Math = Love: #edcampTULSA 2014 Reflection

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#edcampTULSA 2014 Reflection

Okay.  It's time to post about my first EdCamp experience.  Warning: lots of pictures below!

#edcampTULSA was hosted at the Jenks High School Math and Science Center.  This building is 3 years old, and it's amazing.  Do you see that dome on the third floor?  It's a planetarium!  I think there might have been more tweets about the planetarium during #edcampTULSA than anything else!  

Jenks Math & Science Center
After checking in at the registration table, I was directed to the third floor.

#EdCampTulsa Sign
Did I mention that this building is amazing?  When you walk in, you are greeted by giant multi-story math and science displays.

There are even constellations hanging from the ceiling!

I'm pretty sure that people probably thought I was crazy for taking this next picture, but I was super impressed with the trash and recycling bins.

Recycling Bins

On the third floor, I was greeted by donuts.  Lots and lots of donuts.

#edcamp Donuts

We were instructed to grab breakfast and mingle while waiting for everyone to arrive and check in.  Soon, the people who had attended an EdCamp before were asked to disperse around the room and start group conversations with those who had never attended.

There were posters to tell us newbies about the basics of EdCamp.  I present to you EdCamp 101:

EdCamp 101
And, EdCamp 201:

This was my first EdCamp.  And, my group just happened to be adopted by perhaps the most experienced EdCamper in the world, Toby Brown (@tbbrwn).  Seriously, #edcampTULSA was his 18.5th EdCamp.

Here's a picture of the group I was in:

Photo by Tammy G Parks
In our groups, we shared things we were interested in or wanted to know more about.  When it was my turn, I mentioned that I wanted to know more about how to effectively manage group work in my classroom.  Every year, I seem to start out the year with intentions of having students work together in groups.  And, every year, it goes great for the first few weeks.  Then, the honeymoon period ends, and I discover that I can't manage my students when they work in groups.  So, I move them back to rows and things go a little better.  But, I miss the amazing problem solving and helping one another that naturally happens in groups.  So, I try groups again.  And, as soon as I do, I remember why I did away with groups in the first place.

EdCamp is different from traditional professional development workshops in several ways.  First, the PD is not professional development.  It's passion development.  If the topic in the room is not something you're passionate about, you are expected to follow the rule of two feet.  Get up and walk out of the room.  Try a different room and a different conversation.  Keep moving until you find something that you are passionate about.  There are no presenters.  There are only facilitators.  One way EdCamp was described to me was "selfish PD."  You don't have to be an expert at something to facilitate a session on it.  You only have to want to know more about it.

After our groups broke apart, we were invited to fill out cards to agree to facilitate a session.  I am naturally an introvert.  I'm not the type to volunteer for things.  And, I'm slowly working on changing that.  I'm working on putting myself out there more.  Because I do have something valuable to share with the world.  I've led professional development for my district.  I did a Global Math Department Presentation.  This summer, I'm presenting at Twitter Math Camp and the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics Summer Conference.

And, last Saturday, I facilitated a session at #edcampTULSA.  Read that again.  I, Sarah Hagan, facilitated a session!  I still can't quite believe it myself.  When they were asking for volunteers to facilitate sessions, Toby came over to me and literally lifted up my hand to force me to volunteer myself.  As a result, I was given a card to write down what type of session I wanted to facilitate.  At first, I just smiled and tried to pretend that it hadn't happened. Then, I started wondering, "Why not?  Why shouldn't I step out of my comfort zone and facilitate a session?"

Maybe I was feeling inspired by the bottom of the EdCamp 201 sign?

So, I did something crazy.  I filled out the card, AND I actually turned it in.  I titled my session "Making Group Work Work."  Thanks Toby for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone.  It was totally worth it.  And, I'm pretty sure my EdCamp experience was 5 times better as a result of your encouragement.

My EdCamp Session!
All of the sessions that were submitted were posted on rolling boards and on a google spreadsheet.

EdCamp Session Board
EdCamp was the perfect opportunity to try out my latest piece of technology: a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet.  As someone who still doesn't own a smartphone, this has a definite learning curve.  But, I'm enjoying the learning process.  I loved being able to pull up the schedule on my tablet and keep up with the twitter feed throughout the day!

My New Technological Toy
For Session 1a, I attended a planetarium show.  I can't say enough awesome things about the Jenks Planetarium.  They use their planetarium to teach many different subjects other than the obvious astronomy.  The planetarium director showed us examples of how math teachers used the planetarium to find the area of various constellations with their students.  History teachers used the planetarium because it allowed them to show maps that match the curve of the earth.  This shows how far apart places truly are.  For example, I never quite realized just how far it was from Japan to Pearl Harbor until seeing the map on the planetarium screen.  I was probably most impressed by how art teachers used the planetarium.  Can you imagine seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel above you on the planetarium screen?  Talk about amazing!  I'd show you a picture I took myself, but let's just say I had yet to figure out the camera on my tablet at the time.  So, you'll have to put up with looking at someone else's tweet and photo.  Sorry!

My sister is an art education major, and I've already told her that we are going to have to go check out one of the full length art shows at the planetarium this summer!  Here's a link to the Tulsa World write-up of the show.  Though, based on this photo, my sister and I might not be the target audience.

After the planetarium show, I had a choice between Twitter 101 and an App Smackdown.  I've been on twitter for several years now, so I decided to forego Twitter 101.  I don't feel like I got much out of the App Smackdown, though.  That was probably a result of only just now getting a tablet.  When I see others talk about all the uses for tablets and especially ipads in their schools, I realize just how little technology we have at Drumright.  Maybe someday...

For session 2, I attended Sucks vs. Rocks.  I didn't quite know what this was, but none of the other sessions during this time seemed to be a good fit for me.  A topic would be written on the board.  One side of the room represented "rocks."  And, the other side of the room represented "sucks."  We had to physically move to the side of the room that represented our feelings on the subject.  Topics included homework, Common Core, computer labs, interactive whiteboards, student teachers, and internet filters.  Discussion was pretty heated.  I felt like a lot of my opinions were based on my specific teaching scenario.  My view of technology coming from a small, rural school looks a lot different than a teacher at a large, urban school.  It was kinda fun, but I'm not sure I walked away from the session knowing anything I didn't know before.  Actually, I take that back.  I did learn a lot of things.  I learned how I feel about homework, Common Core, computer labs, SMART Boards, etc.  You're probably thinking, "How did you not know how you feel about those already?!?"  Well, it's simple.  If you asked me how I felt about homework, I would probably ramble on about something about how it was good in some aspects and how I hated other parts of it.  But, there is a complete difference between a rambling response and saying "Homework rocks" or "Homework sucks."  No middle ground.  No rambling.  No justifying.  Rocks or sucks?  This session forced me to think about what I believe and why I believe it, and that's an awesome thing.

For session 3, I chose a session on building school culture.  In retrospect, this was not the right session for me.  And, I probably should have exercised my right to walk out and join a different session.  I was one of only two teachers in the room.  Everyone else in the room was an administrator.  And, I worked at the smallest district, by far, in the room.  The majority of our conversation focused on how to build a school culture in a large district. For example, how do you get your teachers to interact with teachers who do not teach the same subject or in the same hall?  This is not a problem at my school because we are so small.  When you have 2 math teachers, 2 science teachers, 2 history teachers, 2 English teachers, 1 FACS teacher, 1 agriculture teacher, 1 computer teacher, and 1 special ed teacher, you get to know each other quite well.  I can add in our principal, secretary, counselor, librarian, football coach, custodian, and two lunch ladies and still only have 20 people.  One thing I'm interested in is how can I help build a school culture when I am not in an administrative role in my school.  Should I take some of these ideas to my administration?  Or should I just try to carry them out on my own?

Session 4 was my session - Making Group Work Work.  I was a little terrified about leading my own session.  What if nobody shows up?  What if everybody exercises their right to walk out?  At the beginning of the session, there was me and about four people.  Not many at all.  Still, I started talking about why I had proposed this session.  I briefly mentioned my struggles with group work, and I asked the others in attendance for their suggestions.  Pretty soon, a good conversation got going.  People started sharing things they had tried that had worked and things that hadn't worked.  More people started coming in.  And, the conversation developed more and more.  We talked about different ways of grouping students, the importance of giving group-worthy tasks, cues to get students back on task, methods to keep everyone in the group accountable, etc.  @druinok shared about her red/yellow/green cup strategy, and that was a big hit!  I've even got red/yellow/green cups on my shopping list now.  It was a GREAT conversation.  I left with book recommendations, ideas to implement, and lots of thought-provoking comments.  Only two people exercised their right to walk out.  And, many more walked in and stayed!  So, that fear ended up being unrealized.

There was even a tweet about my session, so that was good!

I'm thankful that I did decide to take the plunge and propose my own session.  It's the session that I got the most out of because it's the session that I needed to be a part of.  Had I not proposed the session, it wouldn't have happened.  What if more teachers stepped up and said, "I need help with this topic.  Help me."?  How many things have I missed out on learning before because I was too afraid to step up and admit that I needed help?  That I didn't have everything figured out?

For Session 5, I attended a session on using brain breaks and play in the classroom.  Again, I didn't quite fit in with the other teachers in the classroom.  I was the only high school teacher in a room full of elementary school teachers.  Many of the ideas didn't apply to teaching teenagers, but I did find a few takeaways that made the session worth it.  I learned a new way to play spoons in class without making decks of cards.  I can't wait to try that out.  I'm inspired to come up with a list of appropriate brain breaks for the high school classroom.  I love the idea of giving out tickets for brain breaks as rewards.  Students can then cash in their ticket whenever they wish.

Here's a picture of the session on brain breaks.  I'm sitting in the first row.  :)

Photograph by Tammy G Parks

After the fifth session, we once again joined together as a group.  There was a video camera drone demonstration that was pretty cool!

Video Camera Drone
Door prizes were given.  Closing words were spoken.  And, I was a little sad for it to be over.  Thankfully, other edcamps have been planned in Oklahoma in the future.  And, I plan on inviting other people from my school to go with me next time.  It's time for me to share my new-found love for EdCamps with others!

I'm already getting excited for EdCampStilly!


  1. Sarah, Your edcamp experience sounds awesome! I've been reading a lot about edcamps lately and will be looking for one in my area. I would have taken a picture of the trash cans too.. math is everywhere and we are studying 3D shapes. :)
    Have a great weekend!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

    1. Now you've got me thinking about how to make the trashcans into a math problem. Maybe something to do with calculating the volume???

  2. I love your "try something out of your comfort zone" attitude. Inspiring. I'm excited to meet you at TMC

  3. Just signed up for EdCamp Stillwater...excited to meet you and learn from other teachers!