Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flipcon14 = 2 days of awesome

I got home yesterday from FlipCon14, a conference for educators interested in flipped learning.  I'd been wanting to go for the last 3 years, but haven't been able to make it happen until this year.  I'm going to attempt to summarize my experience, but it was a LOT to process.  Before we even left, I created a bingo board of flipclass people that I wanted to meet.  I shared it with all the attendees, and many people were caught taking selfies with the people on the board throughout the was super fun!

Monday Night
After a 6.5 hour car ride to Pittsburgh, which was way more fun than expected due to my driving companions David & Doug, we arrived in Mars, PA.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was bouncing in my seat like a kid seeing Disney for the first time.  After checking into our hotel, we headed to the reception and the fun began.  I got to meet so many of my Twitter friends that I had never met in person.  I had so much fun having face to face conversations with my tweeps!!!
Andrew, Cheryl, Crystal, Lindsay & myself on the bus ride to Mars...what an amazing PLN I have!
Then we loaded up on a bus to downtown Mars, where they literally shut down the entire main street for us (granted, Mars is a small town, but still it was pretty awesome!).

Tuesday marked the first official day of the conference, and the morning (after a great keynote by Molly Schroeder) was spent networking with other educators in your field.  I was able to connect with other elementary teachers, which I've wanted to do for quite some time.  In the afternoon I went to Cheryl Morris & Andrew Thomasson's session on creativity.  I learned about some cool new tools, like Kahoot and Grammerly. We played an intense game of rock, paper, scissors, and I learned about the why puppets are an awesome addition to any classroom.  My big takeaway was reaffirming what I already believe about students needing to be able to showcase their knowledge in a variety of ways, and that the traditional school setting is slowly killing the creativity in our students.  

During lunch, all of the authors Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Learning, signed the book for anyone who wanted us to.  First off, it was so beyond exciting to see my chapter (written 2 years ago), finally in print.  Secondly, signing books was so weird...there is no other word to describe it.  

See, there's my chapter!!!
All attending authors signing books.

Tuesday Night
We went to Carnegie Science Museum on Tuesday night for dinner and fun.  It was an amazing time! Some of my highlights were: building things out of giant blue blocks, going to the planetarium for the first time in years, and of course dancing...Lindsay Cole, you've got some sweet moves.

Lindsay Cole, (my dancing partner for the evening).
Planetarium selfie

Collaborative effort on the blue blocks #bettertogether
Wednesday, David Fouch and I presented at 8:30 on the power of collaboration.  We didn't have huge attendance numbers because there was a giant storm the night before, knocking down power lines & making most attendees late.  That being said, the conversation we had during our session was great, and we even got to hear insights from 2 educators I highly admire (via google hangout), Karl Lindgren-Streicher & Dan Spencer).

Telling my story.
The part of the conference I was most nervous about came at 11:00.  The authors of the new book all had 5 minutes to "tell a story" about how flipped learning has impacted students.  Not only was this the only session in that time slot, but it was also being streamed live to all the virtual attendees...literally hundreds of people.  Of course, I was last, so I had to sit through 5 other amazing people telling their stories.  When it was my turn, I took the stage & talked about a student I had this year.  She had an extremely difficult year at home, bouncing around foster homes.  I really connected with her, and was so sad to see her leave in June.  On the last day of school she didn't want to give me a hug, but I understood.  For her, I was her only consistent adult figure, and now I was leaving too.  I was surprised later that day when I received an email from her. She very eloquently thanked me for being her mom this year, and letting me know that she would make me proud.

So, not only was I nervous, I knew that trying to verbalize this story was going to be a challenge.  After explaining her background, Jon asked me about the email.  All I could get out was that she thanked me for being her mom.  I couldn't say more or I would've started crying.  Thank goodness I didn't have to talk after that because I was spent.

My final session I attended was having courage to fail...another awesome session led by Cheryl Morris & Lindsay Cole.  This really hit home with me because when I started flipping my class, I could have failed miserably, luckily that didn't happen.  I certainly had my share of failures, but the key was that I learned from them, and used to them to make me better.

The last thing we did before heading home was find out where Flipcon15 was going to be...I'm not kidding when I say that my Michigan buddies & I were obnoxiously celebratory when we found it out would be held in East Lansing in 2015.  I am already looking forward to next year and all the connections I will make at my next Flipcon experience.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My first Cardboard Challenge...7 months late

Last October I was perusing Twitter and I noticed a lot of people talking about a "Cardboard Challenge".  I had no idea what it was about, but obviously it peaked my interest.  I investigated further and found out that it was based on this kid, Caine, who built an arcade in his garage out of cardboard.  From there, it snowballed into a movement of creativity.  As my students are well aware, I like to use them as guinea pigs for new things I find, and this was no exception. That being said, I was sad to see that I missed the actual "day", but I tucked the idea away in my head for future use.

Fastforward to Spring Break time when I decided to make this idea into a reality.  We started saving all the cardboard boxes from our cafeteria & storing them in my room.  Side note: Holy crap! That was a lot of boxes and I am SO glad to have them out of my room.  I didn't tell the students why, I let them ask me.  When they began noticing the giant pile forming in our side room they finally asked, "why" and I said, "there for the Cardboard Challenge." And that was all I said.  They wanted more details but I wouldn't give them.  Then a few weeks ago I asked them to start bringing in duct tape for the challenge.  Again they started asking me questions, again I didn't tell them.  Finally, about a week before, I showed them the video about Caine's Arcade and the Cardboard Challenge. The excitement grew and grew while the video was playing. 

Then I explained the rules:
1) No weapons
2) Must be school appropriate
3) You may work alone, in pairs, or in groups (max 4)
3) Impress me

After my experience this year, I will add a rule #4: no quitting if it doesn't work out.

The kids did awesome! We went to the gym so they had a ton of room and they had 2 hours to build.  Then other classes came down and took a tour of the projects.  

Things that didn't go child got very frustrated that her house would stay standing. She took a break, but did come back in. While she was out, several other students tried to help her out, but her house ended up becoming a bear

I had a few (very few) who thought rolling the duct tape across the floor was a better idea than building. I might have to make a rule #5: appropriate use of duct tape

Everything else was smooth sailing! I even had one incredibly helpful student )who is also very shy and didn't want to show off his project) and he helped me recycle the rest of the unused boxes while they were showcasing their projects to the school.

Overall, it was an incredible experience, and you could feel the creativity bursting out of the gym.  We will definitely do it again next year, only next year we'll shoot for October and maybe expand it to both 5th grade classes.  Below are some pictures that show off their hard work.