Monday, April 25, 2016

The Best From #BaconBytes

By Dina O’Brien 

I am a Math Specialist from Edison, NJ, and I love attending EdCamps and connecting with other educators. I was very excited to come to #BaconBytes for a day of technology and learning in Millville, NJ. I have never been to this part of the state, so it made the trip more exciting. The hardest decision was choosing which sessions to attend, but they said, “Make today memorable for you,” and that I did! The day started with a powerful keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Dillon.

Dr. Robert Dillon’s Keynote: “Think Different, Not More”

We should notice the beauty of play. This was one of many ideas that Dr. Dillon brought up to start off his keynote. One of the best things my district took part in was Global Play Day. The unstructured play lends itself to 21st century learning. The beauty of making should also be noticed, but not just in one space, but as a part of our classrooms every day. As with technology, this can’t be reserved for just the privileged; it should be for all students. And most importantly, Dr. Dillon stressed that it can’t just be when it’s convenient for adults.

Unpacking the stories of your students can open many doors. As he was speaking, I was thinking about some pictures I saw awhile back of letters to teachers that started, “I wish my teacher knew…” The teachers really connected with the students from these messages. It is also important for the students to hear your stories as well. Kids can never have too many adults in their life.

We also have to notice the gaps. Students need experiences throughout their day. I think we all laughed when he said, “Students won’t remember their favorite standardized test they took, but they will remember an experience they had.” It is so true. Help students to focus on our digital present while preparing for our digital future; embrace the change, reach out to others, and as Dr. Dillon said, “Think Different, Not More.”

Around the World in 180 Days

Many students are not able to travel to and experience places around them, let alone in different parts of the world. Around the World in 180 days is bringing the learning TO kids by using such sites as Google Tour Builder, Google Hangouts and Tour Builder uses pictures, notes and Google maps to see places you can’t go. A great place to start is with a project you want to share or someone wants to share with you. Brian Costello, who led the session, is a 1st and 2nd teacher whose students want to read to other classes around the world. If you are interested, reach out to him. Sometimes it can start with a simple question to your students, “Who would they like to talk with?”

The part about EdCamps that I love the most is the sharing. An educator from Stafford Twp. shared about Level Up Village (which I never heard of)--They deliver STEAM enrichment courses that promote design thinking & 1-to-1 collaboration between students around the world.

Incorporating Student Choice & Communication Tools to Increase Engagement

As a Math Specialist, I was excited for this session and wanted ways to connect it to Math. Joshua Zagorski started and ended the session with a survey, which I liked because I felt he was tailoring the session to our needs. He used to create a link shortcut to the survey, and it seemed so simple for students to use the link as well, because the link is very easy to remember ( and a short word after it).

Below, find some of the great tools he shared:

  • The Coherence Map for Math found at is another resource worth checking out. When you click on a grade level, it tells you the major clusters, shows why you are teaching that standard, some examples of tasks to address that topic, and where it goes or came from for different grade levels.
  • One of my favorite sites that I use is for mathematical conversation. This site gives 4 numbers and students have discussions about which one doesn’t belong. There is no right answer. Joshua also shared Steve Wyborney’s site for impostor numbers.
  • I also became hooked on Tile Pile. If you are close to my age (graduated high school in 1990) this reminded me of Tetris. What caught my attention was that it is more than that. It took me through the section of floor, then how much would I need for a whole room, etc. Check it out, along with more activities, but don’t blame me if you get hooked.

Idea Street: Empowering Students and Staff Towards Innovation

Session 3 had a special connection for me. Hearing Glenn Robbins share about Idea Street and empowering students and teachers made me think of the great things going on where I work in Edison.

We discussed how space and classroom design impacts learning, which made me think about a colleague’s classroom transformation. Grade 5 teacher Stacy Konar at Lindeneau School has had her students planning and designing her room the entire year. They have created proposals and invited the Elementary Assistant Superintendent, principal, and facility manager into the classroom to share these ideas. Their most recent project is a new closet. Lindeneau School Principal Sara Bright also shared about the Lego Wall that was becoming popular with her students and teachers.

Another great takeaway was the idea of shadowing a student for a day. Ask yourself: could you succeed in the student’s shoes for 6 ½ hours every day? This made me think of John Adams Middle School Principal Joan Valentine, who recently shadowed a student for a day. She blogged about it here.

I liked that Glenn connected classroom management to classroom engagement. One of my best a-ha moments came when he referred to the hallway as “Idea Street” and the classroom as “Studio.” At the end of the session, a great question came up: What comes first? Redesigning the classroom and then changing the mindset or changing the mindset and then redesigning the classroom? I think it depends on the teacher, but isn’t it a win-win?

The Unconference Afternoon

The afternoon of #BaconBytes was an Edcamp style unconference. My first session was with Spike Cook and Ross Cooper, focusing on educator and student blogging. What better session to join, since I was already planning my blog post for #BaconBytes. One thing that stood out for me was the question that can be posed to students, “Why publish for a teacher when you can publish for the world?” Many different ways students can blog were brought up, such as Kidblog and Seesaw. As an educator, I was excited to learn about and being able to share blogs with ASCD. I had never heard of Flipboard and Feedly, so I will definitely check them out. Another great blog is Go check it out--I find something new each time I visit.

My second session was Virtual Reality: A Hook with Stephanie Perretta, where I was able to visit the Pyramids of Egypt with Google Cardboard. Wow! What an experience and the possibilities are endless for students. We used Nearpod to explore virtual field trips; students can visit an art museum, go back in time in history, and so much more. With this engagement, I felt like this session brought the day full circle back to Dr. Dillon’s keynote.

For More Learning . . .

At the start of this post, I mentioned how much I love the sharing part of EdCamps. It’s impossible to get to every session, but I was able to hear about some of the other great sessions that also took place at #BaconBytes. Click here to see the day’s Tweets and find more of the learning. I hope you can use these resources to realize Dr. Dillon’s words: “think different, not more.”

Dina is an elementary Math Specialist and Instructional Coach in the Edison, NJ school district. She has worked at the elementary level in Edison for 19 years. She is a NJ Ambassador for #TheEduCal, @Buncee, and @TenMarks. She has recently had a blog published for TenMarks about meeting the needs of students in Math. She also blogs about her work and teaching at Dina would love to connect with other educators on Twitter.


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