Student EdCamps: Learners Choose Their Problems

Without letting too many cats out of the bag, I would like to share information that can hopefully guide more educators in creating Student EdCamps in their schools.  In the coming months, a team of leaders from the Harrison Twp School District will be creating a session to present to educators while attending a conference near our nation’s capitol.  As advocates for student choice and voice, we were willing to learn from other districts and enact our own version of student-driven learning.  While student input takes place in all classes, we took it to the next level by allowing students the ultimate choice in connecting the curriculum to their personal interests.  In addition to our session on Student EdCamps, it is my goal to publish a short article about our success.  At this time, I cannot release the manuscript or the journal in which I am seeking publication.  However, I feel it will provide assistance in showcasing our experience and shine a light on how Student EdCamps can create a positive shift in any learning environment.  The video below acts as a trailer for both our upcoming conference and hopeful publication.


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The Whirlwind NEVER Ends

The whirlwind is your day to day operations.  It involves the work you complete to keep your head above water, it is not necessarily the work you attempt to make changes or innovations.  This whirlwind can consume you if you are not careful and I have felt the pressure lately.  As an educator, this includes your planning, interacting with colleagues and parents, and responding to emails or phone calls.  Every little thing on top of that adds to your whirlwind.  It is the debris that gets picked up by the wind and thrown around.  Now, I would describe the pressure as a necessary evil.  It pushes me to perform, but the balance of stress, work, and family can crack anyone if they are not aware of their surroundings.  I have not made a list of things I am concerned about, so I am using this post to help myself and hopefully help others see how much you do when you work in education.  Here are just a few things that keep me up at night.

  1. The last few weeks have been turbulent, but rewarding all the same.  Recently, I spent a few days working wire-to-wire on our district application to become a Google for Education Reference District.  Our application was accepted, and I welcome you to reach out to visit us or ask any questions about our Story of Impact.  With this honor, our district now has to organize an event to share our experiences with Google.  Enter the brain working in multiple directions, and thus preoccupying me with something new to think about. We want to do it right, so planning and creating something that will represent Harrison Twp will be a priority.
  2. Speaking of representing the district… Our team also has a deadline to create a presentation that we will share in Washington DC when we present about the honor of being named a Schools to Watch for 2017-2020.  We are proud of this accomplishment, but our job is not done if we do not talk about our struggles, learning experiences, and goals for the future.  Just today, I received a request for a visitation from a school district interested in picking my brain.  That is what Schools to Watch is all about, for it is our intention to continue to develop our strengths and use surrounding communities to assist in our development.
  3. Future?  How about Future Ready?  Well, I was able to become a member of a task force, thanks to Dr. Andy Davis, that helped form the indicators for New Jersey’s Future Ready initiative.  We are attending the Future Ready Summit next Monday, May 8th and I am excited to meet the team members that I worked on the indicators with digitally. Why is this stressful?  It takes up free time.  It removes me from my family or the occasional time I get to exercise (big stress reliever for me).
  4. My family, I am missing them during this whirlwind, and my wife is a saint!  Did I mention I coach lacrosse?  It consumes my afternoons and evenings whether it involves practice, watching film, or long bus rides home from away games.  I am passionate about the sport and my family sees that. However, it stresses me out, and whether we have a tough loss or an overtime win, the game applies pressure on my psyche.  Yet, I work my best to get to witness my little ones enjoy life.  Soccer practice can be a stress reliever and I hope everyone has that outlet where they try to unplug and enjoy what matters most.
  5. Family again.  My wife and I want the best for our kids and we have made the commitment to move out of our current home.  Our children need more space and we hope to relocate to where we both grew up.  In fact, I am willing to take the plunge and move in with my in-laws temporarily while we sell our home.  I am trying to practice what I preach, and by that, I mean my wife and I are trying to fix up our home on our own.  My brain is currently fixated on how I will install our paver patio under the deck.  Throw in a random EdCamp last Saturday (which was awesome) and my time to prepare my home quickly escapes me.  All of this is a priority, as my son is entering kindergarten next year and we are in the process of having him evaluated for services.  Moving, in general, is crazy.  Moving in with your in-laws is quite brave.  However, the concern I have for my son as a learner is compounding each thought I have about the process.  We believe he may have ADD or ADHD and I can personally say, the Apple did not fall far from the Tree.
  6. Graduate school.  The end is near, but “Holy Crow!” I am bursting at the seams when it comes to meeting the expectations of the accelerated platform I walked into.   I am thankful that I took the plunge, but again, more stress!  This week I still need to create a video trailer to help pitch the article I submitted for publication through ASCD.  I am still waiting for their response, but my fingers are crossed.  I hope that if I can get published, it will open up more opportunities for me to share some of the things we are doing in our schools and also ask the questions that others can hopefully answer.
  7. My health has most recently brought on anxiety.  I love exercising and recently had to leave my CrossFit gym since we are moving, to save money, and simply because I have zero time to get there.  If I find the time, it requires me to leave my family or I go in the middle of the night.  This removes the few hours of sleep I can get and creates a slippery slope by week’s end.  Just ask my wife when I fall asleep sitting up at 9 pm on a Friday night!  The problem is, working out typically relieves my stress and now it is causing more.

There are 8-10,0000 more reasons that are part of my whirlwind and I am sure you have them too.  I encourage you to write down the things that you either need to accomplish or are worrying about.  My abbreviated list is not in order of priority or significance because most of them bring me enjoyment.  Rather, it is a list of things that are constantly on my mind.  The problem with me is that I like problems and when ideas pop in my head, I tackle them!  While I was writing this post, I realized how much my back hurt from sitting.  Then, a standing desk request came in from a 2nd-grade teacher.  Lightbulb!  I created a makeshift one.

As a 32-year-old adult, I recognize that life comes with stress.  The reason I write this post is to remember that we are all human.  If you are an administrator, remember that your teachers have lives and the stress of life may weigh heavy on them without you knowing the details.  If you are a teacher, please remember this applies to each and every learner you work with.  Their home life is something you will never truly understand, even if they open up to you about aspects of it.  The stress of a child mimics the stress of an adult.  I see this firsthand with my son, and it opens my eyes to the pressures that kids face.  Write down what you have to do today, this week, this month.  I bet you will be impressed with what you can accomplish!

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Updated Resources through EdShelf

Image result for edshelfToday I was able to help myself get organized.  I have used plenty of resources and came across many that I want to save for later.  Typically, I bookmark a site or app and then log it on one of my pages.  Thanks to my graduate school colleagues and professor, my PLN, I have discovered EdShelf.  There are plenty of resources that they do not have yet in their database, and I plan to add them eventually when I get a chance.  For now, it has helped me start organizing my resource pages.  I am not done yet, but I am excited about the possibilities.  Having the visual icons and creating subcategories within my pages will allow teachers and students to locate resources a bit easier.  Enjoy!

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Google Earth on Chrome, Finally!

Google has launched Google Earth on all Chrome browsers.  Big deal?  It is huge!  My district is 1:1 with Chromebooks and this feature will certainly change how teachers can scaffold our learners in gaining a global perspective.  Check out the NEW Google Earth here, 

Posted in Digital Learning, Disruptive Innovation, Educational | 1 Comment