My First Edcamp Experience

Early this morning I made the short trek to Yorktown, VA for EdcampEVA (Eastern Virginia). I had been looking forward to this event since early February. Edcamps are something I had been told to attend, that I would love them, and find them a great place to be. My buddy Derek Oldfield is an experienced veteran, so he always kept encouraging me to attend. EdcampEVA was the first edcamp that wasn’t too far from me and it was on a date that I was available. I signed up and bought the t-shirt, too. (Because, really, what better way to commemorate my first edcamp?)

Having heard such great things about edcamps, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. Since edcamps are organized by different groups, I figured that every edcamp had its own unique flavor infused into the model that all edcamps used. After today, I’m pretty sure that is a sound theory.

If you haven’t heard of edcamps, imagine this: a place where passionate educators join together on a weekend to learn from each other. Upon arrival and check-in, the schedule is still blank; as an attendee you’ll help make the schedule for the day. There are no set presenters for each session that does end up on the final board; instead, groups of people get together to talk and discuss and ask questions. Once you’re in a session, if you don’t like it, or are trying hit multiple sessions in one time slot, you’re encouraged to use the Two Feet Rule- don’t like it or feel like you’re not getting something out of the session, then use your feet and go somewhere else.

After I checked in this morning, I chose a random open table, and settled in to complete my tasks. Well, wait. First I needed a bathroom break and had to change into the new edcamp shirt I’d received. Then I began filling out my post-it note ideas for the session board and putting my name on my tickets to enter drawings for great prizes from edcampEVA’s sponsors. There was some pretty cool sticker swag on the table, and in my folder I’d received I found a 60 gold trial for Nearpod and a license for Chromville. I added some sticker swag to my folder. During that time I gained 3 new tablemates and we got to know each other and ate breakfast.

During this time, announcements were made, and the schedule was created for the day. After all of the sessions were posted, I knew I wanted to go to the following sessions: social media, technology integration, professional development, and Minecraft/Sphero. We were dismissed and off our two feet took us to Session 1.

Session 1 was Social Media for me, so it was a chance to see what other schools were doing with social media, and share things my schools had been doing as well. Not only did we talk about becoming connected educators, but we also talked about school social media- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo. Someone also brought up social media releases for students, so we focused on that for a bit as well. Before I knew it, an announcement was being made that session 1 was over, and that it was time for session 2.

Session 2 was Technology Integration. We were seated within a circle, and folks took turns sharing some tools that they had found helpful in their classrooms. We had some folks that didn’t have very much technology in their classrooms, and I realized that Fluvanna County is very lucky to have the Chromebook carts that we do, even though most teachers share a cart between 2 or 3 teachers… the teachers that I learned from today were lucky to have a few carts to share in their entire school. Most of the tools I was already familiar with, but a new one I learned about was Dotsmashing. I plan to explore this more and do a write up on it in the future because it seems like a great addition to the tools I already use. I was honestly surprised I had never heard of it before today.

In no time at all session 2 was over and it was time for lunch. I ended up returning to my same table as in the morning, and my tablemates also joined us. Lunch for us was from Texas Roadhouse and Domino’s. They gave away some prizes as well and reminded us about the afternoon sessions, and the Smackdown/Prize giveaway. Then it was off to the races once again!

Session 3 was professional development. We had a mix of people in our session from teachers to those who give PD to teachers. I did learn that there are districts that don’t seem to require their ITRTs, or whatever they label them. Other districts also have trouble getting PD opportunities approved, or they use systems to receive their certification points, and the system rejects it. Some were interested in what I did in my district to give PD, but we all seemed to agree that outside of technology giving PD, there often were very little opportunities provided in district for PD in specific areas. It was definitely thought provoking to hear input from the other side.

Finally session 4 was up. This one was a combined session on Sphero and Minecraft. Some teachers had brought their Sphero and talked about ways that they used it in their classroom, and some others chimed in. Then we moved on to Minecraft. I ended up speaking more than I wanted to because most people were there because they didn’t know how to use it in the classroom, or much about it beyond what they’ve seen of their kids playing it. I ended up being the one to take the notes for the session so I tried to add in some helpful pointers to at least help teachers get pointed in the right direction.

The last event of the afternoon was the Smackdown, where participants shared some of the best things they learned. After that, there was the prize giveaway. Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything, but that’s all right! Two of my tablemates did though and they both won things they had really wanted.

Overall, I enjoyed my first edcamp immensely, and I would definitely go again. There are 2 in VA that are over a 2 hour drive away coming up next month, and I’m not sure if I want to do a drive that far for a 1 day event. I may or may not choose to attend one of them. If not, I’ll keep an eye out for future camps nearby. If you’re interested in seeing if there’s an edcamp coming up near you, check out this link. It lists all of the official edcamps and links to their webpages.

EdtechRVA Recap: Plotting, Programming, & Printing in the ELA Classroom

It’s a brand new week, and definitely time for another Edtech RVA Recap. There’s only one more to do after this one. So far, previous recaps have included Getting Interactive with Google Apps and Bite-Sized Professional Development. If you’ve not had a chance to check them out, definitely do so, as they are worth the read.

This particular recap focuses on some different ways to engage students in the ELA classroom. My schools do not have the resources to implement what will be discussed here, but I was fascinated by how they were used to engage students in new ways, while still meeting the ELA standards. This session was presented by Colleen Casada, Gillian Lambert, and Emily Roberts. Gillian is @GillianLambert and Emily is @Connor6307 on Twitter. I do not have a Twitter for Colleen, but if anyone does, please let me know and I will edit this post to reflect it.

These ladies brought some new tools into the ELA classroom- 3D printers and Sphero robots. In addition, TinkerCAD was used to create the items for the 3D printers. When you think of ELA, these certainly aren’t the tools you think of seeing in the classroom.

To convey their ideas, these ladies gave examples of projects that had been completed with these tools, which is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate to teachers how the tools can make a difference in the curriculum. They also made sure to convey how the tools enhanced lessons and how they engaged the students. Typically, they tried to focus on lessons that normally would be challenging for students, and ones that often found students disengaged from the content.

One lesson example focused on Charlie from Flowers for Algernon. In the book, Charlie has an intellectual disability, which causes others to take advantage of him, though he doesn’t realize it. He is selected for an experimental surgery that will help correct his disability, but ultimately, the effects are not permanent. After reading, students are asked to do research on intellectual disabilities and make connections to Charlie. Then they spend time talking to folks who develop assistive technologies. Finally, they use TinkerCAD to design a device that would help aid Charlie in his daily life.

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Flowers for Algernon example, photo is my own

Another lesson example, Project Runway, focused on the novel Shakespeare’s Secret. After reading, students would be asked to research families in the British monarchy. Using this research, they design a collection of jewelry for the family. Each piece must have reasons based upon research, so students must use their persuasive writing skills to demonstrate that each piece suits the chosen family.

A final lesson example that I’ll share here focused on the play The Merchant of Venice. After reading the play, students would discuss direct and indirect characterization. They would then be asked to design a ring to symbolically represent the characters and plot. In addition, students learned how to find their ring size and how to measure for it. One of the presenters mentioned that for this particular project, some of the rings had flaw designs when printed. Students were given the chance to redesign and reprint their work, but it had to be on their own time. She said that 100% of the flawed rings were redone and reprinted.

Moving on, the presenters discussed how Sphero could be used in the classroom. There were not as many examples here. Sphero was used with The False Prince. Students learned to code Sphero to represent the journey of the Sage. Sphero was ran on a green screen, and then students edited in the music and images to match Sphero’s movements.

The presenters also gave some pointers and tips for getting started. I’ve put them in a list format for easier reading:

3D Printing/TinkerCAD

  • Explore databases of 3D models for ideas
  • Learn the basics of TinkerCAD (free online)
  • Identify a lesson for students that is challenging
  • Due to costs, not every design can be printed on the 3D printer typically


  • Learn the basics of Sphero and making him move
  • Make sure to chunk the learning as students want to go, go, go
  • Consider using an online learning platform to help provide the material
  • Only give 25-30 minutes of class time to students to discover how to work Sphero

Even if your school does not yet have the capabilities of these tools, consider how something like these tools could change how some of your students engage in their education. It might just be the spark that one student needs.