Friday, July 11, 2014

Nerd Camp 2014

I couldn't think of a better word to describe my experience at Nerd Camp than joy. Pure joy. Ok, awesomesauce would work, too... but I'll stick with joy. I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Memories from Nerd Camp
Imagine a room full of book nerds, collectively letting out an "oooooooh" as a new book cover is revealed.
Shedding a tear when a presenter tells the story of a family outing to get a grandchild's very first library card.
Placing orders from our phones as we chatted about books at dinner.
Receiving a bag full of books at registration.
Book-loving, smart presenters on day one.
EdCamp style on day two with a schedule created and facilitated by attendees.
Deep conversations about the need for purposeful tech use in our classrooms.
Powerful conversations about remaining grounded in solid pedagogy.
Learning from each other.
Meeting Twitter friends in real life.
Reconnecting with "old friends."
Laughter. Lots of laughter.
Meeting our rock stars - the authors we love.
Sharing our stories, being surrounded by like-minded educators, and pushing our thinking.

Dinner with Nerdy Book Club friends is expensive,
especially when we can shop for books on our phones!!
(Photo credit goes to  Franki Sibberson)
Takeaways from Nerd Camp
Day One
Franki Sibberson and Gretchen Taylor's session on Small Group Instruction gave me so much to think about! One idea they came back to several times was modern learning spaces. Franki talked about how our spaces should reflect our purpose. For example, she talked about how more informal reading conferences take place around the coffee table in her classroom. This really hit home with me as I've gone back and forth with having a designated "small group" space in my classroom. The trapezoid table I planned to use for small group instruction last year was named the "random table" by my kids and served many different purposes. Franki also spoke about how she plans whole group, small group, and conferences all at the same time and doesn't worry so much about how many times she is meeting with students because she knows their needs are being met throughout the week. I loved how both Gretchen and Franki talked about the flexible grouping that happens in their classrooms; groups are formed for many different reasons and may change often. They urged us to "think about nudges we can give kids." Love this!!

Tony Keefer pushed my thinking in his session titled "Are We Climbing the Right Mountain? Purposeful Tech Use in Reading Workshop." When it comes to what we're having kids do during reading workshop, he referred to Donalyn Miller's idea of Language Arts and Crafts and asked if we are now moving to Language Arts and Digital Crafts. Powerful thought. Is the tech we're using truly extending what kids are able to do and how they're able to connect... or is it just fluff? My favorite quote from Tony, referring to tech use, was, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" This needs to hang in my classroom as a constant reminder for me. He urged us to know what we value to make sure our tech use aligns with it. Absolutely! I love how he focuses on leading kids to living a "readerly life." Such a smart guy!

Donalyn Miller's keynote was filled with insight and laughter. Even if you've read her books, you have to make sure you see her in person! She is so down-to-earth, real, funny, and simply brilliant. No matter how many times I talk to her, I always come away with new ideas and books in my shopping cart!  During her presentation, she talked more about "reading in the edges." It's so important to talk to our students about this concept. Real readers steal reading time. We may not have a half-hour block of time to dedicate to reading each day, but we can make time by carrying books with us and finding time. We can read while we're at the doctor's office, while we wait in long lines, and while we travel from place to place. If you haven't read her latest book, Reading in the Wild, I highly recommend it!

Day Two
I attended four spectacular sessions - Genius Hour, Purposeful Tech Use, Choice in Math Workshop, and Math Workshop. This day, I spent time following along on Twitter so I could attend several sessions simultaneously. I also tweeted from the sessions to share what was happening in the sessions I attended. The group notes from each session were particularly helpful!

What really stood out for me on Day 2 was Katie Muhtaris and her use of Padlet. I've used it with my kids a bit, but we always had issues trying to use it on our Kuno tablets. Anyway, Katie used Padlet on her laptop to take notes during sessions and to curate a list of books recommended during a session facilitated by Donalyn Miller and Katherine Sokolowski. You can take a look at one of Katie's Padlet walls HERE. She really has my mind going on ways to use Padlet with my 4th graders...

Final Thoughts
Connecting with Twitter friends in real life has become my favorite part of conferences in recent years. Nerd Camp was no exception! Meeting Twitter friends for the first time and reconnecting with Twitter friends made me so happy. I learned so much through the sessions at Nerd Camp, and my learning was intensified through casual conversations with my Twitter friends. If you aren't convinced yet, do yourself a favor and a) join Twitter to help build your professional learning network and then b) make sure you attend Nerd Camp! :)

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