EdCamp Ocala was another exciting adventure, bringing together teachers, librarians, technologists and administrators to learn and grow together. I honestly do not think it is possible to gather on an off day (Saturday), not getting paid, on your own free will and not learn something from someone else. While some ideas shared were like a review of learning, others were ideas shared that were motivating for me, so much so that I could not wait to become immersed in it with my students. So I am sharing just two of the big ideas taken away from today's EdCamp experience.
Why is STEAM so important in education today? The arts seem to be getting lost in translation more and more. Yet we wonder why the ability to be social and interact with others is lost? The arts is a great way to put students in social situations causing them to have to work together to solve problems and even build tolerance, celebration and teamwork.
One idea conveyed in the session on STEAM was the use of visual representation, whether through artwork or video for students to convey their understanding of learned content. This type of activity definitely goes a lot farther than a simple worksheet, not to mention that it may be wasted paper. Even allowing students to record audio as a means of solidifying their knowledge (podcasting is an example, shared in next session).
Another idea (shared by Kristin Harrington) in the session was the EPALS Smithsonian “Invent It Challenge.” This opportunity is for students from ages five through 21, and is less contest driven, but more in line with allowing students the space to create. They walk through the engineering process of:
1) Think it
2) Explore It
3) Sketch it
4) Create it
5) Try it
6) Tweak It
7) Sell It
and can gain a patent for their creation. What a great way to engage students in the arts as well as make learning fun.
Problem-based learning within STEAM is also another way to get students engage in the creation process (whether visual arts, fine arts or performing arts) as well as promote teamwork, cooperation, problem-solving, critical thinking and even resourcefulness. For example, I mentioned a problem-based learning exercise of my own creation that easily connects to a unit of learning about Native Americans, called “Build it or Bedlam.”
I have also used tableaus where students are tasked to use themselves to visually represent ideas from a lesson or literature. I have shared some pictures here. Students work to form a house using only their bodies. For additional challenge, students all had to be at different levels, which was another piece of the learning process, as we talked about how a level 1 was different from a level 5 and a level 10.
Podcasting is an idea that I have recently gotten into and of course my students are very excited about. We started our first one, with an idea from Sean Farnum aka MagicPantsJones titled "One Word for 2017," which may have been something the student wanted to focus on, or otherwise a word that the student found relevant for 2017. Students wrote a paragraph at most to express their word and reason for choosing it, and perhaps an anecdote that they wanted to share. I am excited to say that students are just so honest at times. I cannot wait to finalize the podcast and share it. I learned more from the educators in the room at EdCamp Ocala, including topic ideas and how each of them might approach podcasting in the classroom and its various uses. We talked about Audacity and Podomatic as platforms that are useful as well.
This information was passed along to me by a theater teacher within the session. He talked a lot about improvisation and getting the students up and moving, as well as understanding how to visually represent ideas and even better understanding characters, for example, when you have to put yourself in another's shoes. All in all, for Ocala's first Edcamp, it was a great opportunity to connect with other educators and spend time with many educators already known, as well as meet in person those that you have interacted with on Twitter.