Monday, June 17, 2013

unWorkshop 2013: Engaging & Informative

Around 30 professionals attended Corona-Norco's first-ever unWorkshop, a unique grassroots professional development event. While most professional development opportunities are "top down" (offered by the district office and then teachers are financially compensated to attend) unWorkshop was different.

Some professional educators find additional ways to hone their craft above and beyond the district's offerings by participating in social networks like Twitter using hashtags like #edtech, Facebook groups, Pinterest, and reading blogs about educational technology in their own free time. Although much can be gained through interactions with other educators via online social media, one problem is that this kind of virtual learning lacks the face-to-face social element.

unWorkshop Corona-Norco gave attendees the opportunity to meet face to face with other like-minded educators in their own district. These educators freely exchanged ideas, collaborated, and shared best practices. The event, hosted at Home Gardens Academy on Saturday, June 15 from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm was completely voluntary and free to attend. Although attendees were not paid, they did receive a free continental breakfast, catered lunch, and the chance to win some cool door prizes, thanks to corporate sponsorship.

The agenda was organic. 

The attendees' first task was to generate an agenda. To accomplish this, they wrote down topics they wanted to talk about, along with their name, on a blank poster with the understanding that if they wrote down a topic, they would also need to facilitate that discussion. Attendees would then browse the posters and put a check mark next to topics they were most interested in discussing. Finally, discussion locations were assigned based on popularity. For example, the Multi-use room was used for the most popular topics while other less popular topics were discussed in nearby classrooms.

There were a total of three rotations (9:30; 10:30 & 1:00 PM) with a grand total of 12 discussion topics from which attendees were able to choose. 

The topics the group came up with were:

-Using class websites, Edmodo, and other technologies to improve parent communication
-Making a social network / hub for CNUSD teachers for technology
-What are some "best practices" to provide a soothing environment for students with ADD or ADHD?
-How can you create a team that will support innovations?
-What are some ways to use technology to facilitate learning?
-Common core & technology
-What can be done in the classroom with one iPad or a class cart of 34?
-How do you manage technology in the classroom?
-Promoting literacy
-Building student involvement through technology programs at all grade levels
-Outside the hardware, how do we get the sites we want to work and fix the problems?
-How does STRS + 403(b) + Roth IRA = a comfortable retirement?

Once finalized, the agenda was posted online on our website, displayed on the screen in the Multi, and also a hardcopy poster was made and displayed in the Multi. Although it would seem as if attendees could only attend a maximum of three discussions, if they chose to "vote with their feet" (as they were encouraged to do) they could attend even more. Attendees were actually encouraged to "get up and leave" if they felt they were not "engaged" or contributing to the conversation.

Our sponsors were OnPoint Classroom and Horace Mann Insurance.

OnPoint Classroom is one of our district's technology vendors. The owner, Kevin Mulligan, made himself available to show several attendees the latest hardware and software tools available today. One classroom was designated as the "tech room" where Kevin set up and demonstrated several technology tools that teachers could try in a hands-on manner.

Horace Mann Insurance, donated breakfast and lunch, and some really cool door prizes. Some winners walked away with gift cards while two lucky teachers each won a new Kindle eBook reader.

After lunch, there was an "open mic" time set aside for teachers to come up to the front, plug in their mobile device, and share their favorite learning app or tool. 

The following apps and educational websites were shared and demoed during "open mic":

-Dropbox - free/paid - virtual hard drive
-Evernote - free/paid - save your ideas, things you like and see, access anywhere, find info fast - student response system with educational games for students with smartphones, laptops, and tablets - fun, interactive game
-Stick Pick - chooses names of students, tied to Bloom's and CELDT levels ($2.99) iOS and Android
-Google Voice - free - one number, voicemail transcription, sms to email, more...
-Remind 101 - free - a safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents
-Slydial - 267-759-3425 - to leave a voicemail to someone without their phone ringing
-Repost for Instagram - Free - Makes it easy to #Repost your favorite photos on Instagram.

Here's what some attendees said about our first-ever unWorkshop:

This was a great opportunity to collaborate with other educators that truly want the best for their students. I learned a lot of very accessible technologies that I can use to support my students' learning.
-Brie Brown

Acquired so many free or almost free internet resources to engage students with technology. Enlightened educators shared thoughts and concerns that led to stimulating educational conversations.

Today's workshop was awesome! Our group discussions were all applicable to my classroom. I got lots of cool resources; time to start planning for the school year!
Carrie Knox
-7th grade, Ramirez Intermediate

I came today because after teaching for 24 years, and being to so MANY workshops, I was ready for something new and different. I am so pleasantly surprised that it was something different. I wish all of my teaching workshops were this informative! I met so many new people and learned so many different things that I can implement in my classroom. I wish I was going back to school tomorrow!
-Cari Mueller

Thank you so much for organizing a very informative workshop. It was great to het to know so many creative and knowledgable colleagues in our district. Learning new apps was one of my favorite sessions. I will definitely apply this new information I learned in my own classroom! Thank you!

The unWorkshop was a great way to learn about technology from the experts…the teachers who use it! Being able to choose what we wanted to learn about or discuss was very empowering. I can't wait for next year!
-Teri Sanchez

Very informative. Was nice to be able to share with other professionals about concerns. Technology being used and best practices within the educational field. Great job!! Thank you for including me!!

So informative. I had a fabulous time today. I never went to a workshop that had no agenda, and turned out to be more organized than other trainings I've attended. 
-Thi Duong
5th grade, Garretson Elementary

It was amazing to be able to collaborate with peers from around the district to help unite us. This has helped to grow my professional network of teachers to reach out to. This helped fill the need of like-minded teachers being able to meet and exchange tech ideas. Since we all did this voluntarily, it shows what a need there was.
-Michael Grothem

The unWorkshop was a great opportunity to collaborate with other teachers and professionals about technology and its use in multiple aspects of education. The shared apps, software, management tools, and wonderful ideas I walked away with will be taken back to my site and shared with colleagues.
-P. Kwiatkowski
Ramirez Intermediate

This was such a wonderful collaboration tool. What better way to learn about what works for teachers than from other teachers. I learned that there is a great interest in the use of technology in the classroom and that there are several simple ways to effectively use it in the classroom at different grade levels!
-Eva Perez
Substitute teacher

I enjoyed coming to this event. I got a lot of good ideas to use in my classroom in the future. There are son many new technologies available that no one can know them all! Having this collaboration with other teachers is very useful.
-Eric Soule

One of the most awesome aspects of the unWorkshop was meeting other educators that were similarly interested in discussing many of the topics I expressed concern in or had inquiries about. I loved how we created the day's agenda through collective group choices.

It was wonderful to see what happened when a group of professionals could come together, create their own agenda, and move forward on that agenda. Also, that so many people share the same frustrations and concerns, but are willing to share ideas for solutions.
-K. Zook

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