Saturday, October 15, 2011


I don't even know where to begin with this post. Today my friend and I attended a conference called Edscape, which was at New Milford High School in New Milford, NJ. The principal and event organizer, Eric Sheninger, is becoming a big name in edtech these days (if you're reading this, you probably already follow him on twitter), and he did a bang-up job of organizing this awesome event. I learned about the conference through his tweets, and when I saw that it was only $35 for a full day of tech PD (including breakfast and lunch!), I knew I had to get a ticket. Hopefully I can do the day justice here, but if I can't, I hope to at least sort out all I have learned because right now (six hours after I got home), my mind is still reeling.

The day started with a fantastic keynote speaker by the name of Diana Laufenberg. I can tell she's an amazing teacher because she gave a stellar presentation with fewer than twelve hours to prepare (the original keynote got stuck at the airport in Chicago). She spoke about her school's core values of  inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. It was clear from the way she spoke and the student examples she showed that everything she does in class reflects those core values. I loved when she reminded us that our kids are capable of GOOD WORK...and not just "kid good," but actual GOOD WORK. She talked about the fact that we teach as though we have an information deficit, but in reality, we should be helping our students learn how to manage an information surplus. She also reminded me that "I am the least creative person in my classroom," and "it's ok to stumble. Fail early, fail often!" You have probably guessed by now that I left the auditorium feeling inspired.

After the keynote, we began moving to our sessions. I attended:
  • Google Apps at Your Fingertips
  • The 20 Coolest Things That You Can Do with a SMARTBoard
  • Creating a 21st-Century Classroom
  • Building a Culture of Literacy
Session 1 was pretty much the basics of GDocs. There were a lot of beginners in the room, so I think we spent longer than the presenter wanted on Docs and didn't really get to other apps. I'm not complaining, though; it was still fun to talk tech and mess around in a doc that everyone in the room was able to access. I was psyched to learn about, which is a URL-shortening site. I will most definitely use this for shortening my GDoc links in the future. I also enjoyed volunteering during the session, and it made me realize that I'm really anxious to present at a professional conference. Now I just have to think of a topic!

I don't think I was mentally prepared for my second session, and as a result, it blew my mind. I have a SMARTBoard, but I don't really use it because of logistical concerns (we're working on it). Additionally, I haven't really taken the time to think it through and figure out ways that I can integrate it into my class in a meaningful way. But I really do want to make it a part of my everyday routine, so I decided to go see the 20 cool things I was promised. We didn't end up finishing all 20, but to be honest, I'm kind of glad. I don't think my brain could have handled it. We learned about all sorts of things you can do with the SMARTBoard, from finding, downloading, and inserting Flash into Notebook to recognizing tables to doing magic reveals of images. I literally was dizzy when I walked out of that room, and I wish it were Monday already so I could get right to practicing! 

The third session, which was presented by Samantha Morra, focused on building the 21st-century classroom. I had originally thought it would be more of a metaphorical classroom (get kids thinking, problem solving, etc.), but instead, she actually discussed the ways in which the physical design and layout of a classroom could impact learning. She had a wiki with tons of resources. My favorite quote by her was "pedagogy should not be driven by the furniture layout." It has me thinking...there is so much more I can do with the design of my room, and I plan to start soon! 

Finally, I went to a session called Building a Culture of Literacy, which was led by Patrick Higgins (a self-proclaimed all-around swell guy). This may have been my favorite because even though it was about tech, it was also about my first love, which is literacy. One of my major goals this year is to foster a true love of reading and writing in my students, and a huge part of that is to have them reading books they love and writing for authentic audiences. This session was all about that. Patrick presented the concepts of "viral reading" and "buzz books," and I loved those because of how cool they make reading sound. And reading really IS's just about getting kids to see that. I particularly loved when he remarked that "reading can catch fire," mostly because it's true, but also because he had the cover of The Hunger Games projecting when he said it, so it was punny to me (the second novel in this awesome trilogy is called Catching Fire). I left this discussion feeling energized and ready to show kids just how much fun reading and writing can be!

If you're still reading this, you know by now that Edscape was an amazing day. But it's just day. Now it's time to bring home everything and make sense of it so I can move forward with improving my practice. And when I make sense of it, how can I help others do the same? And how can they help me deepen my understanding even more? It's one thing if I go back to school and implement all these cool new ideas in my own room. Sure, that would be fun and all, but imagine the possibilities if others will listen and try some of them as well. Imagine all I can learn from my colleagues just from chit chatting about my day at NMHS. I am ready to stumble and fail on my way to making sense of that information surplus. 


  1. Thanks for doing such a great job summarizing a wonderful day of PD. I hope to share your post with colleagues.

  2. Ugh, so sad that I couldn't go with you guys. Thank you for sharing your notes, and count me in next time!

  3. Thanks for your summary and links! I was there too, but went to all different workshops, but could get a taste of what you saw from your links and descriptions.

  4. Woo hoo! My first blog comments! Thanks, everyone! :)

  5. Sounds like a great day! I think momentum will grow for events such as this.

  6. I hope so! I think it's my favorite PD experience thus far. Good times!