What A Wonderful edcampCT

Published by J. Gregory McVerry on

A review of the edCampCT sessions I attended

Every August we descend on the Ethel Walker School for the potato chips, I mean #edcamp CT. The 9th annual gathering just took place as part of a nationwide movement of teachers owning their professional development. No vendors, no speakers, no agendas. Just learning.

Digital Citizenship and Misinformation

Representative of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill joined us. That was pretty cool. They want to roll out a campaign about misinformation in time for next year's municipal election. They were seeking ideas for what is and could be done in K12 schools.

Overall I believe k12 students are the wrong target for a municipal or even presidential election year campaign on misinformation. Need to target 50+ users. The evidence is clear the majority of misinformation goes viral among older adults. The evidence is clear. Buy facebook ads but also rely on a print media campaign. Get the stuff out to where older voters gather.

Consider a "Delete facebook campaign" all misinformation comes from seven web properties. facebook owns four of them. The easiest way to fight misinformation is to discourage the use of anything facebook owns.

Ideas for the K12 classroom

The majority felt a k12 campaign would be better focused on YouTube and videos. This immediately lead to a rabbit hole of deep fakes...Those aren't a concern in my opinion and especially not for k12 students. Someone said should students learn to make deep fakes which I of course supported. We have taught students to make hoax websites to understand how audiences interpret markers of credibility. Video would be no different.

k12 students need to understand how targeting advertisement works in general. Majority of my #highered students think their phones listen to them and that is the only way Instagram ads can be so good. This would be beneficial training for teachers. There was major confusion between artificial intelligence, machine learning, and algorithms

The state could offer a free PD and learning opportunity for teachers. I organized and ran the #QuestionTheWebMOOC and could remix that for misinformation in elections and run the program again.

We need people to know the truth about misinformation and harassment campaigns. Advertise the fact that our voting systems were consistently attacked but thwarted by our office. Stress that we use paper ballot backups. Host panels of female state senators and representastives. They have war stories of hate and harassment on facebook that must be shared. So much happens in private small town groups. We need these stories told across the state.

We need to empower the students. Many teachers expressed concern over a have a school system where text books and teachers are the truth, and we are asking students to now question the truth. We discussed how teach questioning and inquiry skills in general. Participants spoke of new standards but teachers pretty much brushed off the idea of reform through standards. Some Hartford Public School alumni noted that the text book is a survival tool for teacher. How do you do inquiry in a class of 38?

One idea I suggested was small mini-grants student councils could use to develop their own misinformation campaigns. These could be $250 per school. If you averaged one per district that would cost under $50,000. The students could vote on and develop the applications. We put too much focus on college and career ready. Let's get back to making sure students are also community. This may improve the timeline. Initiatives from the state to the schools often get lost in steady habits of minutiae.

I of course made the pitch of giving every student a Domain and a bit of server space through the schools or local libraries. This would not be too expensive for the state in the grand scope of budgets. Especially if the program gets drawn from the Secretary of State as well as the CSDE. Could be a good private/public opportunity. This to me is the best thing we can do to fight misinformation. People don't seem to want to leave as much grafitti on their own doorstep and treat what they own with more respect. Further I believe you will never know how truth is shaped until you shape your own.

esports and stem

I enjoyed the session Mike Young, a former professor and current friend of mine ran on esports. Many of the teachers were excited to start but did not know where to begin. We reviewed the current state and the explosion of esports and talked about high school and UCONN teams. the Ethel Walker School started the first all female team at the high school level.

We discussed the tools and the role of streaming and chat rooms like Discord. We discussed the learning going on. We did speak to the problems in video game communities. Mike discussed how language is tough. If you are playing a character that should be evil shouldn't you use evil language. If you character is from a historical time of misogyny is it wrong to reflect this language in game play. I flat out said yes. We may have been saving the Princess since Perseus and Andromeda, that plays a role, but there is never a need for racist, homophobic, or misogynistic language. "But I am in character" is a worse excuse than, "I was following orders."

We discussed strategies for getting started. I suggested doing Nintendo Swtich leagues in schools. Nobody had any idea the cost of a good gaming rig and the network requirements. We also wondered if the Terms of Service of tools like Discord would meet CT's strict student data policies.

We also made some connections to STEM discussing vieo editing, modding, writing documentation, DevOps and SecOps that could all be taught through esports.

My Url is

This was a session I proposed and ran. I went up against the resilience as a teacher which turned out to be the most popular session (that should scare us that we all need this much help to survive the classroom. We broke something fundamental in public education). Still it was great. I was able to pilot my Build Your First Website lesson. We began with an icebreaker where everyone drew their profile on a sticky note.I then took those and drew some HTML tags on the side and said that is all you need to make a website.

We discussed the pros and cons of using Google Sitess. the general consensus is the tool is horrible for teaching but fine if you want students simply to showcase learning. Everyone did not like the new version and felt it took even more power away from the learner. We discussed how easy it when websites are written in HTML

We then brainstormed different ways to use website building in every class. I wish I had more time we would have played tag tag revolution.

  • Character Analysis in English as you blog about a character.
  • Making tutorials and reflections in math rather than study guides
  • Time lines or controversial issues in social studies
  • Data collection, field observations, and general inquiry tools in science
  • Travel guides and tutorial videos in world language. Someone shared idea os a MST300 where students watch clips in one language but discuss in another

We then started on the tutorial. I could not get the projector working so I walked around the room. I need to make the instructions clearer on how to open up the tutorial and the sample project at the same time. I then let people loose. I get such a rush when people change the avatar picture. It happens every time. When a learner puts their image online using code they wrote there is such a feeling of accomplishments. In fact one particpants thanks for learning how to change colors with CSS put me over the top in the Great Greg V Paul Flame Wars of edcampCT 2019.

We finished by discussing how teachers can continue to grow by attending or even starting a local group for IndieWeb meet ups. I shared the work we are doing with the Elm City webmakers and how that is transitioning to serve a youth audience. We decided we are going to get some IndieWeb meet ups and running in the Hartford area for teachers. The educators from outside Boston wanted something up their way. I said I would be happy help them get one up and running or try connecting to others in the area with interest.

Get meta: How can we extend #edcampct year round

I ran a final session of the day focused on extending the edcamp vibe year round. This started because Paul Bogush noted on Twitter how the edCampCT pre conference chatter did not exist. We also know our numbers have trended downward ever since the peak in 2015 of 130. We love what we built here in Connecticut and want to sustain the effort

We began by first discussing what we valued about edCamp when teachers across the state are heading back to school usually beginning the year with "useless PD" We had new administrators who wanted to stress teachers as experts rather than paying over priced honorariums for authors who long left the classroom.

Next the group moved on to why engagement online was lower. Sarah then walked in to join the session. We discussed how we felt edu twitter itself is not as active. We also discussed how when edCamp began all the sessions were tech. Everything was "Battle of the Apps." Now over half the session at edCampCT had nothing to do with technology. We agreed that is a good thing but could also be why we see less signals in social media.

Sarah brought up how she is just sick of the "Hustler Aesthetic" in the edtech blogosphere. She thinks it is major reason she stopped blogging. Everything became "5 top apps, how to be "pirates, gladiators, and rock stars"...It seems everyone is designing their sites and writing to promote themselves rather than reflect on teaching. We joked about signals of authority. In fact if you see the avatar picture of someone in a blazer, arms crossed and head tilted 15 degrees, just walk away..actually run...nobody should try to look like stock photo. We discussed how the rise of edu celebrity and ISTE promote the "hustler aesthetic." Of course no discussion on bogging would be complete without lamenting the demise of Google Reader...stupid Google.

We also discussed how "forced unconferences" never work. Someone shared the idea of maybe offering remote or physical PD days on common professional development days like election day or during February. We can see if school administrators will count this in growth plans.

The group developed an awesome action plan:

  • Sarah said we should encourage the hashtag use year round. Greg offered to host twitter chats based on the 2019 schedule and in fact the first chat is scheduled. Just visit the link and leave a comment (or post an RSVP from your website) if you want to come.
  • People wanted help on blogging. We decided we will do some meet up events in Hartford. This will be an affinity space for teacher bloggers and co-branded as #edcampCT and #IndieWeb. Please stay tuned for details
  • Sarah is going to blog more. Share reflection and dreams of one day teaching in orphanages.
  • Greg is going to get access to the WordPress site and try to set up webmentions. He is also going to add an RSS Planet and a edcampCT web ring. We can create and sustain our own network of teachers.

Overall #edcampCT was a resounding success. Like I always I spent my days listening and learning. We have such a dedicated group of teachers involved. I would say, "See you next year," but we have big plans for see you soon.