Tag Archives: unconference

TechTuesdays with parents


This year’s theme at The School at Columbia University is Community. In the past, themes have centered around Numeracy, Literacy, Innovation, and other key topics. In the spirit of community, I asked my Head of School, Amani Reed, if I could launch a monthly program where parents could drop-in during breakfast from 8:00-9:00am for an informal hour of conversation.

My goal is for parents (and any available teachers) to reinforce a common language and common goals between parents, students, and teachers. I hope parents bring questions and talking points to the table like an  unconference where the topic is not set in stone or scheduled but rather flows organically based on the interest of the group. I anticipated that attendees would ask about how to access The School’s photo archive, video archive, class websites or how to connect with the various Google calendars we use (Athletic, Family, Faculty, and grade-specific calendars).

The parents who gathered at the first meeting in January used the time to ask about spyware and propose a more rigorous K-8 computer science curriculum. Thankfully, Amani Reed (Head of School) and Don Buckley (Director of Innovation) were present to address these conversation threads. They also requested weekly sessions with topics assigned to each session. Though I was initially more than willing to accommodate these requests, after discussing this with various administrators and the other technology integrators, I decided to stick to my original plan of hosting an informal monthly gathering.

I was really pleased with the second gathering we just had on Tuesday. From my perspective, the people who came brought good questions about public/private, parental controls, which tools to use to support curricular goals at home, how to open links from teacher emails, and how to navigate the various technology tools/programs embraced by The School in the various grades. We talked about SnapChat, Facebook, Common Sense Media, how everything one puts online is public/permanent/traceable, how there is no such thing as privacy online, how various grades use technology to communicate with students, how to limit web access (check browser history, put devices in public places, change modem’s password, etc.), and a bunch of other stuff.  Katy Gartside (@KatyGartside), 5th Grade teacher, shared her class site and the various resources linked from it.

I also shared links to the following articles:

Snapchat Founders Sued by Classmate Who Claims They Took His Idea

It’s Official: Teens Are Bored With Facebook

Currently, I’m looking forward to next month’s meeting…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Create Your Own Un-Conference” by Jennifer Demski via @THE_Journal


I was really honored and excited to talk with Jennifer Demski a few months ago about my involvement with EdCampNYC. While attending the first EdCampPhilly in May 2010, I was immediately inspired to throw one in New York City at my school, The School at Columbia University. I am a huge proponent of unconferences, professional development, and sharing free resources, so the EdCamp movement is something I am particularly passionate about.

Read the full article here: http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/06/20/create-your-own-unconference.aspx?m=1

EdCamp is a grassroots movement of do-it-yourself professional development “un-conferences” that originated in Philadelphia in November 2010. In just a year and a half the phenomenon has gained serious momentum across the country and now around the globe.

This teacher-driven, bottom-up approach to professional development has reinvigorated educators’ passions for learning by creating an environment that, according to participants, rewards their curiosity, allows them to explore their passions, and values their experience and knowledge.

T.H.E. Journal Contributing Editor Jennifer Demski recently talked with four EdCamp participants to find out how social media and web 2.0 tools have fanned the flames of this movement and why teachers are so eager for a professional development experience that they themselves create.

Kristen Swanson is an adjunct professor at DeSales University and was the technology director of Springfield Township School District in Oreland, PA, when she cofounded the first EdCamp in Philadelphia in November 2010 with Dan Callahan, K-5 technology specialist at Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA. Callahan also is the organizer of EdCamp Boston and president of the EdCamp Foundation. Bill Selak, organizer of EdCamp OCLA (Orange and Los Angeles counties, CA), teaches music to elementary school students in the Covina-Valley Unified School District in Covina, CA, and educational technology to college students at Azusa Pacific University. Finally, Karen Blumberg, organizer of EdCamp NYC, is the technology specialist at The School at Columbia University, an independent K-8 school in New York City.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Getting EducaTED: Teaching With Ideas Worth Spreading

I’m at EdCampPhilly today, and I am in awe of the free and enthusiastic collaboration, learning, networking, and empowerment going on around me. As an unconference, the schedule is blank from the get-go. Participants are responsible for adding sessions to the board, with the intention of facilitating a conversation rather than lecturing at a given time/space.

After last year’s first EdCampPhilly (the inaugural EdCamp!), I was inspired to be part of a team to organize EdCampNYC. Since then, the map of EdCamps has grown impressively and internationally!

This morning, I offered Getting EducaTED: Teaching With Ideas Worth Spreading. I shared a recent experience teaching Data Visualization to 7th grade math students last week. We began the mini-unit by watching a Hans Rosling TED Talk about HIV data and then explored Gapminder World. (I wrote about it in my last post.) I’ve since appreciated that you can use Gapminder to teach Science, Statistics, Math, Social Studies, etc.

I also mentioned a few other TED Talks I’ve shown students:

Emily Pilloton’s Teaching Design for Change
Chimamanda Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story
John Hardy’s My Green School Dream
Anthony Atala’s Printing a Human Kidney

In the session, other participants shared useful ideas, sites, links:

Sadly, I was a little verklempt at standing at the front of a large auditorium, being slightly sleep deprived, and fearing for humanity on Judgment Day, so I didn’t take tons of notes at the session. However, Meenoo Rami (@mrami2) started a GoogleDoc for participants to add inspiring TEDTalks that would be awesome to use in a classroom. Access Meenoo’s shared document here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ONu43EPlV-gjWsG65eCQfyDcVX6iG8ugdSXZdqPyc04/mobilebasic?authkey=CJW0rtsM&pli=1&hl=en_US

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized