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Let’s Talk About Attrition Rates at UnConferences

August 22, 2013


Attrition
I’ve been helping to run UnConferences since way back in 2009 when Liz Davis and I organized the inaugural EdubloggerCon East at BLC. I’ve since helped to organize that conference for three years, a TeachMeetNJ, EdCamp Common Core and two EdCamp Leaderships.

Running an unconference is not rocket science, but it is a commitment of time and effort. I’m happy to do it. I welcome the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. I’m even happy to go to vendors asking for money to pay for food and door prizes.

Here’s my concern:

Is 50% attrition acceptable?

Why do we accept only half of registrants on a free event showing up as a good turnout?

For planning purposes the organizing committee must plan for:

  • enough space
  • enough food
  • give-aways
  • sponsors

Honestly, the time and efforts donated by the organizers is the same whether it’s 200 people or 400, but I hate to see the wasted food, that could have fed some local hungry families. I hate to see the vendors spend the money on the wasted food when they could have donated equipment or supplies to a local classroom in need. I hate to see the organizers stress over how many people will ACTUALLY show up and whether there is enough space and food for them.

So, why do I bring this up now after four years of hosting these events? 

I have seen the attrition rates creeping up over the years. Back in 2009, almost everyone that registered for a free event would show as the concept was such a novelty. Over the next couple of years, we would plan for 30% of folks that had “bought” tickets not showing. Then, last summer I planned for 50% attrition. But, last Monday, for Edcamp Leadership, we had only 25% of registrants show. Believe me, we all had a fantastic day, but it was disappointing.

What’s the plan? Do organizing committees continue to guesstimate? Or do we establish some unwritten rules about only registering for something that you are committing to attend. Please share your thoughts.

Forming Communities of Practice

May 2, 2013

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I work with a great team here at the SGEI.  With the end of the academic year closing in on us, we have spent some time re-envisioning how we would like to address the Common Core. Since we view learning and teaching as a process of collaboration, creativity and sharing, our team has decided to form Common Core Communities of Practice.

These CoPs will focus on grassroots improvement of practice and provide a collaborative onsite/virtual workspace for teachers to connect instructional practices and inspire creative implementation, gain in-depth knowledge and take immediate action steps to enhance learning and teaching.

It’s all going to begin with a conference we have designed for August 8. The Kean Institute for the Common Core Statewide Teacher Conference will provide a professional learning experience designed for NJ teachers by NJ teachers. The day will start with a presentation by Lauren Marrocco, 2013 NJ State Teacher of the Year and continue with breakout sessions designed and facilitated by classroom practitioners. 

Please consider joining us not only for the conference on August 8, but for the Saturday morning CoP gatherings

20 Percent Time

January 9, 2013

20% TimeI’ve been feeling lately like there’s something new I would like to sink my teeth into. But how would I find the time and how would I pick just one thing? For a few years now, I’ve been talking about Google’s 20% time. I decided that I would do a little research as to how educators are implementing this time in their classrooms, so that I might possibly approach my administrator to implement this in my work week.

Just recently. I learned about Morgan’s Apps for Autism from her teacher Vicky Davis. Morgan Tweets links to apps that could potentially help autistic people. As part of the requirements for her project, Morgan outlined it here. In addition to Twitter, she uses Tumblr and Pinterest to share the resources that might influence the lives of people with autism.

Over the summer I learned about the organization that Rory Fundora’s daughter founded. Though not designed with the 20 percent time in mind, Rory’s daughter, Mallory, decided on her own that she wanted to to raise $600 to sponsor 2 children, one from Amazima and one from Project Have Hope. Mallory surpassed her goal and now manages countless resources to raise money in the name of Project Yesu to fund food, medicine and education to the children of Uganda.

So, where did the concept of 20 percent time come from? Back in 2006, one of Google’s Technical Solutions Engineers wrote about how the company was “enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren’t necessarily in our job descriptions. You can use the time to develop something new, or if you see something that’s broken, you can use the time to fix it.”

Many educators, since beginning to use Google Apps and other Google products, have adopted this concept into their classrooms.

Kevin Brookhouser, a High School English teacher in California, implemented this 20 percent time concept for his students. On his website, I teach. I think., Kevin outlines his rules and expectations and provides some project ideas for his students. You can read more about what Kevin has designed on his site.

Thomas Galvez, a psychology teacher at the American Community School in Abu Dubai, is implementing 20 percent time with some of his classes this year. Thomas has designed project guidelines (along with a rubric) to direct his students on how to appropriately use their time. At the end of the semester, students will submit a video demonstrating that they have met the objectives of the project. You can read more about Thomas’s project on his blog.

Pam Rickard, a science educator in California, provides time every Friday in her Make2Learn Lab for students to work on their 20 Percent Time projects. Pam outlines on her site the project rules and expectations and stresses that “Failure IS an option”. Pam shares student examples via video and recommends her students take a look at the following sites for inspiration.

A.J. Juliani, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, implemented the 20 percent concept with his 11th graders. Like the other educators I’ve mentioned, A.J. described his project objectives, but this time, there was no intent to grade them. Instead, he was looking for students to report their “accomplishments”. A.J. looked at accountability, standards and curriculum and required independent reading assignments related to the projects. You can read more about A.J.’s experience on his blog.

If you want to learn a little more about Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, watch their Ted Talk as the concept was inspired by their Montessori School experience. Would you believe that 50% of all Google’s products developed by 2009 originated from 20 percent time?

I need to give some serious thought as to how I would want to spend 20 percent of my time. I’m open to suggestions.

Untapped Apps on Google Drive

November 14, 2012

I presented for the Google Education on Air conference earlier today.  Here’s a link to the resources I shared: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1r8knG7JkGV8R-FTSbpeyj7IF92j5GJIhSGjDwtgCugU/edit

As I went to share it in this space, I found this post I had drafted in October before Hurricane Sandy hit NJ. I hope the additional suggestions are helpful.

Have you taken a look at what you can install in Google Drive? By installing these apps, you can access them easily in Google Docs. There are no additional username and passwords, the apps travel with your Google Account not your device and are simple to use. Let’s take a look at just a few. You can find them all in the Google Drive Apps section of the Chrome Web Store.

Pixlr Editor
This is an online image editor. If you are looking for a replacement for Picnik, this app contains lots of the features that you would like to see.  There is no registration required and Pixlr runs quickly.

HelloFax
HelloFax makes it easy to sign documents and send faxes online. You’ll never need to print, sign and scan documents again! Integrate Google Drive & HelloFax and you’ll be on your way to a paperless office. HelloFax has two primary features:

WeVideo
WeVideo is the world’s premier platform for collaborative video editing. This video editor enables you to create your own movies with simple drag-and-drop functionality and a timeline systemizing your edit. Effects, music, transitions and graphics can be added instantly – no need to wait for all that rendering any more!

GeoGebra
GeoGebra is free dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that joins geometry, algebra, graphing, and calculus in one easy-to-use package. Our desktop application from http://www.geogebra.org is used by millions of students and teachers around the world and has received several educational software awards in Europe and the USA.

Twisted Wave
TwistedWave is a full featured audio editor that allows you to edit audio files in your Google Drive. You can also use Twisted Wave to edit sounds off your computer. This app is similar to Audacity or Aviary.

RightSignature
Send contracts, forms, proposals, applications – any document you need signed – for legally-binding e-signature with a few clicks. Your customers fill out and sign documents online in any web browser, or even on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device.

FREE PD: Google Education On Air

November 13, 2012

If you are not already watching, you should be. These live webinars (using Google Hangouts) are top notch. Watch them live or watch the archive.

My last one is tomorrow at noon EST. It will be hosted from my Google+ page at https://plus.google.com/113091647598120328318/posts

Web Apps for Education (Diigo, EasyBib, Glogster, Pixlr Editor, Slide Rocket)
The education web apps available to everyone online is growing every day. We will take you through some of the most popular educational web apps: DiigoEasyBibGlogster EDUPixlr EditorSlide Rocket. And the best part is, they are all free.

Please contact me on Google+ or Twitter if you would like a spot in the Hangout. You are welcome to showcase an app that you like if you just let me know ahead of time. Hope to see you there!!

NY/NJ Mobile Learning Summit

September 30, 2012

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.

I looked back at my recent posts and realized that I am only posting about once a month. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that work and life is so busy. Lame excuse, right?  You’ve probably said the same thing at some point in time, so let me off the hook, just this once as life really has been hectic.

I’ve been working on many things since I moved over to the SGEI at Kean University 11 months ago. Here’s a few of them:

  1. Designed and launched a new SGEI website
  2. Contracted with new consultants so that we are now a Google Apps EDU Professional Learning Organization
  3. Worked with the SGEI staff to develop this amazing list of PD sessions for the 2012-2013 academic year
  4. Planned several large events at the University including the 2nd annual NY/NJ Google Apps Summit and the Mobile Learning Summit coming up this November (see below)

On November 2, school administrators, teachers and network specialists will gather at the STEM Building at Kean University for the inaugural Mobile Learning Summit

Presenting districts in New Jersey include:

    • West Morris Regional School District
    • Randolph Township School District
    • Parsippany-Troy Hills School District
    • Springfield Public Schools
    • West Orange Public Schools
    • Morris School District

Keynote Speaker,  Lisa Dawley, Ph.D., will be presenting “Creating a Successful Mobile Adoption in the Classroom and Beyond!” in the STEM Auditorium and then attendees will select sessions of their choosing including Mobile Devices for Formative Assessment and a panel presentation: Moving Towards a 1:1 – Policies, Procedures and Legal Landmines.

The Mobile Learning Summit is designed for the K-20 education community to discuss, learn and share best practices in regards to Mobile Learning. Visit the Summit website for more information and to register.
Seating is limited. (Please contact me with any questions.)

For Edcamp Newbies

August 10, 2012

Yesterday, with the support of SGEI and Kean University, where I work, I hosted edcamp Common Core. The idea was to gather NJ educators to discuss a common theme.

Here’s what I heard from attendees in the morning before we shared opening remarks in the auditorium:

  • Why weren’t the sessions posted ahead of time?
  • Where are the experts?
  • I did not come prepared to talk.
  • I just came to listen.
  • Don’t you have any handouts for us?
  • Am I going to learn anything?

I was nervous for a bit in the morning before the session board filled. Thank goodness Ann Oro did such a good job at settling the nerves of some of the attendees and even got some of them to post sessions.

Once we all got into the auditorium I went over some basic notes on the facility and then reviewed the concepts behind an unconference. I also went over the schedule with them so that they could see what types of discussions were going to occur and possibly even add an idea of their own on the way up to the first sessions.

I ended with these rules for the day:

  1. Listen. Everyone has something to contribute.
  2. Participate. You have something to add to the conversation.
  3. Think with your feet.
  4. Have a good time.

Here’s what I heard at the share-out at the end of the day and from e-mails sent to me that evening:

  • I wanted to take a moment to express my enjoyment at today’s sessions! The conversations throughout the day were healthy, respectful, and informative among the educators in the building, I look forward to future edCamp events.
  • Thanks for setting this up.  Best day this summer.
  • Again, the conference was great and got me thinking in a lot of new ways.
  • I’m becoming an edcamp junkie.
  • Thank you so very much for the opportunity to attend the edcamp today, It was my very first time and I must admit I was a little leery not knowing what it was really about. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. It was great to see, hear and discuss a common ground with other teachers.
  • I greatly enjoyed meeting teachers from other school districts to share our thoughts on different areas of education.  Thank you for setting up this unconference.
  • Would you please email me information on how to set up an edcamp in my school?

It’s not that I didn’t attempt to educate attendees on what the day would be like. It was all on the website that was linked to the Eventbrite. It’s just that the concept is still so new to so many people.

There are many, many more edcamps already scheduled. There’s even another in NJ on December 1. Please share our experiences from yesterday with your colleagues and future edcamp attendees.

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