Sunday, January 12, 2014

Holly Mueller Shares her nErDcamp BC Experience

Today we are reblogging a partial post from teacher/blogger extraordinaire Holly Mueller. Here Holly shares the experience of attending her first nErDcamp in Battle Creek Michigan. We would like to thank Holly for allowing us to reblog her post.  You can view the post in its entirety at her wonderful blog: Reading, Teaching, Learning. 

I'm not sure where to start recapping such an amazing experience!  It was definitely difficult to know where to start when explaining nErDcamp to friends and family beforehand.  I even tried to recruit a couple of friends/colleagues to come with me who didn't know much about the Nerdy Book Club.  I ended up going by myself, which is quite a bit outside my comfort zone, I must say.  However, I knew I HAD to go.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the teachers, writers, readers, and learners of the online community of Nerdy Book Club, various blogs, Goodreads, and Twitter have revolutionized my teaching life.  It's such a positive and passionate community, and I wanted to meet many of them in person.  I had a five-hour drive (which turned into about six since I drove through terrible storms and tornado warnings) to get there and even had a Twitter conversation the night before about what audio book to play for the trip.  I decided on Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan after some enthusiastic recommendations of it .  I'm so glad I did!  It's laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly poignant.

When I finally arrived at Holiday Inn Battle Creek, I started to get really excited, and to be honest, a little nervous since I didn't really know anyone in person!

Well, I needn't have worried.  As soon as I got to Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, a mere 15 minutes or so from the hotel, I was greeted warmly and enthusiastically by a table full of Nerdies!

The energy there was palpable.  I instantly felt comfortable and welcome!  I left a little earlier than everyone because I was EXHAUSTED, but found I couldn't sleep at all.  I tweeted that out Thursday morning, and Sherry Gick accurately tweeted:

Regardless of the lack of sleep,  I headed to Lakeview High School!

I giddily picked out my swag bag (the contents of which are revealed below):

Then I found a table of new friends!! 

nErDcamp began with Colby Sharp explaining the process we were going to use for learning that day, modeled after Edcamp, which in its words is "an organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide."  I had never been to one before, so I wasn't sure how it would go.  Colby put up a screen of empty sessions and started the process.  We started talking at our tables, brainstorming things we'd like to share, discuss, and/or learn.  When someone came up with an idea, he/she wrote the title (Donalyn Miller helped Tenille from Texas come up with a catchy title and subtitle) on a card, announced it in the microphone, and Alaina Sharp typed it into the Google Doc.  Magically, the sessions started filling up! 

In the morning, I attended two sessions - one on Evernote, led by Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, andAlaina Sharp and one on Motivating Reading and Writing Through Technology, led by Susanne Gibbs and Donalyn Miller.  I learned a TON at both of those sessions.  Look at this powerhouse trio!  I admire these ladies so much!  Donalyn Miller, Katherine Sokolowski, and Franki Sibberson:

Apparently, the Nerdy Book Club founders have never had a picture together!  What pioneers they are (I loved hearing about how Nerdy Book Club was "born" from Donalyn at the brewery Wed. night) - Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, and Cindy Minnich:

In the afternoon, I got a little braver and came up with an idea to lead my own session on book clubs.  First, I went to a session on Sister Classrooms, led by Brain Wyzlic and Jillian Heise.  I loved their idea and texted my friend and collaborator, Megan Ginther (who would have loved to have attended, but was taking Ohio Writing Project) that we needed to be sister classrooms in the fall!  Then I led my own session at the end of the day on book clubs.  I shared my experiences with leading Mock Newbery and Caldecott clubs and parent/student book clubs, and the attenders shared their ideas.  Colby's students were there, and I loved talking with them about books!  They were so full of enthusiasm for reading!  You could tell who their 4th grade teacher was. ;-)  I shared with them that I was reading The Water Castle because they were convinced that one of the session rooms was haunted! 

After the last session, we looked forward to the giveaway.  Look at all those books!  Unfortunately, I didn't win any. :-(

That evening, some of us headed over to Clara's on the Lake, and I had one last PD - Alaina and Colby taught me how to use the Vine video app! 

Alaina and Louise Borden:

I fell into bed that night and had NO trouble sleeping.  But it wasn't over yet!  I tweeted Colby to ask if there were any independent bookstores I should hit before heading home, and he suggestedBookbug in Kalamazoo.  Louise Borden, Janet Frost, and I made plans to meet for breakfast at the hotel and shop at the bookstore.  What fun we had!!

I think my favorite thing about the Edcamp model is that everyone is equal.  As much as I love going to other conferences, usually I am the learner and I am going to see gurus teach me things.  At this conference, we were all learning and teaching beside each other.  I loved that.  If you would to see all the notes taken at each session, you can find them here:

I'm already looking forward to next year!.  Thank you SO much to all the planners of Nerdcamp.  I know it was hard work, but we appreciate it so much!

Until next year...

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