Sunday, March 30, 2014


Yesterday I attended my first decamp and I absolutely fell in LOVE with the edcamp UNconference model. The mood was relaxed, everyone dressed pretty casual and breakfast was served (thank you Starbucks, DD and Harris Teeter)! Then Joan Le, gave us the edcamp rules and told us that per 75% of the educators in the room were newbies which made me feel even more relaxed. There was a table of colorful stickies and markers. You put ANYTHING education on the sticky, the focus is not always technology and then a board is created. Like stickies are grouped together and sessions are created… no presentations, just a group of teachers. You don't have to be an expert to lead a session just willing to start a discussion or ask a question. 

I decided to share about Mystery Skype and we had an awesome discussion. I love that everyone has their tech out and is tweeting, taking notes, Googling, etc. We made some great connections during each session and it was awesome to spend the day with likeminded educators who willingly gave up their Saturday to attend a professional development. 

One of the edcamp rules is that you "vote with your feet" and are free to come and go from session to session. No one gets offended because there aren't any presenters, just educators brought together to share their expertise, learn from others, ask questions, connect, and grow professionally. 

During the Smack Down everyone got to share a tool or thought but of course no one wanted to go first. I  borrowed this pic from Twitter but I don't think Mr. Lands will mind:)! 

I had an awesome day but one of the best parts was that I won a CHROME BOOK! ! ! I never WIN anything and I am so excited to play with my new toy. Thank you AlchemyLearning and edcampARL!

The edcampARL team did an outstanding job pulling the day together! I had such an amazing day and completely fell in love with the edcamp model. I am attending #edcampDCMetro next weekend in Bethesda, MD and cannot wait! I am also a little obsessed with the idea of planning my own edcamp with a team. I was up far past my bedtime researching and connecting with other edcamp organizers! #iamanerd #whenwillisleep #bemoreawesome

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I cannot say enough about the power of Twitter! I love learning from other educators and sharing my expertise. #edchats are an awesome way to expand your PLN and I have made some amazing connections with likeminded educators. Twitter has exposed me to some amazing ideas, resources and opportunities!

I may have became a little obsessed with Twtiter back in January before FETC 2014 and could've probably won an award for the most #fetc tweets i.e. biggest nerd. Let's just say that Jennifer Womble, the event organizer KNEW my Twitter handle when I arrived in sunny Florida and introduced myself. 

Anyways, I "met" Tara L. on Twitter right before I left for FETC, we connected over a #fetc tweet and I was able to actually meet her in person at the conference. This was my first time meeting a "Tweep" and I have to admit it was a little awkward BUT she was so sweet and we had a great conversation! During our brief meeting she invited me to check out EdCamp Arlington and later tweeted me the information at me.

I had never heard of edcamp but was eager to learn more. I became fascinated and registered as soon as I got home from FETC! As usual I began researching and finding out everything I could about edcamp. THIS is where I always began. You gotta LOVE Google and all the places you can go.

The first thing I learned is that edcamp is an UNconference! There are no proposals or presentations. No brochures or vendors trying to sell you a program! Edcamps are organized by educators FOR educators. They are participant driven professional development conferences. Sessions are decided upon the morning of the event by participant suggestions. Talk about teacher empowerment and meaningful professional development.

I am MOST looking forward to connecting with other educators, sharing experiences, expertise, ideas, and resources. I learned A LOT at FETC and was honored to be able to present and share but my biggest takeaways this year were the connections that I made with people either face to face or on Twitter. I learned so much in our unstructured time just talking to other educators and that is exactly the focus of edcamp! I can't wait to attend on Saturday. Have you ever attended an edcamp? What advice would you give to a #newbie?! Is there an edcamp in YOUR area? 


Check out our Mystery Locaction thinglink. Thinglink is a free Web 2.0 tool that allows you to make an image interactive by adding different touch points (using Chrome)! The touch points can be linked to text, YouTube videos, websites, etc. Thinglink is user-friendly and really easy to use! AFTER I made this I realized I should've used a regular US Map because we are coloring the map as we go and this one will stay as is! What do you think about thinglink? How could you use it in your classroom?

Mystery Location

I became intrigued with Mystery Skype about a month ago when I saw the hashtag in my newsfeed on Twitter. I started doing some research and fell in love! I found a lot of awesome resources on Twitter and other tech blogs that I follow and it didn't take long before I was obsessed. 

Mystery Skype which we had to change to Mystery Location because Skype and Google Hangouts are blocked by our district is a great way to connect with other classes around the United States and even the world to practice geography skills. We use our video conferencing program called Webx to travel to different states in the US. 

I've made most of my Mystery Location connections through Twitter and have really seen the power of a PLN come to life. Planning is definitely a big part of getting Mystery Location off of the ground. I've kept everything organized in a Google Drive table that is beautifully color coded.  I also did 3 lessons before our first call to introduce Mystery Location, to come up with questions and to facilitate a practice session.

The 5th grade social studies curriculum in Virginia is entirely geography! They spend all year learning the regions of the US, each state, capital, and everything in between. I knew Mystery Location would be an amazing real world application to put our geography skills to the test! 

Essentially Mystery Location is a big game of Guess Who but rather than trying to figure out a person we are trying to figure out a mystery location by asking yes/no questions! Our goal is to figure out their state and sometimes we even go down to the city! Everyone has a job and is fully engaged throughout the call. 

We begin the call with Greeters who introduce our class and welcome the guest class. Then we play Rock, Paper, Scissors with the other class to see who gets to ask the first question. The Inquirers are responsible for asking questions and we created a list of questions in Google Drive that they use to go from (i.e. Does you start border another country? Does your state border the Atlantic Ocean? Is your state in the X time zone? Is your state in the X region? etc.) The State Experts are responsible for answering the questions that the other class asks of our state! The Data Collectors are responsible for keeping track the clues and the questions that we ask of the other class using Google Forms. This information goes to the Think Tank. The Think Tank is responsible for using the clues to try to narrow down their location and suggestion questions to the Inquirers. The Runners get information from one group to another because we need to keep the class pretty quiet so we can hear what is going on. There are Map Trackers and Geographers who are in charge of narrowing down the location using wall maps and Google Maps/Earth. The back channelers chat with the guest class on TodaysMeet to help with clues. After the greeter finishes their introduction they are in charge of writing the clues on chart paper. We also have photographers, videographers and reporters to be sure we capture the whole event! The closers finish up the call by thanking the other class and sharing some facts about our school and state. We also like to ask questions about the other school and state! 

So far we have connected with 11 different classes in 8 states and we have over 35 Mystery Location calls scheduled in 29 of the 50 states :)! We've had so much fun, learned a TON already, and hope to hit all 50 states before the end of the year!

In addition to an awesome way to practice geography skills we've also integrated writing on our Weebly Mystery Location blog and I am going to come up with some integrated math lessons including measurement, elapsed time, etc.
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