and go to a different session.  No one is going to stop you or say “Hey, what are you doing?”  It is encouraged, because this is your day that you go to those sessions that speak to you.

So, fast forward to Redcamp which was held at the Glendale Science and Technology School (which is a very beautiful and welcoming school by the way) in Red Deer.  When we got there, I was excited to see there were quite a group of people there to participate – people ranged from administrators, to teachers, to ed students on their own journey to becoming educators, learning coaches, other specialists and there even was a group of grade 7 and 8 students on hand to help out throughout the day.  They volunteered on a Saturday to help people get to their sessions, to show them where the food and facilities were and all did this with a welcoming smile on their face. (so thank you to them for a job well done)  They even came to a few sessions, but I will get to that later.

I was lucky enough to present a few things while I was at Redcamp.  While I would not say I am an expert by any means, my good friend Kelli Holden (an amazing educator from Spruce Grove) and myself co-chaired a session sharing our experiences on different ways we connected our students using Skype and other forms of social media.  It was great because everyone that came had a story of their own to share, which is the genius of edcamp.  It is like one big collaboration of educators – everyone sharing and asking questions.  While there were people that hopefully took away some ideas for their own classes from what we shared, I know for myself I also got some interesting ideas that I am going to bring back to my own school.

My next session I chaired on my own and it was a session on a passion of mine – using Minecraft as a teaching tool.  Now what you need to realize is that this whole being the person in charge, the person who speaks is something very new to me, it is something I have just started doing this year, so I still get very nervous about speaking in front of others.  The funny thing was that while I was nervous about speaking about Minecraft to a bunch of educators, I actually had a few Glendale students come into my session as well.  And trust me, students are definitely the experts when it comes to this topic (so I was honestly a bit intimidated) However, again it was fun to share some of the different things I had done to use Minecraft as a way for my students to share their learning. There were many questions and ideas shared amongst the group and it was great to again see collaboration taking place.

Now the fun thing about edcamp is how quick everyone is to start talking and sharing ideas even though you may come from different towns, grades or even teaching situations. There was a brave group of us who took the “school shuttle” to the local lunch spot and we enjoyed having the chance to just talk about whatever – our classes, what was happening in our schools or even things not school – related (go figure).

The most interesting part of my redcamp experience was being part of a conversation in the afternoon dealing with Curriculum Redesign.  There were a large group of us there to talk about where this was at in our different districts.  Someone from Alberta Ed was going to come to speak as well, but we all know since an election had recently been called, that was now not going to happen.  But it was still interesting to see where different people were at with this as well as the common obstacles and questions most of us were facing. The one thing I took from the conversation was that it was important for me as a teacher to use my voice and not be afraid to speak up about Curriculum Redesign. If I believe in this direction Alberta Ed. is taking (and I do), it is important that I speak up and share this with my colleagues, however challenging that may be.

The day ended with us all coming back together.  One of the main organizers, Sean Granger, shared something that was I guess a school motto and it really spoke to me. It will be something  I will take back to my own classroom….

If you’re having fun but not learning, that’s bad. If you’re learning but not having fun, that’s worse. If you’re learning and having fun, then that’s our classroom.”

To the organizers of Redcamp, thank you for a wonderful day. I left rejuvenated and excited about this job I do. It might have been my first Redcamp  but it definitely won’t  be my last.

P.S.  The quick trip we made to the Donut Mill was an added bonus.

My Redcamp swag

My Redcamp swag

Do We Really Need to Define What Connecting Means?

Talking with author JC Spencer about his book

Talking with author JC Spencer about his book

As an avid follower of twitter – all the different chats, hashtags and conversations, I have seen lately this need by some to put parameters on what connecting really means when looking at it from an educational point of view. Some feel you are only truly connecting if there is some sort of technological component or a global aspect to your connection.  While others feel that true connections need to happen within your school boundaries.  All this greatly fascinates me honestly because I have never felt the need to put any sort of limitations or defined aspects to what connecting is for my students and I.

I have had really meaningful connections through my participation in Global readaloud – the brainchild of the mighty Pernille Rip.  This year my students and I fell in love with Edward and his companions in the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and connected with classes around the globe. We had great conversations through Skype and blog, sharing our thoughts and ideas.  But yet, we also recently read Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard and connected with classes much closer to home and again through this novel reveled in the adventures of Wendell and his motley crew of companions. I will not lie though because technology was how we were able to connect with the author John Spencer, who was so gracious to answer our multitudes of tweets and questions via Skype.

It is because of my wondrous PLN on twitter that my eyes were opened to new ideas.  Paul Solarz shared the wonders of Minecraft and gave me multiple ideas on how I could use it in my class.  It was because of the ideas of Terri Eiccholz that I tried coding with my kids – trust me, I would have never thought they would be able to work on coding, but they have surprised and some have actually surpassed me in their abilities on writing code. Oliver Schinkten shared the importance of play and it was from the ideas he shared that I convinced my school to participate in Global Play Day this year.  All students right from kindergarten to grade 6 enjoyed our time playing together.  Looking back, all these things have made school more engaging for my students and brought their learning to life. They all came about because of the connections I had made through twitter.

Yet, I connected and collaborated with my grade partners and collectively our students did a cardboard arcade project.  There was not any technology involved – just a whole lot of cardboard and duct tape. Within our school building our students had one of the more engaging, hands on projects and their connection only went as far as down our own school hallway.

And just today my students shared their knowledge of Minecraft with the kindergarten and grade one classes of our school.  It was through the work my students had done throughout the year and seeing the possibilities that convinced the teachers in our school to give this Minecraft thing a try. We connected right within our own school walls.  I saw my students become teachers, having to find the right way to explain how to build and create, yet how to break it down when things were not working right. It was funny to see how patient many were, yet how challenging it was for some not to just step in and do it for them (which I explained was a big no no)

All these variety of connections have given my students meaningful learning experiences. And to me, that was the important piece in all this.  Whether technology was involved or not, whether it was within our school, our district, our province or the globe … to me all these were valid connections.  My students came out of them excited, engaged, talking about their learning and for me that was the most important piece of all.  It didn’t matter to me how they connected, just that they did connect and isn’t that what it is truly all about?

Theyare the teachers - teaching grade one about Minecraft.

They are the teachers – teaching grade one about Minecraft.