Tag Archives: Edcamp

Genius Camp 2017-2018

In addition to doing Genius Hour with my 3rd-5th grade gifted students, I have been guiding 5th grade students through what I like to call, “Genius Camp” during our school’s weekly enrichment time for the past year and a half.  For my first post on this, which explains the logistics of the time, you can read here.  Basically, I work with one 5th grade homeroom for 45 minutes per week for about 6-8 weeks. (It was 6 weeks last year, but we changed the timeframe this year.) During the last session, the students teach lessons to the rest of the students in 5th grade.  It’s kind of a Genius Hour/EdCamp hybrid because there are students choosing what they want to present and other students get to vote on which session they would like to attend.  (You can go to this folder to make copies of all of the templates listed below.)

  • Week 1 – Intro. to Genius Camp, brainstorming ideas for sessions
  • Week 2 – Going over “what makes a good session” and brainstorming more ideas
  • Week 3 – Signing up for sessions (in groups of 1-3 students), Planning the session, including step-by-step instructions
  • Week 4 – Completing planning sheets, giving peer feedback and revising
  • Week 5 –Going over reflection sheets, and practicing sessions.  Send out reminder letter.
  • Week 6 –Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
  • Week 7 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions.  Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week.  Each participating student receives a label with name, session name, and location.  There is an adult supervisor at every location.

As you can see from this post that I did toward the end of last school year, Genius Camp has not been perfect.  But I have seen many, many successes that have outweighed the obstacles.  My favorite part has been witnessing students shine who often don’t get the opportunity to demonstrate their interests or their strengths during the school day.  Every 5th grader gets to participate in Genius Camp, and I enjoy discovering their passions.  Many times I hear comments from the adult supervisors like, “I had no idea so and so has such a natural talent for teaching!” or, “I never knew so and so knew so much about World War II!”

If you can find a way to bring Genius Camp to your school, whether through enrichment time, an after-school club, or by carving out time in a regular class, you and your students will find that it is time well spent.

Photo Mar 30, 2 01 40 PM.jpg
Students learning how an engine works during Genius Camp

Genius Camp

Earlier this year, I mentioned a school in Texas that does a school-wide Genius Hour and has student-led EdCamps.  As an elementary teacher of gifted and talented students, I’ve done Genius Hour with my own small classes, but was intrigued by the idea of doing something school-wide.  With some creative scheduling spear-headed by our principal, we have been able to do something along these lines with an entire grade level, and I thought I would share it here.

Every grade level at our school has an extra planning time once a week so the teachers can conduct Professional Learning Communities. To make this work, the “special” teachers (P.E., Music, Librarian, Nurse, Counselor, Reading Specialist, and I) take students for an enrichment time.  This means that I am able to meet with a 5th grade class once a week.

With the help of the rest of the Specials team, we arranged to each meet with the same 5th grade homeroom 5 weeks in a row.  This enabled me to work with one homeroom class to offer what I’m going to call a “Genius Camp” (since it is kind of a hybrid of Genius Hour and EdCamp).

Basically, the students of one homeroom brainstorm things they would like to teach other students. They work on their presentations for 5 weeks.  At the beginning of the 6th week, the students in the other classrooms sign up on a Google form for the sessions they would like to attend.  For the enrichment time on the 6th week, the entire grade level has “Genius Camp” with one homeroom organizing and the rest attending.

Here are what the weeks look like (each enrichment period is 45 minutes long):

  • Week 1 – Brainstorming ideas for sessions
  • Week 2 – Going over “what makes a good session” and signing up for what they want to teach
  • Week 3 – Planning the session, including step-by-step instructions
  • Week 4 – Going over reflection sheets, and practicing sessions
  • Week 5 – Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
  • Week 6 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions.  Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week.  (All homerooms meet in cafeteria first to go over expectations.  Reflections are filled out at every session and turned in at the end.)

So far, we’ve gone through one complete Genius Camp cycle. (All but one student in the whole grade level said that they would like to do this again.) Overall, it was successful, but there were some issues:

  • Time is a huge factor.  Some sessions didn’t take up enough time, but most of students felt like they didn’t have enough.
  • Some students were not good at “managing” their peers.  For this round, we will go over pointers for that.
  • Some students felt like they didn’t really learn anything new.

We have four 5th grade classrooms.  The plan is to let all four present and participate, and then possibly do another Genius Camp allowing the outstanding sessions to be offered again.

Most of the students have been very excited about participating and presenting.  They are allowed to present in groups of 1-3 people, so those who aren’t comfortable doing the actual teaching can still help out.

Some of the sessions we did during our first round were:

  • How to Train a Dog to Lay Down
  • How to Make Slime
  • Model Rockets
  • How to Make Sock Puppets

There are logistics to consider, of course.  You need to think about the number of sessions you need to make groups manageable (I limited it to 8 students in a session) and the locations of the sessions. After the Google Form was filled out, I assigned students to sessions and printed name tags with their session titles and locations.  On the day of the session, I made sure all of the required materials were delivered to their locations prior to the beginning of the Genius Camp – including pencils to fill out the Reflection Forms.  We also made sure an adult was present at every session, which means you really need to have a team who is on board and awesome, like mine!

UPDATE 4/25/17 – Here is a link to my April Update on how Genius Camp progressed through the year!

Learning how to make sock puppets at Genius Camp
Learning how to make sock puppets at Genius Camp

 

EdCampSA

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

edcampsa

Last Saturday, I attended my third EdCamp ever.  It was EdCampSA, and it was hosted at Churchill High School in San Antonio by the following wonderful people:

  • James Barton
  • Miguel Guhlin
  • Todd Bloomer
  • Mary Ray
  • Marguerite Lowak
  • Jeannine Freeman
  • Roland Rios

EdCamps are also known as “unconferences.”  They are unique because participants have absolutely no idea what they will be learning about until about 30 minutes after they show up.  EdCamp sessions are created by the attendees at the beginning of the day. The sessions are not presentations, but discussions about the suggested topics.

Several of my colleagues from NEISD attended. One of them had never been to an EdCamp before.  At the end of the day, she commented that she had learned more in one day than at many 3-day conferences she has attended in the past.

You can see the sessions that were ultimately created at this year’s EdCampSA here along with the session notes.  There are a lot of great recommendations for everything from iPads in the Elementary classroom to 3D Printing.

Here are some of the apps I learned about that I can’t wait to try:

  • Pirate Cam
  • News-o-matic
  • Apollo by Atlas Learning (supposedly similar to Nearpod)

Pear Deck and http://quizizz.com/ are two other resources I would like to check out.  (The latter one is supposedly similar to Kahoot, but can be self-paced and has fun response memes.)

Another idea – how about taking a look at https://e.newsela.com/ for great non-fiction for elementary students?

Charlotte Dolat, who is our area director for TCEA, shared that we should search for TASA on iTunes University because it has lots of curriculum lesson ideas with technology integration.  (I can’t wait to start exploring that!)

That’s just a sampling of what I learned at EdCampSA.  It was another fantastic EdCamp experience and I can’t wait until the next one!

If you live near San Antonio, Texas, take a look at the upcoming Tech Field Day on November 7th, 2015.  This is another free conference that promises to offer a great day of learning at Cole High School! Dr. Roland Rios, who also co-hosted EdCampSA, is in charge of Tech Field Day – so I guarantee you will have fun and learn a ton!

 

Edcamp

edcamp_logo2

I’ve been using this week of my Spring Break to write about some innovative ideas in education, and a comment from a reader on my “Teacherpreneurship” post, motivated me to include the concept of Edcamps in this series.

I’ve been meaning to write about the Edcamp model for quite some time now, but I was holding back until I actually attended one.  I never even heard of Edcamps until I started getting more involved with Twitter.  Even then, I just thought it was another name for professional development.  It wasn’t until I attended a local Google Summit, during which the last part of the day followed the Edcamp model, that I realized that Edcamps are professional development done in a very non-traditional way.

When you attend an Edcamp, you cannot sign up for sessions ahead of time.  In fact, there are no sessions planned.  The agenda for the day is set on the day of the event by the people who are attending.  That’s right.  You arrive that morning, and you decide what you want to learn about.  And then you learn.

According to the Edcamp Foundation website, here are the criteria for an Edcamp:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the Edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

Revolutionary, right?  Or, perhaps you are thinking that it is just a recipe for chaos…

Apparently, it works.  You can use the Foundation’s website to find an Edcamp near you, or you can organize one of your own with their suggested resources.  One of the most comprehensive resources that I’ve found has been this PDF, “How to Start and Run Your Very Own EdCamp.

Now, as I mentioned, I have not attended a full-day Edcamp.  But I certainly saw the value when I participated in the “mini” Edcamp last December.  Teachers volunteered topics they wanted to learn more about, or that they wanted to discuss with others, and the topics were assigned to different rooms on the campus.  People volunteered to moderate in each room, and then everyone migrated to the topic of their choice.  The only complaints that I heard were that people were having a hard time choosing just one room!

I love this idea, and can’t wait to participate in a full-day version. On Twitter, I’ve seen some educators mention that they have used the Edcamp model with their students, too.  I think it would be great for a school Parent Night, as well.

If you’ve attended an Edcamp, I would love to hear your thoughts.  And, if you have organized one for students or parents, please share your impressions of extending Edcamp to these populations.

Update:  Here is a recent article from Edutopia (3/19/14) about Edcamps. 

Example of an EdCamp Schedule from Innovation on Earth
Example of an EdCamp Schedule from Innovation on Earth