Climate · Culture · growth mindset · innovation · Innovator's Mindset · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · PLN · professional development · reflections

The Ability to Change: It’s not about the technology

Today, I was at a Technology Director’s meeting. I know it may not sound riveting exactly, but it is one of the best cross-district meetings I attend. Basically, we get a bunch of super smart, incredibly kind and collaborative people in a room and we attempt to solve the world’s problems. My favorite part? This particular group begins almost every answer to a tech question with a focus on learning instead of tech. It makes my heart happy.

At one point, the question was raised regarding strategies for helping people deal with the constant technology changes both within schools and the growth of technology in general. I had spent a great deal of time last year and over the summer thinking about this and reaching out to my PLN to bounce ideas off of them, and what I came up with was a little bit of what we have been implementing at the beginning of this year, and it is also where I have seen the most changes in some of the teachers I work with. What I have noticed over the last few years of working with people and technology is that the ones that are the readiest for change have certain characteristics in common, and there are things that districts can do to help support teachers and admin in these areas. The part in all this that I think is the most interesting is that we are trying to get people comfortable with technology change, but it is not about the technology at all. It is about their ability to accept change in general. We are focusing on the wrong aspect of technology change if it is the technology we are concentrating on.

These characteristics are as follows:

Mindset

It’s more than Growth Mindset. Most likely Innovator’s Mindset. Maybe there’s even one step further…a Teacher’s Mindset. Knowing that change is inevitable and will continue to happen whether they accept it or not because our students are constantly changing, their needs are changing, their experience in the world is constantly changing. It doesn’t mean they like every change that comes down the pipe, but they pick their battles based off from what they feel is not good for students. They are also naturally reflective people (which, to me, is part of mindset), and their reflection goes beyond wondering if the lesson went well. They will also ask:

“Were my students engaged? Empowered?”
“Did each student get what they needed when they needed it?”
“Is there anything more I can do to support them? Help them enjoy their learning?”
“Are my expectations high enough?”

These questions don’t change much for an administrator. If you exchange “student” for “teacher”, they are actually identical.

Adaptability

People who are able to accept change are adaptable. We tell students that part of their career readiness skills is adaptability, but it is difficult to actually teach adaptability in a world where procedures and policies keep people safe (sane) and give us some controlled chaos. Through raising four of my own kids and being a teacher, I realized that kids actually LIKE structure. They like to know what is going to happen, and it makes them feel safe if they know what is expected. The same goes for when we become adults. Nothing will make a teacher more upset quicker than a new initiative that they haven’t been trained on because they don’t know what to expect or how to begin.

Anything that would work on our adaptability skills will take us out of our comfort zone. So, for some people, unless they have been regularly forced outside their comfort zone either by their own choice or by some sort of adversity, might not develop the skills to adjust to new conditions or environment as well as others. I believe that people can develop and work on their adaptability skills by pushing themselves to learn outside their comfort zones. Focusing on adaptability as a skill that we want teachers and admin to develop is the first step. Asking them to self-reflect on their skills would be the second, and then regular nudges to step outside their comfort zone, and supporting them when they do it, would be the next. This might actually be learning about and integrating technology into their classrooms, but the adaptability will come as they become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Professional Engagement

This might be one of the issues I’ve been noticing the most lately, and I only figured out it was a thing years ago after I had been disengaged, then subsequently re-engaged, from mine.

I was reading the School Leaders Dunk Tank by Rick Jetter and Rebecca Coda, and it discussed how people can become adversarial when they feel like they feel like they have not been supported and, therefore, develop feelings of hurt. The hurt turns into resentment, and that resentment infiltrates many other parts of their professional life. You could easily replace adversarial with disengaged. Disengaged professionals begin to dislike their jobs because they feel like they are no longer making a difference. They think that kids begin to do things to them “on purpose” just to irritate them, or they take new district initiatives as personal vendettas. But, they absolutely worst part of no longer being engaged is that they forget that they are there for students, and the difference they make in their lives every day. And if you’re disengaged, the positive difference that they got into teaching to make can then become a negative one.

I have been speaking with teachers about the concept of being disengaged, and the truly reflective ones can see where they have begun this transformation as well. I wholeheartedly believe that all of them can see it, some of them are just more willing to admit it than others. Noticing these parts of oneself is the first step to changing them. We have also been working on a “Back to Basics” initiative in our district. We have been trying to re-engage teachers with activities to help them remember why they got into teaching to begin with. For example, at the beginning of the year, we had all the teachers participate in a Flipgrid that asked them why they teach. We have also been focusing, in our high school, on personalized PD, not only because it is the right way to allow teachers to learn, but because we want them to remember what it’s like to be curious and love what you learn again. Back to basics.

Counting Your Initiatives

This one is a district/building level issue. I worked with a district recently who said they had five initiatives. When I heard that I thought, “Whoa, only five? Not bad!” But, the fact was that when I expanded those initiatives, there were 53 initiatives within the five overarching initiatives that were being implemented. Being adaptable and willing to change is one thing, but people cannot be overloaded and then chastised for not changing with those kinds of crazy expectations. The perception of your ability to change should not be dependent on how willing you are to go with the flow when there is an exorbitant number of things on your plate. District leaders need to be reflective enough of their own expectations to know if what they are asking for is even reasonable.

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Nobody would argue that change is inevitable. In speaking with a colleague the other day, she mentioned how our students, when they are parents, will have a better idea how to work the current technology than most current parents do now just because they grew up with it. The only issue with that is that the technology in 15-20 years is not going to look anything like it does now. Which means, if education professionals are still teaching then, the technology that they’re working with isn’t going to be nearly the same. We can’t focus on technology when we are focusing on change. We need to focus on the ability to accept and grow with change. The ability to work with the changing technology, with that mindset, will come.

Genius Bar · innovation · Mandy Froehlich · my classroom · PLN · reflections · relationships · Social Media · Trust

The Creation of a Genius Bar: How our student led tech teams have formed

Although our district has been 1:1 for about eight years, this is the first year we have implemented a student led helpdesk. I’m not going to lie, at first I was dreading it, not because I didn’t believe in the idea or think it would be fantastic for students, but because I didn’t even know where to start or how to manage it. There are logistics to the helpdesk when it’s been led by students that are difficult to anticipate. I didn’t know what they were going to do all day. I didn’t know how they would interact with our tech department. I didn’t even know how we were going to take attendance since their assigned teacher wasn’t in the same spot as the physical helpdesk. It has been a project that has taken me a year to put together with researching other helpdesks, and calling up my teacher instincts and going with them. I’m proud with what we have put together so far, but as with every major implementation, will need to continue to adjust throughout the year.

Where did you go to research?

As per usual, I used my professional learning network to really connect and see what other people were doing. I had gotten some amazing information from the Director of Technology for the Leyden School District, Bryan Weinert. Their TSI system is a nationally recognized student led tech support program with pathways that the students choose and follow to support the skills that they want to focus on. As part of the program, Leyden pays for the students to get the certifications. Thanks to Bryan, I was able to get invaluable information on how they started their program and continue to make it a successful way for students to be involved in the technology department for both students and the district.

I also loved this article by Jennifer Scheffer. I have borrowed many ideas of how they run their Genius Bar (as ours is called as well) and have implemented them. Basically, our Genius Bar is a combination of information from this article and the resources and information I received from Bryan.

How did you recruit kids?

Our Genius Bar is a class that is available every hour throughout the day. In our first semester, we have 16 kids who have taken the course. Realistically, some kids have taken it because they needed something to fill an hour in their schedule. Some have taken it because they wanted to try something different and had an interest in technology. Some are a part of the program because they had formed a relationship with our department and were excited to be a part of the Genius Bar. The most important thing we did was explain to teachers and the guidance counselors that the Genius Bar kids did NOT need to know a lot about technology. When I first told them this, they looked at me like I had lost my mind (a look that I feel I get a lot), but here’s my reasoning: if they have an interest but don’t think they know enough to be a part of the program, how are they ever going to learn if it’s something they really want to do or not? I made sure I erased “tech-savvy” out of our vocabulary. Might this change as the program becomes more popular? I have no idea, but I sure hope not. I want anyone to feel comfortable at any level coming to the Genius Bar, knowing they’re going to learn, not that they are only going to employ the skills they already have. This has hands-down been my best decision.

george

When talking to one of the girls that now works the Genius Bar, she told me she doesn’t really know anything about technology and that she is not tech-savvy. The next day she was so insanely excited when we told her to YouTube how to change a Chromebook screen and handed her a broken one, and she did it on her first try (with the support of one of our tech services ladies). To me, THAT is the function of the Genius Bar. We want to open kids up to the possibility that technology might be an area they want to look at, and when we tell them they need to be tech savvy, we automatically exclude the population of kids that have an interest but don’t consider themselves to know a lot about tech.

What do they do all day?

The Genius Bar assistants are the the first line of defense for technology that faculty and other students are having difficulty with whether it’s that it is actually broken or just isn’t working right. They troubleshoot and have forms to fill out to document issues so we can see patterns in the data. They must answer help request emails and tickets assigned to them. Beyond the technical aspects of the Genius Bar, they are also responsible for researching new tech learning tools and working with students and teachers to use them. Aside from their actual desk functions, they work on these things:

Canvas LMS Course: Our students have a course that they complete in Canvas that is a work in progress. They have access to the logistical parts of the course, video explanations with how to use the forms and what their expectations are. We use discussion boards to collaborate on projects as a team since the kids are scattered across seven class periods. There are also learning modules and assignments on concepts like customer service and creating a positive digital footprint.

Blog: We have a helpdesk manager, which is a student that is a paid internship. This year, it is a student named Brock (an absolutely amazing person) who spent some of his free time last year helping me brainstorm and develop the Genius Bar, and he is in charge of various projects, and has both designed and will maintain and schedule blog posts that focus on technology integration for both students and faculty. Genius Bar students will be expected to contribute to the blog on a regular basis.

20% Time Project: Students will be creating goals based on what area of technology they would like to know more about. There are multiple ways they could design this project, but if the project requires the knowledge base of a certification to support that goal, the technology department will support them by paying for the certification. Project goals are monitored by myself and the assigned teacher, and the students will meet with us on a regular basis to update us on their progress and let us know if they need support in any way. Their 20% time project will also be documented in a portfolio on EduBlogs that they will be able to take with them when they graduate.

Additional projects: The Genius Bar assistants are also in charge of additional projects that might come up as needed. For example, currently we found that third through fifth grade kiddos are not handling their Chromebooks with as much care as we would like. As our Kinder through second graders’ touchscreen Chromebooks are coming in soon, we are anticipating a similar issue. The Genius Bar kids have been asked to create videos for each level demonstrating the proper use of the devices. So far, they have been brainstorming if they would like to create cartoons or use the green screen, but they are in charge of producing the videos.

The students always have a multitude of things to be working on. They will need to manage their time wisely, stay focused and organized. They also will need to collaborate with each other and our tech services department, as well as students and teachers that they may not know or necessarily have. They are treated as they an extension of our department. We have placed immediate trust in every student that works behind the desk, no matter what. Another decision that I think is imperative to the success of the students, and ultimately the Genius Bar.

Moreover, as a director, I have been more removed from the classroom than any other position I’ve had in education. My focus has become the adults, and I do enjoy this because I know that I can affect student learning by supporting their amazing teachers. However, an unexpected side-effect from working with the kids from the Genius Bar has been remembering how incredible it is to work directly with students again. One day, I was sitting in my office, and I could hear them laughing while they worked. I literally stopped what I was doing and just listened. Working with the Genius Bar students has kept me focused on why I do what I do. I might be supporting their learning, and I hope that I have awakened or support a love for technology in the students like I have, but they are reminding me every day why I keep going when things get difficult, and why I love being in this profession so much. They do so much more for me on a daily basis than I could ever do for them.

 

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growth mindset · innovation · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · professional development · reflections · relationships

Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat

If I could choose one of my goals in which I was guaranteed to make happen prior to leaving education, it would be to create leaders who are engaged in their profession, energized to create meaningful change, and are willing to spend more time outside their comfort zones. I want people to love their jobs. I want them to make the people around them love their jobs. Students are watching our EVERY MOVE. If we model our love for learning and education, the students will most likely follow suit.

To me, to support teacher leaders in reaching the level where they feel this way about their profession and working with kids would be the ultimate accomplishment. Ideally,maslows-hierarchy-of-needs every education professional should have the potential and motivation to do just this, but I honestly think that there is a hierarchy of needs that needs to be met to reach professional “actualization”. We often talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs when looking at students and why or why not they might be successful in their learning, but I think that when you look at adults and their professional lives, a similar case could be made.

So, for example, if a teacher struggles with belonging in their grade level team, how does that affect their ability to try something new or think innovatively? When you spend so much of your time outside your comfort level just by being with the people that you work closely with, are you willing to push outside your comfort zone in other areas?

Another example: if potential leaders don’t feel like their jobs are secure or they don’t feel safe in their jobs for various reasons, how much can we expect that they are willing to become engaged in their profession, energized to create meaningful change, and willing to spend more time outside their comfort zones? There are many reasons that teachers might not feel safe (physically, mentally, and emotionally) even though that might sound ridiculous at a school. I worked in a school where some students with behavior issues were becoming violent, and teachers and paraprofessionals were being bruised and injured by students on a regular basis. The anxiety of being injured by an angry student could affect the feeling of being safe, and I’m positive that this is not a specific incidence, but instead more commonplace than the public would even believe.

I’ve also been involved in situations where employees are nervous for their jobs for various reasons that might or might not have to truly do with their performance (political, cultural, budget cuts, errant leadership). If any employee doesn’t feel like their positions are safe, or they feel like they could be “fired” for trying something new, they will be less likely to rock the boat. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we want these leaders to do, whether they reside in administration roles or teacher roles. We WANT them rocking the boat, thinking innovatively, pushing others to do the same. Yet, if they don’t feel safe to try new ideas, don’t feel safe to fail because their jobs are on the line, they will be less likely to do these things.

Many issues that can stop a potential leader from moving forward and reaching a level of professionalism that would keep them fulfilled and provide them with opportunities to create real change reside within issues in the climate and culture of the district. Realistically, shifts in climate and culture need to happen in order to truly give everyone this chance, but while they are happening and everyone is shifting into the new normal, here’s my question:

How can you create much-needed change in a classroom or district when in order to stay safe you feel you need to maintain the status quo, but to create the change you need to rock the boat?

I’m not actually sure I have the answer to this. So many times I feel districts are wrapped up in every new initiative that they subscribe to, that they forget to go back to the basics. (climate, culture, mindset, effective leadership, embedded support). They forget that every teacher, like every student, has different needs and personalities, and in order to bring them up to being the professionals that they desire to be, we need to give them the support they need to not only function, but then excel as well. So, what can a professional do to move forward when their basic needs aren’t being met? Is there a way to recognize those needs and get them met even if the source is external? As a district administrator, how can I find these needs and support the staff to create the leaders that rock the boat? And how do I find and support the teachers who have been told to sit down so often, that they don’t remember what it’s like to stand up?

gates

innovation · Mandy Froehlich · reflections

Why do we need tech in schools?

When people find out what I do in my position, I often get asked why we need technology in schools. Yes, often I get asked this question. Sometimes it comes from a teacher, sometimes from a parent or community member, but they always want to know why there is a push to have students on devices for everything they do. My response, even as a tech person, actually, especially because I’m a tech person, is always:

  • I don’t believe that tech is appropriate in every teaching scenario, just as I don’t think there should be a specific time that tech is allowed to be used. Many times, the most innovative, dynamic lessons are a combination of tech, hands on building and creativity. Sometimes, there are activities where tech might be used very little, and if kids are learning, that’s okay, too.
  • It’s never about the technology, it’s how we use it. A digital worksheet is still a worksheet no matter how fancy you make it look. Technology allows us to reach out and learn about concepts in a deeper way than without it. It’s our responsibility to allow kids to think innovatively, and then give them the space to create and explore using what they’ve learned.
  • Kids are not uncomfortable with technology. Adults are. If we don’t teach them to be safe, use it appropriately and to build their own positive digital footprint, they will use it in any way they know how, which is probably in a way that is undesirable. If we haven’t taught them these skills, it is us who have failed them.
  • Among many other reasons, by denying the use of technology to students, we are not preparing them for a world that they will be living in.

Over the weekend, I read the article called Elon Musk Just Outlined How He’ll Merge The Human Brain and AI and this article about the same. The overall idea is that Elon Musk, along with other super smart, famous people like Stephen Hawking, think it’s possible that with the way AI is evolving, that we (the human race) won’t be able to keep up with the advancements. Musk has developed a company whose goal is to “develop a device (a brain-computer interface, to be exact) that could be implanted into the brain in order to augment (see: improve) human intelligence.” The chip, already being developed, “is meant to push our cognitive performance to a level that is comparable to that of AI.” The timeframe for use? Eight to ten years.

That is the world we are preparing our kids for. According to this article, this could be available prior to our kindergarteners graduating high school.

Again, let that sink in. That is the world we need to be preparing our kids for.

So, to me, the questions shouldn’t be about IF or WHY we are using technology with our students. The questions should be How can we best prepare our students for a world where they are submersed in technology? A world where technology is so ingrained in what they do that there is not a time distinguishable from when they aren’t using it to when they are?

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#IMMOOC · adjunct teaching · book study · innovation · Innovator's Mindset · Mandy Froehlich · reflections

Change is an Opportunity to Do Something Amazing…All Around #IMMOOC

I have taught and read the Innovator’s Mindset several times. I read it the first time for me, the second time for a book study for my school district’s Innovation Teams, a third time through the lens of a pre-service teacher when I assigned it to my University of WI – Oshkosh students, and now again for the #IMMOOC book study. I have reflected on it repeatedly, blogged about it quite a few times, and have had/participated in multiple book studies on it, recommended it to hundreds of people. In all these discussions, the quote that seems to resonate with the most people is always:
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It’s easy to apply this quote to education. Our world in EDU is constantly changing. New roles are created, new curriculum is adopted, new technologies are being introduced all the time. Our world is practically fluid, rarely do things stay the same. For some, these changes in education are expected and while not always embraced, they are at least accepted. For others, change is a difficult and stressful time. The quote resonates with people because it takes the constantly fluidity of education and puts a positive spin on it. We are perpetually changing, and with that change, you can either fight it or take it as an opportunity and run with it. In that case, it’s hard to imagine anyone not choosing to be amazing.
As another semester of my UWO students started and we were discussing the beginning of the book, and one student said, “I like this quote because I think it doesn’t only apply to education and our jobs, but applies to our whole lives. We are in college. We’ve experienced big changes in our lives when we came here, and we can choose to do something amazing with our experience.” I have been reflecting on what she said since that class, and it’s true. Students in college are expected to make big decisions that will affect their lives forever. I remember George telling a story in one of his keynotes about a student who said she was expected to go out and change the world when she left for college, but shortly before that she had to raise her hand to go to the bathroom when she was in high school. It’s a big change when you go from the constraints of high school to the openness of college, and the change is definitely a choice and an opportunity to do something amazing.
I’ve experienced this myself recently with taking my new position as Director of Innovation & Technology. And as much as I love my new position, there have absolutely been moments when I’ve felt like the amazing part of the change might not come, or “Who am I to think that I can do something amazing at all?”. Change in any form is hard, and to convince yourself to do something amazing with that change can be even harder. I think about friends who are going through tough times personally: job changes, divorce, financial trouble, and it’s possible that this quote might be able to be applied to all of that. In any of these cases, including in the classroom, the work related changes, the college student, the job change, the personal issues…the amazing part of the change is going to take some work.  It’s probably not going to be a lightbulb moment or some epiphany where you think, “Ahhhh…there’s the amazing!” but rather something that takes diligence and commitment, hard work and motivation, which can be the hardest to muster during difficult times. I think that remembering great quotes like these help us work through those changes in order to find the amazing, which brings me back to another one of my favorite quotes, and I think these two go hand-in-hand:
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growth mindset · innovation · reflections

Implementation of Innovation Teams

The 2015-2016 school year was my first year as a Technology Integrator. When I first began, both the position and I were new to the district. My understanding when I started was that some schools had “Tech Teams” and some didn’t, and even the ones that did couldn’t really tell me what the purpose was. Until I could get a handle on what was happening in the schools in regards to technology and innovation, I decided to hold off on beginning any kind of team.

This year, following in one of our high school’s footsteps, I decided to start teams that focused on personalized learning and different innovations, and I called our teams Innovation Teams. Currently, I am the Technology Integrator at three elementary schools, and each school has teachers and administrators that are a part of the team (one team, three schools). Teachers are on the team on a completely voluntary basis, and they are receiving no additional compensation of any kind for their extra work. Everything they do is to make themselves better for their students and profession, and I am super proud and humbled to be working with such a dedicated group of educators.

We began with a book study on what I knew to be a fantastic read in The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. I’ve read the book multiple times, as well as assigned it as a class textbook for my UWO class, and I strongly felt that the mindset that the book describes was exactly what I wanted my Innovation Teams to embrace. We are almost done with the book, and there have been many ahas and that’s-what-I-was-thinkings along the way. I think that the idea of being open to new experiences, the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset, discussing an innovator’s mindset versus growth mindset versus fixed mindset versus a false growth mindset has been eye opening and has set the teachers on a self-reflective journey prior to really digging in to what we wanted to accomplish.

Once the book study was underway, we also pulled up articles and research on Flexible Learning Spaces, how to create one, what to expect from students, and the benefits of implementing them. For me, I felt like Flexible Learning Spaces was a fantastic way to create teacher buy-in. Considering I was a former elementary teacher, I knew that I gravitated toward initiatives that I could both see and that would make a difference in my classroom immediately if not sooner. My thoughts were that studying and implementing Flexible Learning Spaces would hit both of these targets. In order to allow for the purchasing of flexible seating options, each principal in my three schools decided to pitch in some funds for purchasing, and each teacher put their classroom up on GoFundMe to get additional monies. There was a variety of success, but all Innovation Team teachers have made modifications to their classroom in various degrees. Some of the teachers who have made the biggest changes have plans to blog on their new classrooms and successes in our new collaborative blog: Teaching, Learning & Innovation.

As teachers began working on their classroom design and figuring out what works for their students, we also began looking at personalized learning and what it means for students to have voice and choice in their learning. We have decided to put pacing on the back-burner for now since set school schedules don’t allow for as many pacing options in elementary, not that we can’t get there eventually, but voice and choice are easier to implement within the elementary curriculum. Currently, we are implementing the practice of creating a rubric with standards and allowing for choice based on the rubric. Our goal is to create more authentic learning experiences for the students. We are working our way there.

In one school, we implemented our version of a student led edcamp, which we plan on doing again with some tweaks to make it more edcamp-like. We are also looking into Genius Hour and what that looks like in elementary. Each of the Innovation Team’s teachers have gravitated toward a different part of what we have studied, but they are all moving forward. What has happened is that we are ending up with teachers who have become “experts” in different areas and it will allow our team to be stronger as everyone brings something different to the table.

I knew when I began the Innovation Teams that there were pockets of innovation and elements of personalized learning already going on in classrooms. I by no means think that I have brought innovative thinking to these teachers, but rather have put them together in order for them to feed off from each other and grow. I just provide them the support they need to move forward and the resources that challenge their thinking. My hope is that once others see what these teachers have accomplished (and in a relatively short period of time!) there will be a shift in thinking and we will be working toward a culture of innovation where innovation and personalized learning aren’t the exception or a special occurrence, but happen everyday and will be known instead as simply learning.

innovation · reflections

SLedCamp (Student Led edCamps)

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to the idea of Student Led edCamps. Being a Public Relations Coordinator for edCamp Oshkosh and a total believer in the power of the learning that can happen through an edCamp, I was all for trying the idea out. All I needed were some test subjects teachers who would be willing to work through what it would look like when it was implemented. Lucky for me, three of my fifth grade teachers were up for the challenge.

Fortunately, most of us had been to an edCamp and knew how sessions were grown organically by the attendees of the conference. What we didn’t know was what it looked like when students took the helm, so I decided to research what others have done. I researched and researched and researched. I found blogs and articles on the benefits of Student Led edCamps and teachers who had implemented it and found it to be a wonderful way to empower kids and engage them in their learning. What I didn’t find were any resources on HOW to implement such a project. I wanted perimeters (if there were any), timelines, guidelines…but I couldn’t find any of that. So, we started from scratch, and my hope in posting this information would be to share what we did, what was successful, what failed, and what will be done differently next time.

Around this same time, I had just finished the book The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. He spoke about Identity Days at his school where students and staff were able to present on a topic that they were passionate about. In one chapter he says, “Allowing students to share their interests created an environment where they felt that their voices mattered and that what they cared about mattered as well.” I loved this idea, and at the first brainstorming meeting I suggested that we did a mashup of an Identity Day and a Student Led edCamp. These are the basics of what we ended up with on our planning doc:

  • Students could volunteer to lead a 20 minute session on a topic that they are passionate about. If they wanted one partner that was also passionate about the same topic, that was ok.
  • We wanted students to TRY to incorporate some sort of academic skill. For example, if a student decided to present on baking, they could also talk about fractions and how they relate to a recipe. More on this later…
  • I would offer (as the technology integrator) my services at some designated lunch recesses to assist the leaders with anything they needed as they planned such as presentation help (although presentations did not need to be done on technology – it was the choice of the student), connecting with experts in the field that they were passionate about, or planning out what they were going to say.
  • The majority of the planning and work for the SLedCamp would be done on the students’ own time either at home or when they were done with work in class.
We really had no idea if the kids would go for this or not. Even though they could talk about something that really interested them, they had to do all the work on their own time, and weren’t required to even participate and it wasn’t graded. I think that my three teachers were skeptical that the students would take something like this on.
Our next step was to get all the fifth graders together to show them a presentation showing them an example of a teacher edCamp and explaining what we were thinking. They were instantly excited and students began signing up to lead sessions. We began with 63 total students and, after a couple of changed minds, 38 asking to lead a session either individually or with a partner. 
We gave the students two weeks to get ready for their sessions. I met with them during recess several times to try to help them in any way I could. One issue we had was that there were not enough computers available for students to work, and some didn’t have computers at home to work. Our computer lab was reserved during many of the days that I had available to work with the students, so we did the best we could and the teachers tried to allow time in the computer lab.
Close to SLedCamp Day, we had all students choose the sessions that they wanted to attend. We were afraid that there would be some sessions that nobody would choose, and truthfully we weren’t sure what to do if that happened. Fortunately, it did not. This was our final schedule.
The day of SLedCamp really went well. We had very few behavior issues because students were engaged in the learning. One teacher stayed in each room with the students to supervise, but students watched the clock and transitioned without much prompting. They felt in control of their SLedCamp. The Leaders were amazing. Even students who would typically not get up and present were enthusiastic. Many students were absolutely natural teachers and it was obvious that some teaching strategies were modeled for them. For example, in a drawing session, I heard the leader say, “Everyone give me a thumbs up if you’re ready to move on!”

Segway Demonstration
Group Cheesecake Creating
Cupcake Selfie
He was so excited for the Drone session that he brought
his own iPad to record the presentation.

Overall, our first SLedCamp was a huge success. The students were excited about what they learned from their peers.
“It inspired me to want to learn more about technology.”
Upon reflecting upon the day ourselves, we found that the next time, we wouldn’t bother asking the students which session they wanted to go to and scheduling them out. I think that our worries were unfounded that some students wouldn’t have attendees. Also, the next time that we have SLedCamp, our sessions are going to be more academic and possibly we will try to embrace more of the true edCamp style where the sessions are grown organically from the participants. Only about half of the students included any kind of skill into their sessions, so that was a fail on our part for not making that more clear. For the first time, this time, the way we did it was great. We created buy-in and the students said that they would not have been comfortable presenting immediately without time to prepare. Regardless, it was an awesome experience for both us as teachers to see that side of the students and the students to be given the chance to show a part of themselves that they might not have otherwise shown.
I hope this post was helpful to anyone thinking of taking something like this on. If you have any questions, please let me know!

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