USM Summer Spark: Deep Dive

As promised last week, this post is a more detailed look at USM Summer Spark.  So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Monday Keynote: Tom Murray, Learning Transformed - Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools Today.

This was such an awesome way to start the conference!  Tom Murray’s keynote was incredible in its relevance and inspiration. He spoke at length on the need to create innovative schools that incorporate technology, strong professional development, but also build a community and a culture.  The changes in our world that he used as examples were eye-opening. From robots that 3D printed houses in a day to address housing shortages in El Salvador, to the fact that the very Amazon packages we receive only interact with a person for less than a minute at the distribution centers.  Our world has changed, and will continue to change at a rapid pace, and our schools need to be innovative in order to help prepare our children for the world they will face. Check out the, admittedly mediocre, sketchnotes for more from his presentation.


Session 1: Top 10 Games for Any Classroom, Melissa Pilakowski

Another great session!  If you’ve never met Melissa or interacted with her on Twitter (@mpilakow), you are truly missing out.  FYI: She hosts #games4ed chats on Thursday nights on Twitter and is pretty regular on #xplap chats on Tuesday nights.  Melissa shared some of her favorite games and how she uses them in her classroom. There are so many ways we can incorporate our favorite board or card games into what we are doing everyday in order to engage our students.  My favorite from her presentation was probably Funemployed, a card game similar to Apples to Apples, but where each player has a set of traits/skills and are applying for a job. The players must make an argument as to why they would be the best candidate.  Isn’t that the perfect skill for argumentative writing? I found a comparable game at Target called Superfight that I am excited to incorporate into my class this year!

Session 2: Stay “Classy” with Google Classroom! - Andrew Fekete

A solid overview of the benefits of Google Classroom and how it can be incorporated in a way that looks a lot more like a traditional LMS.  There was a lot to go over here, and as a newbie to Google Classroom, it was a bit overwhelming. I’m excited about the idea of using it for the first time this year, and will likely be relying on Andrew’s slides and Alice Keeler’s books to help me get better at using it.

Sessions 3 & 4: Immersive Learning & Gamification - Michael Matera

To be honest, getting a chance to chat with Michael in person was one of the biggest reasons I came to Summer Spark, and his sessions did not disappoint.  There is so much to unpack from these two sessions that I will likely need a separate post for it, so I’ll just say that if you are on the fence or unsure about gamification, join in the #xplap chats on Tuesday nights, or better yet, buy Explore Like a Pirate and learn how it can change your teaching and up the engagement factor.  It was great to get a chance to build more on my game (more on that as the year goes on), so I was grateful I signed up for these sessions.

Tuesday Keynote - Sylvia Martinez, A Global Revolution Goes to School, The Maker Movement

Another great keynote about Maker Movement.  I’ve never been great at incorporating this into classroom, but I’ve watched my students use their creativity to design board games, crafts, and other ways of demonstrating their learning, simply by being provided with materials and given the freedom to explore their creativity.  I would highly encourage you to let go a little bit, and build structures in class that allow students to use their talents to demonstrate learning and fall in love with that iterative process that leads to real growth. Check out the sketchnotes for more on her presentation.

Session 1: Personalized Reading: Tech to Empower Critical Thinking & Digital Literacy, Michele Haiken

Really cool session about the variety of technology tools that can help our students become more critical readers who sift out information and then use it in their work.  Michele provided some great tools & tips, in particular ActivelyLearn, which a lot like NewsELA, offers some great leveled texts and topics to support a solid reading curriculum.  In addition, she highlighted some of the great options for diverse needs, such as Rewordify and ListenWise. Finally, she touched on the need for students to reflect on their reading and shared some of the tools available for that pupose, such as Seesaw and Flipgrid.

Sessions 2 & 4: Blogging IS Learning & Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth, Aaron Hogan

These two sessions were separated, but I decided to combine them since Aaron (@aaron_hogan) presented them both.  The sketchnotes on the Perfect Teacher Myth are included here, but I wanted to shout out his argument for blogging.  His presentation is what really inspired me to start this blog. He reminded us that we have a responsibility to share our learning, both successes and failures, so that others can learn from them.  In addition, don’t worry about whether the ideas you blog about are profound or not. They may be obvious to you, but revolutionary to someone else, and that can help spark change and wonderful things in the classroom.  I’ve enjoyed the ability to reflect and make it public for others to see, even if it can be a bit overwhelming.

Session 3: Has Anybody Seen My Pencil? Sketchnoting with Carrie Baughcum

This was so cool!  I’ve looked into sketchnoting and tried it a bit after reading Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook, but Carrie (@HeckAwesome) presented it in such a clear & concise way.  I was impressed with her idea of a “Learning Mascot”, a simple sketchnote students can draw on the side of their work to help encourage them to do their best. Sketchnoting is a wonderful tool for all our learners, not just the artists.  Even those of us who are #NotAnArtist can still use the simple shapes & fonts to help us visualize our learning and make great connections with content.

In summary, this was an amazing conference with an incredible group of educators.  I learned so much from this experience, and I am excited to get to return next year and learn even more!  If you get the chance, please go, and I’ll see you in Milwaukee next summer!

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out two of the key people involved in getting Summer Spark running, Pamela Nosbusch & Chuck Taft. Pamela is the Middle School Division Head at University School Milwaukee, and did an amazing job leading the conference.  Follow her on Twitter @PamelaNosbusch. Chuck Taft is the Social Studies department chair and American Studies teacher at USM & provided the introductions for our keynote speakers each day.  In addition, he set up and ran the trivia night (which my team won, BTW) on Monday evening. He has some great tips on building engagement with students and definitely worth a follow @Chucktaft.