Thursday, July 10, 2014

NerdCampMI Reflections

Looking at my calendar for this summer there were two dates that jumped out at me every time I glanced at it; NerdCamp was being held on July 7th and 8th. The excitement raced through me when I thought about it. Last year was the first NerdCamp. I had been amazed by the sessions then. This year the organizers had added another day; an afternoon filled with scheduled presenters. Also added were a Nerd Run and a NerdCamp Junior on the evening of the 8th. I wondered if it would still be as memorable as last year. It was even more so.

Monday dawned and my nervousness was reaching epic proportions. Suzanne Gibbs had created the schedule for Day One. She kindly asked if I would present, to which I agreed. What Suzanne didn’t know was that public speaking makes my heart race, my face heat up, and leaves me feeling that I might be sick at any moment. Over the last few years these feelings have lessened, somewhat, but it still isn’t great. I knew NerdCamp would be filled with smart educators and I was worried. I shouldn’t have been.

Teachers waiting for me to begin.
From the moment I entered the high school on day one, I was pumped. Colby, Alaina, Suzanne, and more had worked so hard – and it showed. Suzanne quickly brought me to the room I would be presenting. She even gave me a laptop cord because I forgot mine at home. Teachers started entering my room an hour early to get a seat. I was sure they were in the wrong room. One glanced at my phone made me start to shake. I was looking for a text from my son, but I saw tweets from people in the room that they were excited to hear me speak. Mind blown.

What followed were two of the most enjoyable sessions I have ever had the honor of leading. The attendees at NerdCamp were so positive, kind, and gave tons of great feedback. By the end, I was almost in tears, I was so grateful for these educators. (If you'd like to see my slides, you can find them HERE.)

Since I was presenting on Monday, I didn’t get the chance to attend other sessions beyond the ending Keynote, given by Donalyn Miller. What I love about seeing Donalyn speak is her clear message – we are the lead readers in our classrooms. We need to reflect on our reading lives and share those lessons with our students. It isn’t about Lexile levels, AR points, incentives, or comprehension tests. We are creating a community of readers.

Monday wrapped up with a Nerd Run – a 5K Alaina Sharp organized. I was part of #teamsaunter – we had no plans on running, but thought we’d walk and chat through the course. As we traveled the first mile we were joined by two participants that were dressed as Cassia from Matched and Katniss from The Hunger Games. For reasons I won’t divulge, #teamsaunter became #teamshortcut. By the end of the race, I was crying from laughing so hard.

Tuesday dawned and the true “EdCamp” format began. I love watching the schedule come together. If you haven’t been to an EdCamp before, the schedule is blank at the start of the day. Here, they have two sessions to schedule for and about 6-7 openings during each session. Amazingly, once the floor was open, people started coming forward to volunteer to lead a variety of sessions. I presented with Donalyn for the first session on the best books of 2014 so far, and it was awesome. She and I both shared some of our favorite titles and then the audience began sharing their favorites. I think this quote is from David Weinberger, “…the smartest person in the room is the room.” EdCamps (and NerdCamp) embrace this philosophy. You might be “leading” a presentation, but really you are all learning from each other. I love this.

After session one, I went to a session led by Karen Terlecky and Katie Muhtaris about authentic use of technology in the classroom. I learned so much from these ladies – and from the other educators in the room.

After a quick lunch break it was time to create the afternoon schedule. I attended a session led by a soon to be third grader and some teachers sharing the importance of read alouds. Loved that this kiddo felt empowered enough to present to a group of adults. During this session I read a tweet from someone at NerdCamp asking if I’d lead a session on Evernote. (They had tweeted earlier and I hadn’t seen it.) The great thing about NerdCamp is that just because a session isn’t scheduled isn’t a problem. I immediately tweeted out that I was going to meet in the commons for a pop-up session during session four. I asked Karen and Katie to come help and we ended up with a group of about thirty teachers all learning about Evernote and Google Drive. I love that while we were supposedly the “leaders,” I walked away with as much new insights as they did.

NerdCamp ended with participates coming up to the stage in the auditorium and sharing what they had learned from the last day and a half. I was moved by their stories, from tweets I read, from discussions I shared, and more. What an amazing two days.

Below are links to the NerdCamp notes from each session AND other blog posts written about this amazing day. I will continue to add links as they are sent in. If you are interested in attending next year, it will be held on July 6th and 7th in Parma, Michigan and the registration is, as always, free.

Glad to help run the Nerdy Book Club with these crazy folks. 

Links (Click below. Note, I've grabbed as many as I can find. If you'd like yours added, tweet me at @katsok or post in the comments. Thanks!):