This Saturday I had the pleasure to attend the Edscape Conference at New Milford High School. Having just gotten back the night before from three days of camping with my fifth graders, I almost didn’t get up in the morning to go, but I am so glad I dragged myself out of bed. Although the sessions for the day were scheduled in advance, the atmosphere at the conference was very much like that of an EdCamp, including the Rule of Two Feet, which gives you the freedom to leave and find a new session if you are not being engaged. Our host, Eric Sheninger – also known as @NMHS_Principal on Twitter – was enthusiastic about the event, and passed that enthusiasm along to all of the attendees.
Although the scheduled keynote speaker was unable to make it due to flight delays, our backup speaker (Diana Laufenberg from the Science Leadership Academy) was amazing. She shared tons of examples of inquiry driven projects her students have created that blew us all away! After the keynote, everyone hurried off to the session, eager to learn new things. My first session was on Connected Classrooms, where two teachers shared how they began sharing online with another classroom across the country. They had excellent suggestions on how to start simple and build up to more intense sharing using programs such as Skype and Edmodo. One of the ideas I particularly liked was how they began teaching students how to share and comment appropriately online. They had them create paper blog posts, hung them around the room, and had the students circulate to read them, and leave comments on stickynotes. They then came together as a class to discuss the comments and whether or not they were appropriate.
After that, I moved on to Lisa Thurmann’s excellent presentation on Spontaneous Professional Development. As always, she had a ton of resources for teachers looking for FREE online PD. Some of her websites I was already familiar with (such as Twitter), but others were new to me. All of her resources from the conference are listed on her website for everyone to use.
When Session Two ended, we had a lovely lunch provided in the cafeteria. One of the great things about this time during a conference is the chances to network it allows you. I met several wonderful teachers from both NJ and NY, and we had some lovely discussions and sharing over our meal. After lunch, I sat in on the 20 Coolest Things You Can Do With A Smartboard, hoping to find some things I could carry over to our Promethean Boards. Although much of it was based on the SMART Notebook software, I did get some ideas on lessons to create on the Promethean.
For my last session, I went to Learning With iPads. It was a very lively session, and covered both some new tricks you can do using iOS5, and also some cool apps for use in education. I particularly liked Screen Chomp, which lets you record voice and what you do on an on-screen whiteboard for later playback. I also downloaded the BrainPop app, and my favorite so far: Dragon Dictation. This neat app converts your speech to text. I can see a lot of great uses for it in the classroom, especially for special education students.
As always, I tweeted throughout the conference, and made a lot of new Twitter friends in the education field. It’s always nice to expend my professional learning community!