Saturday, July 11, 2015

What I Discovered at #nErDcampMI

I just made it back from motorcycling my way to and from #nErDcampMI.  Actually, to be clear, my husband did all the motorcycling I just sat back and enjoyed the sights.  On our adventure we found Michigan does some things really well:  beverages (Let's hear it for Biggby Coffee!  Send one to Ohio!), green (Michigan is so beautifully green.  There seem to be so many more trees in Michigan.), coasts (We drove up and down the Michigan Lake coast which was absolutely beautiful.  The lake water appears clean and the cities that dot the coast are worth a visit.) and hospitality (As we went from city to city we always found someone willing to tell us great places to visit and share the love of their state.)

This was the third year for #nErDcampMI.  I was able to attend the first one, but then last year had a calendar conflict.  It was so hard to watch the tweets and be somewhere else; so this year I made absolutely sure my calendar stayed open.  Of course, nErDcamp did not disappoint.  The kickoff of Nerd Talks was well worth being on time.  Ruth Ayres, Pernille Ripp, Donalyn Miller and Susan Haney started us off.  All four helped to get the crowd motivated.  I knew as I listened I had made the right decision to be sure I didn't miss the event this year.  All four speakers shared important messages about standing behind literacy learners.

Hilliard Teachers:  Julie Keefer,
Deb Frazier and myself at #nErDcamp.
Amy Smedley and Lauren Davis
were also in the house.  :o)
The first day the camp hosts sessions more typical to the types professional development we are accustomed to in our experience.  These sessions were planned and led by educators.  The second day is more Edcamp style as a board is created by participants and everyone chooses what they'd like to attend.  Sessions on this day are not planned (usually), and the entire group owns the conversation.

There's no way to articulate the power of being in a place with so many educators passionate about reading, literacy, and the work they do with children.  There's an unmistakable energy that just runs through the crowd.  Colby Sharp, Alaina Sharp, Suzanne Gibbs, Niki Barnes, Jen Vincent, and a whole nerdy crew do an A-MAZ-ING job of keeping this together AND making everyone feel at home.

Here are a few of my takeaways:
Build Reading Relationships:  Sue Haney shared ways she builds reading relationships as the principal in her school.  Students come to her office to check out books.  She reads to a grade level every other week.  This not only gives her time to enjoy reading aloud with students, but teachers are able to meet to plan.  She works to find real authors to connect with kids.  She also helps to organize high school athletes who come in to read to students.  These relationships are maintained across the summer as students can come to check out books at the school.  

Be Intentional:  Franki Sibberson shared some of her thinking about digital literacy and supporting readers in her reading workshop.  She shared some of the ways digital tools/text make new things possible for young learners.  She talked about being intentional in digital text selections, digital tool selections, and the teaching mentors we choose when planning our work with students.  This intentionality will then transfer to the work students are doing daily.  

Learn Their Stories:  Ruth Ayres shared a beautiful analogy of all the baggage young literacy learners can bring into the classroom making it hard for them to write (and read).  This baggage becomes something that keeps them from learning and makes it hard for us to see deep inside to know who they really are and how to best support their learning.  It makes it hard to know their stories.  She talked about the little things we can do to help students feel safe (choice, compromise, listening, etc.) and celebrated in our classrooms so we can learn their stories to better support them.

Find New Ways into Books:  Marisa Saelzler led a large group that turned out to discuss the possibilities for maker spaces.  Resources were shared and new ideas considered.  Not only to maker spaces encourage ownership and creativity, but I see them as a way to bring different types of learners back to books.  (Resources and notes are here.  You'll want to check them out.)

Let Them Lead:  A large group turned out to talk about EdCamps for students.  We discussed why edcamps might be important, ways to get them organized, how to monitor their success, and benefits for students.  I'm really thinking about the idea of students holding an EdCamp for parents.  It's seem like the perfect way to get parents to come to school to see what students are learning.  

All sessions have notes that are linked to our main schedule document.  Check them out!  Mark your calendars for next year...


  1. Cathy,
    I have just recently discovered nErDcamp and am really looking forward to the possibility of going next year. One of my friends went this year and LOVED it! Of course, I didn't know she went until after she got back. Thank you for sharing what you got from it so that I could learn more about this awesome opportunity!

  2. Thanks for sharing your learning. It sounds amazing!! I MUST go next year. :)

  3. Cathy,
    I think this says it all~
    There's no way to articulate the power of being in a place with so many educators passionate about reading, literacy, and the work they do with children. There's an unmistakable energy that just runs through the crowd.
    The energy generated here will keep me charged well into the year!
    LOVE the way you showcased the tweets in Storify!
    Thanks for taking your time to capture this experience and putting it all into words for us all to absorb!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your discoveries! It helped me feel like i was there! Made some notes from your post! Love the photo of you and your hubby! What a trip you had!

  5. Oh my goodness! I love the tweets in Storify! Wow!