This past week I was blessed to attend the 2014 DENSI in Nashville TN. The best way to summarize this week was not life changing, rather career changing. It is very difficult to put into words the experience, because it was just that: an experience and it is impossible to explain the academic high you get by attending. Woven into the professional learning community relationships that were built was a wealth of training.
Here is a minute amount of what I learned this past week. (emphasis on minute!)
- Two GREAT keynote speakers that gave personal connections. I came to DENSI a bit under the weather emotionally. I was wondering if what I did really made a difference. Were the ‘pats on the back’ just that or am I really making a difference. Both keynote speakers confirmed what I do does matter. I really can’t sum them up, you just have to listen to them yourself.
- Photography apps and tips. I want students to understand the device in their hands is more than a texting tool and for playing games. At the 2012 DENSI we were given a challenge using our phones to produce a collage spelling MONTANA with ‘letters’ we found in the natural world around us. I transformed that challenge into a lesson. Last week, I was able to work with other educators to refine that lesson and include photography tips for student phones.
- Augmented reality. I currently use QR codes in my class for a variety of lessons and assessment. The new augmented reality apps have endless applications in presenting information, gallery walks and even preparing lab reports. I was able to partner with two other attendees and have already crafted several applications that will be tested soon.
- Discovery Education Techbook. To be honest, I have not been a fan of the techbook. It was taking too much time to find the lessons and information to apply to North Carolina essential standards. I was able to meet and discuss techbook with a developer and a manager of the program. In addition, I attended a session that helped me understand the layout and how to search for the lessons I needed for the classroom.
- Board builder. After meeting with several current users, I was able to set up a simple board and updated it several times during the DENSI. Board builder is a good way for students to submit lab reports, homework and other formative assessement.
- Geocaching. I enjoy geocaching and was asked to help teach others about this hobby. Daily I lead a walk to find a local geocache or two. I lead an unconference session how to use the phone app, set up a course at school and share lessons I have developed. I learned that at least three other participants have taken up the hobby on their return trips home and plan to incorporate in their school lesson.
I would recommend the DENSI to every single educator. First step: get involved in the DEN. Use the products. Attend the events. Read the blogs. Participate in the chats. Discuss on the facebook page. The DEN is more than a product we use. It is a PLC, a network to help and perhaps the most unusual aspect: a culture of dedicated educators wanting to help everyone.