I spent most of today at one of the Microsoft offices in Cambridge MA for the Boston EdCamp. EdCamp is an unconference about education. Not much (well really none) about computer science but a lot of teaching in general and using technology in specific. It’s always interesting to see/learn what others are doing with technology in education.
A few general observations before I talk about sessions I sat in. First off a lot of people have Twitter usernames on their badges. There is a of tweeting going on using the
#edcampbos hashtag. So even if you are not here you can see some of what is going on. If you are here you can see that some other session may be more interesting than the one you are in so you can move.
Another common thread in sessions is learning being fun. There is a lot of talk about how things are motivating and fun for students while they are learning. Seems like a win to me. Also teachers here are clearly all about learning and not grades. Principals are as well. Parents and students seem more interested in grades though. I hear that a lot.
I first went to a session on Voxer. The people using it seemed very excited about it but I can’t say I caught the bug. Anyone using it for sharing ideas about computer science?
From there I moved to a session on Augmented reality. I missed the beginning of that because of the Voxer session. Again a lot of enthusiasm for things like the Google cardboard and Google Expeditions but the reality of AR in education seems not to be there that much. But people are thinking about it, trying things out, and looking for ways to add depth to education though technology. I think maybe this will happen sometime. I don’t think we’re there yet.
Minecraft in education was next. I still don’t get it. Kids love it but what are they learning? Answers include a lot of soft skills such as teamwork, communication, problems solving and that sort of thing. It’s great that kids are enjoying themselves and that they are learning these soft skills. In general it feels like a solution in search of a problem. Or more specifically teachers are seeing something that students are highly motivated to use an looking for ways to connect it to the curriculum. Other than creating mods and introducing programming via Minecraft most “solutions” feel like a bit of a stretch to me.
A session on green screen video making seemed to be a lot more connected to curriculum than I expected. The important thing about using green screen is the work that leads up to it. The research that students have to to to write their scripts or collect their background images and videos is where the learning happens. Creating the movie is the incentive or an additional motivating factor is getting the students to do the work. The videos they create mean there is an audience of sorts and a lot of students really like that. I’m thinking about adding some green screen work to my unit on video editing in my explorations in CS course.
After lunch was a session on Genius Hour sometimes called 20% time after Google’s famous (and as much legend as reality) program for their employees to do things other than their main job but that they are passionate about. It In my classes I try to fit in as much “pick something you really care about” sort of thing in to projects already. Is that Genius Hour? Not really but I think it has some of the same benefits. One of the big issues with these Genius Hour programs is connecting them to the curriculum. An other common thread today. And one not always easy to answer.
Last session of the day for me was about student tech support programs. We’re starting one where I teach so that was a natural for me. A number of middle schools have student help desks which surprised me. At some schools Help Desk is a for credit course. For some in middle schools students give up recess time several times a week. In any case students are trained in the apps or other software that are used by teachers and students. Help desk students can do more than just help teachers with problems. They can help younger students learn apps (especially in elementary and middle schools), create teaching videos, blog about resources and generally get more involved in technology integrations. I see that as an exciting piece. It would be great if we got more of these programs going.
Overall a good day of learning for me. I love this unconference model. We need to do one with a specific computer science education some day.