This past weekend, I spent two days in Branchburg, NJ at the NJPAECET2 conference with over 200 other educators who willingly gave up their entire weekend to learn and share together.  It was a whirlwind two days packed with inspiring keynote speakers, amazing presenters, and tons of great conversations.

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Principal Kafele speaking about the Attitude Gap

Our Saturday morning keynote speaker, Baruti Kafele, spoke passionately about changing the attitude gap in schools.  Never underestimate the power a few simple words such as ‘I believe in you’ can have in the life of a student.  Many of our kids don’t hear that enough or at all!

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Podcasts in education

The morning sessions kicked off with a plethora of awesome topics.  I learned about podcasting and ways to use it in the classroom during my first session from Chris Nesi and Stacey Lindes.  I really need to take the time to learn more about podcasting and just dive into it.

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Learning about digital badges for PD

From there, I went to a session titled Leveling Up Your EdTech Learning with Michael Mitchell and Kevin Sochacki.  I love the idea of digital badges as a way to encourage and recognize professional learning by educators, and this session went beyond just awarding badges to recognize different levels of achievement and implementation of skills learned.

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Rebecca talking Makerspaces

Third session was easy for me to choose, Making More Makers: Infusing Creativity and Technology Through Makerspaces with Rebecca McLelland-Crawley.  I can never have too much info about makerspaces and STEM, and Bec is a fantastic resource!

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Talking about classroom design and learning spaces.

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#CoffeeEduNJ get together

After lunch, we moved from formal sessions to an unconference model where attendees proposed sessions on topics they were interested in.  I spent some time in Bec’s makerspace, and then hosted a session on classroom design and learning spaces.  We had a wonderful session talking about ways to make our learning spaces more student centered and friendly.  For the last session, we had a #CoffeeEduNJ get together to spread the word about these informal PD events.  We wrapped up the day with a delicious dinner and networking time before heading to our hotel with our brains overloaded with information.

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An amazing group of educators giving up their weekend to learn!

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Learning about connected leadership.

Day two began with breakfast and a keynote by Joyce Valenza on gender issues in education.  Then it was off to another round of fantastic sessions.  I started off with Growing a Leadership Team of Connected Educators in a School and District with Daniel Alston & William O. George III, and was amazed at how they have really built a connected culture for their school district – not just educators, but with parents and students as well!

The second session was my turn to present, and I have never talked so much and so fast in my life!  I had an hour to share how to use Google Apps for desktop publishing, and for creating digital interactives.  Thank goodness I made a manual ahead of time!  You can access my resources below.

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Gemar Mills speaking about how Shabazz school has been transformed.

We wrapped up our day with a truly inspiring keynote by Gemar Mills, the principal who completely revitalized Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey.  It’s utterly amazing how horrifying the school was, and how much it has changed.  The passion and drive to accomplish such a task is unbelievable!

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The #BFC530 Crew

I finally headed home with my mind spinning, and feeling revitalized and encouraged from spending my weekend with such passionate educators.  We even had a chance to get a group shot of all of the #BFC530 members while we were there.  I spent time with old friends and made a lot of new ones as well.  I cannot wait until the next NJPAECET2!

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