If I had a summer theme song, it’d be Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”. I feel like I’ve hardly been home but the PD (professional development) opportunities have just been too good this year despite my best intentions to stay put. I’ve been to iOS Summit Norcal (California), iPadpalooza (Texas), edcampOKSDE, Podstock (Kansas), and Recharge in the last two months. This week I returned to East Central University (where I got my Master’s in Ed, Library Media Specialist) since they are hosting a Camp Tech Terra teacher training and certification workshop. I was drawn to Camp Tech Terra because (according to their site) their mission aligns with my own:
Camp Tech Terra takes two seemingly opposing elements — technology and nature — and brings them together to help children better understand the world around them and the gadgets in their hands. The camp was developed by a leader in mobile-integrated education and veterans of public education. The curriculum is inspired and informed by Maker’s Ed and Project Based Learning.”
How could I pass that up?
I made the two hour drive to Ada, stopped briefly at my hotel, and bopped onto the brand spanking new (well, renovated) Education Building. Check out this room! I am in love with the Copernicus tech tub (upper right) and the mobile white boards (second row, left). I liked the vibrant orange walls matching the super comfy adjustable chairs and the pop of the magnetic white walls. Visiting new spaces is the reason why my classroom will never ever be finished.
So Day 1 focused on discussion on the value mobile learning and maker ed as well as an introduction to apps. All the other PD I participated in this summer was broken down into sessions where people could choose what they wanted to attend. Here, we were all expected to stay together and I was bit nervous because I don’t sit still well. However, Susan and Zach Wells did a great job engaging users of all different levels and keeping us moving. They’re all cross-platform all the way which is nice with such a big group (and, you know, just full of real world practicality we don’t always get to see employed in education). I was impressed that our group of 37 included teachers, librarians, administrators, and at least one curriculum director. There were people from Oklahoma, Kansas, and even Virginia. I was relieved that I hadn’t thrown away 3 days of precious summer.
For the Day 2 (today), I didn’t sketchnote since we did so much hands-on. To start, we hit Winter Smith Park for a digital storytelling exercise. I cleared out the memory on my devices since we were given a heads up on the assignment via Remind. I have to say I like the way communications were handled. They only released information a bit at time, not out of some super tight need for control, but in a way that spoke of digestible traffic to diminish panic. We were offered a few ideas (micro study, bird count, make-believe) but were also free to make up our own. I tinkered with two ideas: (1) a Bio Blitz and (2) a statement on the need for balance between balance and tech, especially in light of mobile technology. (I am trying to figure out how to explain that without sounding pretentious.)
I MacGyvered a framing device out of a paper folder in case I ran with the Bio Blitz. It’s just a square piece of white cardboard with a square cut of the middle; the white border can help kids focus when making observations. The idea for that came from either the Tulsa Botanical Garden or at art teacher at SenseSational Science.
I set out with my square, water, Enduracool cloth, iPad, iPhone, and a seed of an idea. We only had an hour but it went by fast. When we got back, we had about another hour (with the option to work through lunch.) I found a little corner to lay out in, put on my headphones, and built a force field out of my devices. I realized that I never get to make videos just because I want to so this was refreshing. I was also determined to create the video using an app I never used before. I settled on Wevideo.
I really wanted to like Wevideo. I liked the ease of trimming video but was soon irritated by other things like the tediousness of setting duration for each object. On iOS, you can’t add text but you can on Android. (I guess that makes sense since I remember there being a close relationship between Wevideo and Google.) I was able to pick music from my iTunes account but I couldn’t tweak how I wanted and mix with narration. I initially hoped I could app smash to get better results but export options are limited to Youtube and Wevideo so I went with Youtube but it took hours to actually publish. When it finally did publish, it wasn’t true to the preview. I ended up trying to publish three times and reached my limit of “minutes” so then I couldn’t do anything with my file at all. No bueno! People all around me were turning in work and I was sitting on nada. Now, to be clear, I was putting more pressure on myself than anyone else was. There were other people who weren’t finished and we were informed that we could finish at home, and turn it in tomorrow.
Edited 7/29 to add: How would you deal with this as a teacher? This is how I think of it: did I turn in the completed product on time? No. Was I learning? Yes. I would venture to say my troubles made me think more than I would have if everything had gone smooth. Would I punish a student in a similar situation with a zero grade? No! I’d talk to the student and see what was up or as Susan Wells says, “take a temperature check.” This is why I grade by objectives – but that’s a whole ‘nother post.
In any case: it’s a great testament to the program that I completely forgot about the video until I got back to the hotel because it was STEM TOYS TIME! There were several stations with the following products:
- Hummingbird Finch Robotics
- Makey Makey
- MakerBot 3D printer
- Kano Build Your Own Computer Kit
- DAQRI (Elements, Anatomy)
- Google Cardboard
I have a class set of Makey Makeys, but I really would like 1 Kano, to learn how to make DAQRI triggers, and at least 5 sets Google Cardboard. I’d like to get Ozobots and think they’d go great with Spheros. I remember someone saying they’d set up mazes for the two robots to race. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a 3D printer either. The rest were cool but didn’t jump at me.
Somewhere in there, we also talked about beginning coding and used Lightbot (site) . At the end, we got to model sharing by showing some of the finished videos. I was a little frustrated since I had nothing to share but I tried to act the way I would want one of my students to act. I tried really hard not to think all about “my need” to finish (restart) and pay attention. There were some fantastic videos! My favorites were an elementary reader on the letter “E” using Book Creator and another app smashing iMovie and a doodling app on shapes found in nature.
It was a long day, man. After a bit of a nap and decompression, I finally got to work on my video. Have to say, iMovie remains my go-to app. I’d still rather edit videos on a computer, but for mobile learning, iMovie all the way. Here’s what I ended up with:
Now for a bit of bonus self-reflection: I prefer not to attend PD by myself. I don’t have an issue with meeting new people or going new places, but I like to have a buddy to bounce ideas off. I like to have a partner in crime, or two. I was pleasantly surprised on Monday to walk in and see twitter friends Jennifer Reyher (@jenniferreyher) and Cathy Benge (@cathybenge1) as well as Kaylee, who went through the LMS program at the same time as me. She actually found out that “our” wine bar is having trivia tonight but I had to tap out. I’d hate to be too sleepy to enjoy my last day.
It’s really been such a fun experience – but a lot! Big shout to the good doctors Mark Jones and Shelli Sharber for setting this workshop up. They’ve almost got me talked into pursuing an ed tech masters, especially if they keep offering such high quality PD.