Help, Hope, Dance, & Dream

I’m putting myself ‘out there’ and writing from my heart in this post. Today, I’m running a GHO for EdcampMagic. In light of everything that happened in Paris on Friday, November 13, 2015, and all the news, rhetoric, empathetic heart-felt expressions, and even the anger I’m hearing, I was asking myself if it wasn’t a waste of time or even disrespectful to talk about a trip to Disney World at a time like this. I began feeling hopeless (a feeling pretty foreign to me, being an eternal or sometimes pathetic optimist) and began questioning why or if we should plan EdcampMagic. This is pretty dramatic thinking, for me at least.

Then, it dawned on me that we are planning EdcampMagic because we are inspired by Walt Disney, the man (not the corporation). I can’t speak for the other Edmagineers, but I am inspired by Walt Disney because he represented hope for our future. He projected an optimistic view of the world through his parks and his show, The Wonderful World of Color. His ability to tell a story and the details that he used with amazing intentionality whether through films or at the parks capture my imagination and continue to stay with me long after leaving the theater or parks. Simply stated, Walt Disney inspired me to be curious, to care about nature, to create, and to dream.

As educators, the most important thing we can do for our students is to support them as they pursue their passions and give them the support, space, and time to dream. We need to show our students that we care and that they and their ideas matter. We need to open their eyes to the fact that we live in a global community full of hope, especially when bad things happen. We need to help them see that they can make the world a better place!

So, when thinking about where I look to find hope and comfort in the world, in light of the horrific events, the following come to mind:


Mr. Rogers always inspired me with his advice of looking for the helpers.

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” ~ PBS, Helping Children with Scary News

Though he meant it to be for children, in this era of 24-hour news channels that continuously loop horrific footage, I personally find his advice comforting. When I focus on the helpers, and I see doctors, nurses, police, firemen, volunteers, and bystanders, all willing to help out. What a gift this way of thinking is to children and adults! When I feel myself becoming overwhelmed by horrendous images, I look for the helpers.


The ride, It’s a Small World, fills me with hope. There, I said it. I know some people find the song irritating, but I find the notion of everyone getting along by respecting and celebrating each other’s differences inspirational. Everytime I ride It’s a Small World, the Sherman Brothers’ tune along with the adorable dolls and scenery gives me a feeling of peace, optimism, and hope.

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears

It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears

There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware

It’s a small world after all”

It might be a simplistic view of the world, but its message is goal-worthy.


I had the honor of teaching World Culture and Geography to 6th graders for six years. During the last week of class, I would show the video, Where the ‘Heck’ is Matt? (My favorite is from 2008). After watching Matt Harding dance around the world, I’d ask the students to reflect on this video because I see it as a metaphor for life in our globally connected world. As Matt dances through country after country, the viewer sees and notices differences in hairstyles, attire, and landscapes, etc. Upon further reflection, it becomes obvious that we humans all have the basic desire to be happy…and to smile (and ham it up) when a camera is pointed in our direction.

“Matt thinks travel is important. It helps us learn what we’re capable of, that the path laid in front of us isn’t the only one we can choose, and that we don’t need to be so afraid of each other all the time.” from Where the Hell is Matt?


Last summer I saw the movie, Tomorrowland. Though not a perfect film, I was inspired by the ending in a way no other film has touched me. Long story short, we can make a difference in the world. We all have talents, and we need to develop and use them to make the world a better place. The film ends as a new group of people scour the Earth for the next generation of dreamers. These new problem solvers included a street musician, mechanical engineer, zoologist, urban gardener, judge, sidewalk artist, mathematician, wind farm engineer, ballerina, chemist, and hiker. I loved that the new problem solvers were such a diverse group with such a diverse set of talents and skills.   

And this is where we, as educators and EdcampMagic participants, come in. We come together to celebrate the creativity, innovation, and art of storytelling that Walt Disney embodied and inspired. We come together to learn and become better educators for our students, the future of the world. We come together to inspire another generation of humans to use their talents and skills to make the world a better place, and most importantly, we come together to dream.

So, onward and upward! I will not feel guilty for planning EdcampMagic. When unspeakable acts occur, it’s important to mourn, reflect, and pray, but instead of allowing these things to get me down, I will take the advice of Mr. Rogers and look for the helpers. I’ll think of riding It’s a Small World, and I’ll look around and appreciate the amazing diversity the world has to offer and feel hopeful. I will remember how I feel while watching Where in the ‘Heck’ is Matt?, and I’ll remember that everyone has the basic desire to be happy and perhaps even dance like nobody’s watching. Finally, I’ll remember what Tomorrowland character, David Nix said, “Every day is the opportunity for a better tomorrow” and I’ll dream of ways to make tomorrow a better day.


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Walt Was Right: A Crowdsourced Reflection on the 1st EdcampMagic


How did EdcampMagic come about? Well, when you get some educators together who love their jobs, love inspiring and engaging students, love being connected educators, enjoy learning at edcamps, and who also love everthing Disney, you get the seeds for EdcampMagic. They were planted in a Twitter conversation in 2012, as far as we can tell. Then, last year at METC 2014 & ISTE 2014, we (several Missouri educators, fitting since Walt was from Missouri) connected with Howie DiBlasi (who was wearing a nametag with the Disney logo on it). We were all excited with the prospect of holding an edcamp at Walt Disney World.

Timeline synopsis of EdcampMagic 2015 planning GHOs:

July 7, 2014: Our first official meeting was via Google Hangout on July 7, 2014. Lots of ideas were tossed around:

  • Is an edcamp at Walt Disney World a viable idea?
  • How would we do it?
  • When should we do it?
  • Would anyone come?
  • Are there other educators who are as passionate as we are about Disney who would join us?
  • It’s so expensive, how can be make it more economical?
  • Would Disney help us out?
  • Where could we have it?
  • Would we be able to find sponsors?
  • If it wasn’t held on Disney property, how would out-of-towners who flew in get around?

The hardest part was finding a venue. Disney would not donate the space. The hotels in the area did not understand that we had NO money. The schools in the area didn’t know who we were or why a bunch of educators from outside the Orlando area (and mostly from Missouri) would want to hold an ‘edcamp’ in their school…and what is an edcamp, again?

August 27, 2014: On August 27 we found a local public school that would allow us to hold EdcampMagic on their campus. They could accommodate up to 200 educators. We sent a survey out via social media to see if there was interest among educators. There was! The room discounts were coming together. The transportation was NOT going to be affordable, but we continued to explore many different options.

September 28, 2014: By September 28, we were pretty much decided on Port Orleans-Riverside and Pop Century for rooms. We began looking for a place for the tweet-up, and we discussed name badges, t-shirts, and dessert party.

October 5, 2014: By October 5, we had closed our registration at 200 and had a wait list, lots of ideas, but NO money. Then, the bottom fell out of our venue. The local public school we were in talks with said they needed to charge us $3,000 to hold our event there. We were devastated. We started calling local schools, again, without any luck.

Then, in true Disney fashion, the storyline improved when Nick Purdue came to the rescue. Nick is the technology coordinator at Windermere Prep. He offered his school as a venue! In addition, we received the backing of ConnectED Learning, a St. Louis non-profit that took us under their wing. This was important because typically edcamps receive support from local businesses. Local companies were not interested in sponsoring an edcamp like EdcampMagic that was pulling participants from all over the country and beyond.

November 15, 2014: Nick joined us for his first EdcampMagic planning committee GHO. At that time, it was decided that we had the room to open registration up to more people. The wifi was stable and could handle 300-400 people easily. We continued to discussed the transportation issue from resort(s) to school (3 buses would cost $1,500/day using Mears), lunch, bank account info, and soliciting donations. One of the big topics of conversation included the logo. Disney is very protective of their font and the iconic symbols Mickey ears, castle, etc. We needed to ‘brand’ EdcampMagic and wanted a logo that could be used on our t-shirts, badges, website icons, stationery, blog and webpage. The problem was we were selling our t-shirts and badges. Disney does not want anyone making money on their copyrighted icons. We had several designs that were proposed to Disney and rejected. This was a long and tedious process. It was decided to remove the Mickey ears and use fireworks instead.

December 7, 2014: We had decided to open our wait-list to 500 and were waiting to hear from Disney about our logo and font selection. We were trying to decide what to do about the dessert party. Should we hold it at EPCOT or Magic Kingdom? We were discussing offering the opportunity to purchase group, behind-the-scenes tours, as well. In addition, we were responsible for a number of rooms at the two resorts and needed to ‘sell’ them or EdcampMagic would need to pay for them.

January 4, 2015: We focused on transportation, again. This was going to be so expensive that we began to think it was too much trouble and tabled the discussion until our next GHO. We were waiting to hear what the park ticket discounts were going to be. Breakfast and lunch were topics, again. Tweet-up at Downtown Disney was discussed. Dessert party at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom were discussed and compared. How much to charge for t-shirts and badges? We decided on the theme of Creativity, Innovation, and the Art of Storytelling and made sure we used this theme when we solicited donations. We still had no sponsors or money.

January 17, 2015: Revisting the transportation issue, we decided finally to “Let it Go!” It was too expensive to consider. We decided to hold our special event, the dessert party at EPCOT. There was still much to decide: should we include the park admission and Soarin’ or should we offer all these things separately? We needed to sell a minimum of 42-45 tickets. There were drop-dead dates we needed to meet in order to get our deposit money back. Lots to consider. We decided to scrap watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. We had order deadlines for the t-shirts and name badges that we needed to meet, and we had not gotten an okay for our logo design. We were still concerned with not meeting our room quotas at Pop Century and Port Orleans Riverside. We discussed breakfast and lunch, again. Our hope was to be able to provide breakfast and offer a delicious, reasonably priced, easy-to-serve and clean up option for lunch. We had also hoped to get a sponsor for one or both meals. Many options were explored and quotes received. Still had not decided on a tweet-up location. Many options were explored. Reserving space on Disney property was not an option due to price and minimums. Various logo iterations were shared.

EdcampMagic proposed logo 1 EdcampMagic proposed logo 2 EdcampMagic proposed logo 3 EdcampMagic proposed logo 4In the middle of January, another bit of Disney magic occurred. Shauna Pollock joined the donations committee! Shauna fit right in with the rest of us. She loves Disney and even called her classroom EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Classroom of Tomorrow). Shauna worked tirelessly on procuring donations for EdcampMagic. Her goal was that everyone who attends EdcampMagic leaves with ‘something.’ Little did we know that Shauna’s dream would be realized!

February 8, 2015: Our registration was up to 295 participants. We felt it was a good time to solicit volunteers to help ‘the day of’ so a survey was crafted and shared in an email with info regarding the dessert party. We were very excited to have our first cash donation from Squirrels in the bank. In addition, we received a response from Polished Play/Puppet Pals that they wanted to donate to our edcamp! Now we felt legitimate, and things were looking up! A sponsor page was created for the blog, however we were still trying to figure out breakfast, lunch, and the tweet-up. The reservations for the rooms continued to be a stress.

We decided to have a makerspace and promoted this idea as we continued to solicit donations. It fit in perfectly with our theme of creativity, innovation, and the art of storytelling. We continued to think of ways to create excitement for our edcamp: trivia and trivia questions shared via social media accounts; hidden Mickey Photoshop challenges created by students; favorite Disney Karaoke song; QR codes shared at edcamp of student work, etc. Some of these happened, some didn’t.

February 22, 2015: Our registration was up to 306, and we had another cash donation in the bank from Haiku Leaning. We began talking about logistics, for example, how did we want to handle session boards, where were we going to post session boards, discussed the traffic flow of participants using a map of the campus. Another sponsor, ShopBot, wanted to participate in EdcampMagic. They wanted to demonstrate how their machine works. We were worried they just wanted to sell their machine and knowing that edcamps are vendor-free environments, wanted to make sure they knew there was to be no sales pitch, just demonstrations. They offered to make luggage tags with the EdcampMagic logo on them for each participant. The person they were sending was not a salesperson, he was going to simply demonstrate their machine and answer questions. We decided that the machine could be part of our Makerspace. The idea of giving participants an EdcampMagic vinyl sticker was proposed.

Still stressing over the sales of the dessert party tickets. Would participants and their families want to attend? Could we sell enough tickets to keep price down and affordable? Would people want to ride Soarin’, as an add on? Should there be 3 separate tickets or should there be one ticket for the entire experience?

Though we explored many options and received many bids/quotes regarding breakfast, lunch, and tweet-up, we were unable to obtain donations for breakfast and/or lunch or space for the tweet-up. Regarding the tweet-up, most venues wanted to charge us, and we had no idea how many people would be attending. There were ordering minimums that needed to be met and if we didn’t meet the minimums, EdcampMagic would be financially responsible.

March 1, 2015: Registration – 315; 30 dessert party tickets sold. Discussed Panera for breakfast. Thinking of food trucks for lunch. They could offer a $10 lunch for everyone and edcamp would be covered by food truck company’s insurance under Windermere Prep’s name.

March 22, 2015: Registration – 356; 20 rooms at Port Orleans-Riverside; 9 rooms at Pop Century; Room deadline March 31. It was decided that EdcampMagic would cover/pay for a room or two at Pop Century because we didn’t want the people in the 9 rooms to lose their reservation. We could also continue to sell the room(s) we paid for up until the actual edcamp. 40 dessert party tickets sold – we met our minimum! Generous cash donations from PolishedPlay/Puppet Pals and ShopBot were in the bank. Panera not giving us a break on breakfast. Still considering Panera for lunch but since not getting a break on breakfast from them, not sure we want to go with them. Since we have some money, we talked about subsidizing lunch. Also, considered selling lunch tickets ahead of time. Would this give us a better idea as to how many people would be attending? We actually had no idea how many people would attend, which was making our three biggest concerns (breakfast, lunch and tweet-up) difficult to plan. The tweet-up was very difficult because most places wanted to know how many people to plan for. We talked about Downtown Disney, but parking was currently terrible due to construction, according to Nick and Howie. Carlos Fernandez secured Pizzeria Uno’s patio for 98 people, no fees, no minimums, but we were afraid of transportation issues, again. Many people were flying in and would not have a car. We wanted to make it as easy as possible to get to from inside WDW.

March 29, 2015: Registration – 368; Rooms – people have until April 20 to get money back without penalty. Only 21 name badges sold, if under 100 will need new bid. Deadline to order April 25. Not only were we excited to receive 10 awesome robot balls, but Sphero also donated cash, sponsoring one of the desserts at the dessert party. In addition, Skype in the Classroom and Learning Bird also stepped up with cash donations. How do we promote Jeff Dixon without compromising edcamp philosophy/protocol? Suggested that we solicit questions to ask Jeff and hold a Q & A with him.

Still no firm plan for breakfast and many options for lunch. Leaning toward Panera for boxed lunch and selling tickets via PayPal. What if participants don’t see communication and miss out on ordering? Still no firm plan for tweet-up. Howie and Carlos respectively checking into Boardwalk and Pizzeria Uno further. Discussed makerspace having student voice or presence in the space somehow.

April 19, 2015: Registration – 375; 10 @ Pop Century and 20 @ Port Orleans-Riverside. All other rooms held by Disney for us have been released. We decided on using 3 food trucks for lunch. We decided to have the tweet-up at the Boardwalk at 6:30. Still no decision on breakfast. We decided on a schedule for the day of EdcampMagic. We created a ‘minute-by-minute’ schedule with the group for the day of so everyone knows what and when things need to be done.

May 3, 2015: Registration – 370; 11 rooms @ Pop Century and 20 at Port Orleans-Riverside. The food trucks are going to charge $10; we decided to subsidize lunch with a $2 off coupon for each participant. We discussed the need for yard signs, banners, stickers for participants, and additional prizes to be purchased (Disney gift cards and Chromebooks). We discussed alternative plans for lunch and the tweet-up in case of rain. We discussed possibility of having a projector running our tweets at the tweet-up.

May 24, 2015: Concerns about transportation prompted us to connect participants through a spreadsheet of people who need rides to event and people who are willing to either drive or share a ride. We decided to purchase breakfast items from Cosco and coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Burden fell on Nick for physically taking care of this. Lunch would not change if raining. Nick suggested ‘runners.’ Seating for lunch outside but may be able to sit in classrooms and possibly gym. Tweet-up would be held at tables along water near Flying Fish; rain plans – Belle Vue Lounge in Boardwalk resort. Use Twitter to notify of change. We had seven sponsors who we needed to thank on social media, etc. In addition to Disney gift cards, and Asus Chromebooks, it was decided to purchase two Mickey ears hats with EdcampMagic on them as supplementary prizes. Krissy was developing a makerspace supply list we purchased from Amazon and had sent directly to Windermere. Jerry Swiatek arranged for our participants to use 81 Events, a conference web-based app, for free. He even set it up for us with the the attendees names. Discussed the flow of registration, newbie table, how to raffle off and display prizes & swag. Discussion of how many volunteers were needed and where they were needed.

June 1, 2015: Opening slideshow, minute-by-minute, and evaluation survey were all shared and input was requested. Revisited carpool list and where needs seemed to be. Decided to play Shauna’s Spotify list as participants arrive. Table tents with sponsor info were designed, lawn signs were designed, ordered and shipped to Windermere. Decided how to give away prizes. Put finishing touches on shopping list and decided who was getting what. Discussed how cool the makerspace was going to be. We were all very excited and a bit nervous but looking forward to EdcampMagic.

Edmagineers’ Reflections on EdcampMagic 2015


June 26, 2015: Registration – 366; 139 actually checked in, but we may have missed some due to early/late arrivals and 2 doors. Rooms: 22 @ Port Orleans-Riverside and 11 @ Pop Century.

Date selection: We chose the beginning of June for several reasons: we wanted to schedule before price increases on rooms took effect; before conference season, especially, ISTE; we wanted to stay away from July & August; unfortunately, many east coast schools are still in session until mid-June; Looking at first two Saturdays of June for 2016

Tweet-up: Next year, hold tweet-up in the lounge of the resort where participants are staying.


EdcampMagic Tweet-up at the Boardwalk

Venue: We all agreed that Windermere Prep was the perfect place to hold EdcampMagic.

Makerspace: Lots of great feedback. Next year, will be located in a larger space.

EdcampMagicMakerspaceKrissy EdcampMagicMakingBreakfast: Simplify and offer fruit. We didn’t know how many people were going to show up. Next year, we will plan for half of the registration number.

Lunch: Food trucks were well-received. Need to figure out ticket situation.

Opening Session: The gym was full of excitement, the newbie table was busy, and the the session boards filled up quickly. There were unfortunate technical problems with the sound system, that made it difficult to hear and prevented us from sharing a Disney playlist, which would have added to the atmosphere. These won’t be an issue next year.

Sessions: Our session board had a wide-variety of offerings, and the sessions were well-received. We are discussing having one session room (for all four sessions) dedicated specifically to Walt Disney’s creativity, innovation, and the art of storytelling. We could possibly display student projects, etc.


EdcampMagic2015 Session Board

Q & A with Jeff Dixon: Well-received. Exploring other authors or perhaps, Imagineers who might be available for next year.


Prizes: We had awesome prizes! Discussed ways to speed up the distribution of prizes – giving more out throughout the day, maybe at lunch; not giving certificate winners choice; only giving big items away at the end of the day


VoluntEARS: We realized (a bit belatedly) that we need to do a much better job of acknowledging and thanking those who helped us all day during the closing of EdcampMagic. We neglected to give a special shout-out to those who went the extra mile and felt badly about it. Next year…that won’t be happening.

Sponsors: We were very fortunate to receive so many amazing in-kind donations, but we could not have held EdcampMagic without being Powered by ConnectED Learning and the generous financial support of Squirrels, PuppetPals, ShopBot, Sphero, Learning Bird, and Skype in the Classroom. Some of the changes that we’ve discussed for next year include adding signage to session room doors; having round tables in gym instead of chairs; making sure table tents are printed; having a dedicated social media person ‘the day of’; Edmagineers schedule thank you tweets before event in addition to ‘day of’ tweets and posts


Rooms and Discounts: This was a huge stress for Edmagineers, but feedback from participants was positive. We are investigating ways to offer rooms but not have EdcampMagic be responsible financially should certain number of rooms not ‘sold’.

Park tickets: Offering a 20% discount on park tickets for those staying on WDW property was a positive for participants. Some participants mentioned this made the difference between staying on or off property.

Communications with participants: Overall communication was very good; there was a problem when dessert party was moved by Disney due to potential weather issues.  Edmagineers had a hard time getting participant feedback before event.  We will try Remind next year, allowing participants choice as to how they receive EdcampMagic communications.

Dessert Party: This was another stress for the Edmagineers due to the fact that we needed to meet minimums; Once minimums were met, we were able to relax. The desserts were delicious, the preferred viewing of Illuminations, along with our special viewing glasses, and private ride on Soarin’ was a fabulous way to end our day. We received lots of positive comments even though there was a last minute change in location.


EdcampMagic Dessert Party – Meeting at the EPCOT flagpole



Board/Edmagineer Structure: Now that we have one EdcampMagic under our belts, we feel that it is appropriate to designate positions, define responsibilities, and form committees. Edmagineers could serve on more than one committee; Leads Edmagineers would be able to make decisions and report to Chief Edmagineer who will disseminate info, create agendas, run GHOs, and share action items in timely manner

Mission Statement & Vision: Will be developed to guide us as we make decisions in the future.

Focus on learning:

  • Though our focus is on learning, we realize that as a destination edcamp at the ‘Happiest place on earth’ we also have the obligation and opportunity to continue the learning and magic in a variety of ways, including helping secure lodging and tickets at group rates, and planning extra events and meet-ups, which are optional for participants and their family and friends
  • We hope that connections made will continue throughout the school year and beyond
  • We hope that MyDisneyClass is used to continue to share and grow the excitement and learning of EdcampMagic and that this is where the real connections to students and classrooms can be developed
  • We hope that participants continue to follow EdcampMagic on Twitter and Facebook and share their students’ learning, perhaps even showcasing it at EdcampMagic 2016!

EdcampMagic was a dream come true! As you can see, much planning and collaboration went into this unique, destination edcamp (17 whole-group GHO’s, hundreds of Voxes and a Google Drive full of shared Google documents). It’s safe to say that EdcampMagic could not have happened without Google and Voxer. Next year, will be much easier to plan allowing us to focus on the real reason we wanted to travel to Walt Disney World, to enjoy, explore, and experience the creativity, innovation, and art of storytelling with other educators and their family and friends who are inspired by Walt Disney and the notion that ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’

We can’t wait to start planning EdcampMagic 2016 and welcoming our newest Edmagineer, Shauna Pollock, to the group!

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Transform Don’t Reform: Creative Schools Reflection


Ahh, my favorite question to ponder, “What is the purpose of education?I’ve written about this before. I’ve posed it at edcamps and on Twitter chats. It is an essential question to understand because as Sir Ken Robinson shared, “It means different things to different people according to their cultural values and how they view related issues like ethnicity, gender, poverty, and social class” (p. xix). How can we have a discussion on any education-related topic unless we first agree or at least understand each other’s point-of-view regarding the purpose of education?

In the introduction of Creative Schools, Sir Ken outlined the principles of the ‘revolution’ for which he is advocating. The revolution is “based on a belief in the value of the individual, the right to self-determination, our potential to evolve and live a fulfilled life, and the importance of civic responsibility and respect for others” (p. xxiv).  He then went on to outline his four basic purposes of education: personal, cultural, social, and economic before he shared what he believes are the aims of education:


Robinson’s view of the purpose of education incorporates the curriculum ideologies of Dewey & Noddings (learner centered & caring communities) and Freire (social reconstructionist)…three of my favorite pedagogical thought leaders! Creative Schools not only begins with my favorite question, What is the purpose of Education? I also happen to wholeheartedly agree with Sir Ken’s belief. In true learner centered tradition, Robinson suggests, “You’ve got to listen to what’s important to the child” (p. 5). It all begins with student voice. To that end, I couldn’t agree more with the following statement:

reform transform

Transform not reform! Love this and can’t wait to read Chapter 2 Changing Metaphors.

  • What are your thoughts regarding the purpose of education?

Related resources:

‘Purpose of Education’ posts

Democracy and Education by John Dewey

Caring: A Feminist Approach to Ethics and Moral Education by Nel Noddings

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

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#EdcampUSA Reflection


I had the amazing experience of attending #EdcampUSA at the United States Department of Education in Washington, DC on May 29, 2015. I feel blessed that I was able to attend this event but sad that more educators could not attend. It was quite an expense for the attendees as most of the people I spoke with paid their own way.


My biggest takeaway is that the people who attended EdcampUSA care deeply about students and the future of education.


The energy and enthusiasm of these educators was infectious. There was non-stop education-based discussions from the time we got together at the Focus Group for Organizers on Thursday to dinner afterwards to the Tweet-up itself. Then, more discussion during coffee before EdcampUSA, the ‘long’ walk over to the U.S. Department of Education, during the session building, the sessions themselves, at lunch, during the afternoon sessions, and then even more discussion at dinner. It was simply amazing!


I met people who I’ve been connected with on Twitter for a long time. I met people who I’ve admired but never met face-to-face with before. I reconnected with people I’ve met at other edcamps and conferences. I met many people who I now consider valuable new members of my PLN. EdcampUSA was all about the connections, for me.

Finally, I met Hadley Ferguson, Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation, and Kristen Swanson, Edcamp Foundation Board Member. These two incredible leaders were enthusiastic participants in EdcampUSA, and I look forward to a future where edcamps are accepted as a viable professional learning option for educators at all levels of education.

Processing all that I learned at EdcampUSA will take some time, but here is my first reflection post. The big ideas shared during session are followed by my reflections:

Session 1 Getting Started with Makerspaces & STEM

  1. What’s in a name? Makerspace, STEM (STEAM, STREAM, STREAMSS) Lab.

REFLECTION: Does it matter what it’s called? I think it does! We discussed branding the space. At my school, we are calling our new space, the Innovation Lab. We have even created a logo to further brand it. We are doing so because we want the students, teachers, and parents to see it as a completely new flexible learning space. It will house a ‘makerspace,’ which we are calling the ‘Prototype Area,’ but it will be more than just a makerspace. We feel that new name will allow everyone the freedom to explore, create, collaborate, learn and dream.

  1. What is a makerspace? There were several different ideas in room. Some see makerspaces connected to the library/media center, computer lab, stand alone, as a drop in space, as something to earn, or as a class. There was no one idea.

REFLECTION: I think that the lack of consensus is a good thing. As soon as people start putting restrictions on what a makerspace should or should not consist of, that is when you kill it. To me a true makerspace should be constantly in BETA. It should be responding to what the students and teachers need at that time. My fear is that some company will start mass producing makerspace kits that come with directions and a reorder slip. Makerspace is a mindset not a product. Students should have a voice in their learning and a makerspace could provide the vehicle for how they explore and share that learning. In the end, it’s about the learning that is possible in this space that matters.

  1. How do you get started with a makerspace? Attend conferences, follow people and hashtags on Twitter and check out Pinterest.

REFLECTION: Yes, connect! Develop and cultivate a PLN that consists of educators and experts who truly want to help students and teachers develop a design thinking mindset. Makerspace and all of its iterations have been on session boards at edcamps and chats on Twitter for several years, now. These sessions/chats are full of great folks with amazing ideas. Share, discuss, connect, and learn with and from them. Not everyone’s experiences or situations are the same. Not everyone’s budgets are the same…and that’s okay. Like I said before, I think the best ‘makerspace’ is one that is in constant BETA. Be okay with the fact that change is good and follow the students’ leads, support them in their learning. Champion the F.A.I.L. philosophy. It will be messy, and you and the students will be amazed!

  1. How much does it cost to start a makerspace? What does a makerspace budget look like? You don’t need a lot of money to begin. Ask for donations from parents and businesses.

REFLECTION: There are a couple great places in St. Louis where teachers can purchase items for makerspaces. Think: recycle/reuse/repurpose – St. Louis Teachers’ Recycling Center and Leftovers, etc. Your community most likely has similar operations. The point is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Start small and see what students and teachers need. It’s not always about 3D printers, though that is one item that people get really excited about.

  1. How do I run a makerspace? Encourage the philosophy of F.A.I.L. (first attempt in learning), use gamification to show success or learning, Lessons in a Box (simple, hands-on lessons that relate to the curriculum, have lesson directions, assessments, supplies for 30 – boxes are stored on shelves in lab and teachers can use at will), and celebrate learning by sharing.

REFLECTION: There were lots of ideas tossed around about how to run a makerspace. It depends on how the space is being utilized. Is it connected to the curriculum and learning goals? Is it part of problem/passion based learning (PBL) initiatives? Is it part of genius hour or 20% projects? Is it always open to students as a way to show/share their learning? Is it simply being used as an opportunity for hands-on learning? All of these are viable ways to use a makerspace. Again, I think the concept of makerspace should be customized to what your students and teachers need to optimize learning and that should always be flexible and in BETA. Most of all ‘make’ sure that you celebrate the learning that takes place in whatever you call your space. Share it at your school, with the community, on social media or however makes sense for your students.

Check out the session document for lots of great resources and twitter handles of awesome educators passionate about makerspaces, design thinking, and the possibilities these ideas provide for students and their learning.

Do you have anything to add to the conversation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related resources:

EdcampUSA 2015 Session Board

EdcampUSA website

EdcampUSA Bio

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Filed under Conferences, Connected Learning, EdCamp, Makerspace, Professional Learning, Reflection

Life Moves Pretty Fast: 2014 Reflection

2014BlogReflection3Highlights of 2014:

  • Implemented Tech Tuesdays (20-minute participant-driven PD sessions)
  • Orange Hoodie (planning committee member), EdcampSTL 2014 & 2015
  • Attended 10th Midwest Education Technology Conference
  • Attended Edcamp Southern Illinois and EdcampKC
  • Planning Committee for ConnectED Leader Event, ConnectED Learning
  • Planning Committee & Facilitator, Elementary Principals’ Institute, Archdiocese of STL
  • Presented Educators’ use of social media for informal PD at ISTE 2014
  • Social Connector for ISTE 2014 Conference
  • Founding committee member (Edmagineer) for EdcampMagic (coming 6-6-15)
  • Designed & facilitated EdPlus workshop – Adventures in STEM Ed: Learn to Code!
  • Keynote speaker at Region 8 Back-to-School In-Service: 3C’s – Communicate, Collaborate, Create
  • Judged and worked EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit sponsored by ConnectED Learning
  • As admin, organized school-wide GAFE implementation, supported both teachers & students
  • iPad purchase, prep, organization, training, instructional support and roll-out for PK-8
  • Using Voxer to connect, collaborate & support, and plan #moedchat & #EdcampMagic
  • Founder & Moderator of SMMA Student News
  • Two METC 2015 proposals accepted!
  • Overseeing addition of STEM Ed in K-8 through robotics (Sphero & littleBits)
  • Expanded Hour of Code to include K-8 & extended experience to continue past ‘hour’
  • Combining robotics and coding to help meet STEM curriculum goals

I have to agree with Ferris Bueller, life does move pretty fast!

SMMA School
It seems like I just started working as a Technology Coordinator/Instructional Tech Specialist/Coach at SMMA School, and yet so much has been accomplished! Reflecting on the list above, makes me feel proud. I’ve worked very hard to make these things happen, however, I also feel gratitude. I am fortunate to work at a school with a supportive principal who believes in me and in her staff. Without that support, much of what has been accomplished would not have been possible. GAFE implementation, iPad roll-out, coding, robotics, and SMMA Student News are all well on their way to enhancing the well-respected SMMA School curriculum and climate.

This is where my head starts to spin. I have been so fortunate and honored to be able to meet and work with so many innovative, talented, and passionate educators during 2014. Most of these relationships will continue into 2015 and beyond, hopefully. As I reflect on the list above, being a connected educator is the reason I’ve been able to participate in this wide variety of experiences. EdcampSTL inspired me to help begin EdcampMagic. Most of the amazing people I am working on EdcampMagic with are people I met via Twitter, which introduced me to EdcampSTL years ago. Being involved with the planning of EdcampSTL allowed me to become involved with ConnectED Learning, which opened up the opportunity to to be a judge and work the EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit and which is now supporting EdcampMagic. Both METC and ISTE conferences have allowed me to meet many people I’ve been connected with on Twitter, face-to-face. All of these relationships continue to grow and are enriched because our learning continues once we go home. I can’t forget to mention that MOedchat continues to be a huge part of my professional life, as well. The Modquad (organizers) consists of educators from all over Missouri whose focus it is to plan opportunities for educators to support, connect and learn from each other weekly. I am humbled each day that I am able to work with these amazing people. These relationships have made me a better educator.

Becoming a grandmother in 2014 has made me even more aware of how our schools need to change. I want the best for my grandson, and that includes an excellent educational system for him and his contemporaries. Justin Tarte wrote a great post, My 10 dreams for my son’s education. Justin expresses a future educational system that focuses on asking ‘what if,’ values play, focuses on creation rather than consumption, and helps students find solutions that make the world a better place. I have every hope that Justin’s dreams for his son and mine for my grandson can come true because I am connected with so many educators who are fighting for students everyday who have similar dreams for the future of education.

Yes, 2014 was a great year for me. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2015, but I’m going to stop and look around once in a while so I don’t miss anything.


Related resources
My 10 dreams for my son’s education

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Filed under Reflection

I love being an educator because…


I enjoyed answering @moedchat’s first blog challenge question, ‘I love being an educator because…’ Mostly, I enjoyed contemplating the question outside of a structured situation because I was able to really think about what I really do actually love about my ‘job.’ What follows did not flow from my academic, analytical side but rather my heart.

  • I love being an educator because I can share my passion for learning with others.
  •  I love that my ‘job’ consists of being in the presence of students and being able to provide learning opportunities that open their eyes, minds, and hearts.
  •  I love seeing ‘light bulb’ moments happen.
  •  I love designing learning opportunities that allow students to grow, learn, and create.
  •  I love to watch students discover things they didn’t know existed, and solve problems that have meaning to them, as they use the tools they have developed over the years to critically think and problem solve solutions to issues that have real meaning.
  •  I love being able to inspire a spirit of caring and the attitude that they can make a difference in the world by helping them take age-appropriate action to issues they care about.
  •  I love that my ‘job’ consists of celebrating accomplishments with students.
  •  I love that my ‘job’ consists of helping students see failure as the first attempt in learning.
  •  I love that I can say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out!” and find a solution alongside students. What other profession allows you to learn with and from others every day?
  •  I especially love being a connected educator because my PLN is full of innovative and passionate individuals who unselfishly share, discuss, reflect and collaborate—all with the desire to be the best educator and provide the best learning opportunities for their students.
  •  I love being an educator because the educators and students I come in contact with inspire me every day to be the best me I can possibly be.


Why do you love being an educator?

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Filed under Connected Learning, Student Engagement

Oh, the People you’ll meet!

Oh, the Places you'll go!
(Cross-posted on Moedchat Blog)

I’m a firm believer in using social media for informal professional learning. I believe that being a connected educator has not only improved my practice, it has also helped me grow professionally in ways I could not have imagined, pre-social media. For example, the first ISTE conference (then known as, NECC) I attended was in New Orleans in 2004, before Twitter. I met many people in 2004, but nothing in comparison to my attendance in Philadelphia in 2011. Being able to meet people I follow and connect with on Twitter and other spaces face to face was an unbelievable treat! I was even able to participate in my first flash mob! It’s all about building connections, sharing passions, collaborating, learning, trying new things because you have a trusted safety net, and challenging ourselves and our beliefs.

People say social media is a narcissistic waste of time. I say it can be if you use it that way. People say they don’t have time for social media. I say you make time for what you think is important, and if you want to improve yourself, professionally and informally, you should at least try Twitter for a while. People ask why would they want to connect with people they don’t know? I say, building a personal learning network (PLN) will enrich and energize your life as an education professional. I want to share an example of the power of being a connected educator and having a PLN that rocks. Last week, the @moedchat moderators (aka modsquad) were putting the final touches on that night’s chat. I commented that it would be cool if Sue Waters could join us. I have ‘known‘ Sue for many years and had the pleasure of participating in an #etmooc session on blogging. I say ‘known’ because I have never met Sue face-to-face. I know her through social media. Sue lives in Perth, Australia and works for Edublogs, but she is a supporter of all blogging educators. Check out the following conversation:

I tagged Sue Waters in this post hoping she would see it and consider joining us. The #moedchat moderators continued planning via our planning document and Voxer, an awesome app that turns your smart phone into a walkie talkie.5.07Eighteen minutes later Sue responds.

5.25Crossing my fingers that she can make it.

6.12 6.17I shared the good news with the other moderators via Voxer. Then, William Chamberlain, founder of Comments 4 Kids, who is at the airport in Orlando, Florida, tweets the following:

6.20Sue Waters sees this tweet and responds:

6.23I share that next week’s topic is going to be student blogging. 6.24Sue sends out a tweet promoting @moedchat’s topic of personal blogging. Awesomeness! 6.27Sue asks William if he would like to support #moedchat’s topic of student blogging with her. I am sharing this with the moderators via Voxer, and we’re all very excited!

6.29Oops! William and one of the #moedchat moderators, Laura Gilchrist, will both be attending #edcampKS next week. 6.37(UPDATE: William and Laura were going to try and participate, but we have since decided to postpone this chat a week or two.) 6.38The #moedchat moderators were doing the happy dance on Voxer, at this point.

6.49Another reminder/invitation tweet.6.175 6.235 6.285 6.375Giving Sue a head’s up that #moedchat is about to begin.8.59

8.595 9.01And the rest, as they say, is history (and archived, too).

To recap the head-spinning events that happened here,

  1. #moedchat moderators from around the state of Missouri were planning a Twitter chat on the topic of personal blogging using a Google Document and Voxer.
  2. One decided to tag an expert, Sue Waters, who lives in Perth, Australia, in a tweet hoping she would participate.
  3. In the meantime, she responds and another Missourian, William Chamberlain, who happens to be at the airport in Orlando, Florida responds, too.
  4. William can’t make this chat, but he and Sue exchange tweets and decide to help out #moedchat in a future chat on student blogging.
  5. Sue participates in the chat sharing her expertise in personal blogging with educators following #moedchat that evening.

This is a true story of the power of being a connected educator. Open sharing, connecting, collaborating, and searching for ways to be a better educator along with the trusted members of your PLN and the trusted members of their PLNs, all with the focus of increasing the learning and engagement of students.

Oh, the places you’ll go, and the people you’ll meet!

Do You have a story of connected learning? I hope you’ll share!


Related resources:

True Stories of Open Sharing – by Alan Levine
Ode to My PLN – The Educators’ Cafe
The Strength of Weak Ties – by Mark S. Granovetter
Blogging as Pedagogy: Facilitate Learning – by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Personal Blogging – by Sue Waters, Edublogs
Comments4Kids – by William Chamberlain
Candy Wrapper Store – used to create opening image


Filed under Connected Learning