Celebrating Teaching & Learning: Semi-Live Blogging #njpaecet2

Monday, September 21, 20154:06 PM


This weekend, I had the honor and pleasure of attending and presenting at NJ/PA ECET2 and had the thrill of learning with 238 of my closest friends (find a Twitter list here). There were so many highlights and moments of excitement for me this weekend, whether it was learning new things, being challenged about my perceptions, or re-thinking paradigms to make change in my district tomorrow. And while the learning was great, the connections and friends were even better.

In his opening remarks, Barry Saide, told us that the conference was about celebrating teachers, letting us being who we are, sharing our stories, and treating us well. Mission accomplished. The perk of this amazing weekend was that it was free: the conference, hotel, and meals. Instead of rushing home to beat the traffic at the end of the day, we were able to hang out, network, connect, and learn for the entire weekend, and it was awesome.

Barry also challenged us to “break Twitter” with the #njpaecet2 social media presence. And we might have come close. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a conference with this much passion and excitement, throughout every in person session and online.

Meeting new friends, connecting with online #PLN face to face, and hanging out with my great #EdJusticeLeague pals was amazing. Instead of naming names and describing the experience, I thought I’d let social media, with some hopefully brief commentary, speak for me. Without further ado…

My #NJPAECET2 Semi-Live Blog

My goal here was to keep this short and simple, and to include a favorite Tweet with one big idea from each session. Even as I write this, I know I have more to say than that. If this winds up as one of those too long, self-indulgent blog posts, I’ll be okay with that this time because the weekend was just so big that I have too much to say and need to get it out. Bear with me and enjoy.

Friday September 18

8:01 PM. I’m getting ready and come across the @edciteteam tweet, offering up a free t-shirt for taking an online quiz. How could I say no?

Taking the quiz put a smile on my face. Not only is Taylor Swift in question one, but here’s the correctly matched answers for question 2!

Did you earn your free shirt?



Saturday, September 19

5:10 AM. My alarm goes off. So tired.

5:35 AM. Shirt is tucked and tie is tied. Off I go to get to Dani’s, but…

6:20 AM. She is late.

6:45 AM. We make a wrong turn and travel down some sketchy side streets.

7:30 AM. Finally, we arrive! See friends! Eat breakfast! I love breakfast!


8 - 9 AM. Keynotes. 

Barry’s remarks set the tone for an intelligent and fun weekend of sharing and learning. Since I wrote about him earlier, I’ll touch on the awesome, standing-ovation worthy keynote from Principal Baruti Kafele.

He discussed the need for teachers to have passion, to reconsider their attitudes, to love their work and students, and to reflect on our own teaching and lives. Be purposeful and intentional in everything we do, teach students not subjects, and as he reminded us all, “climate and culture trumps everything. They keynote ran long and the audience encouraged it; he was real, passionate, and moving in his remarks. The question of an individual’s signature stays with me--who are you? What’s your brand?



9:30 AM. Presenting!
Chrissy and I presented on genius hour / 20 percent time / passion projects--pick the title of your choice. It was our first time presenting together and it was so cool to see the perspectives shift from elementary to high school. We had a great audience and an awesome discussion. We hope to do it again soon.



10:30 AM.
Learned about one district’s plans to gamify PD in Leveling up Edtech Learning with Michael Mitchell and Kevin Sochack. They shared their workflow and system for using badges for teacher PD, as a badge showing competence is better than seat time. Their process came back to the idea of continued growth, and I appreciated it.

11:30 AM.
This hour was perfect for me. This session focused on changing PD models, introducing an edcamp-style PD program for this school. I love, love, love this idea, and hope to bring it back to my district. Hearing about their journey and process gave me a lot of important insight about modifying edcamps for a school district. Rich Cyz and Kristen Ducker were really informative and helpful. They addressed issues like teacher interest, incentives, and convincing teachers that they have valuable things to share. The biggest PD issue, as they addressed, is often time, so they tried to figure out where they have time to use better.

And so ends Day 1’s planned sessions. If you want more detail, check out the collaborative notes Dani shared, which were used throughout the day. Also, check out her newly revamped blog at DaniKennis.com!


The Afternoon
From here on out, I’m going to jump around to some highlights--I’m a happy exhausted just from describing the experience. There was lunch, a speaker, colleague circles, and then my favorite part: he unconference afternoon.

The most exciting part of my day was trying out Google Expeditions and talking with Jonathan Rochelle, from the Google for Edu team. We talked about Expeditions, his work, #CoffeeEdu, #EdTechCalNYNJ, and more. Thanks, Steve Isaacs, for running the sessions and organizing the coffee! He offered to share the calendar (edtechcalnynj.com) on his site, which was very, very cool. This more relaxed tone, followed by the real #CoffeeEdu, was just what I needed. 


The evening was wonderful, too, filled with happy hour, a great dinner, and hanging out back at the hotel. It was so, so, so great hanging out with my friends and not rushing home at the end of the day. Making new friends, connecting with my expanded #PLN, and witnessing some Chris Nesi karaoke was the perfect end to the night.


1 AM. Bed time.


Sunday, September 20

6:30 AM.
As all good mornings start, it begins with pancakes. We went out for a pre-breakfast breakfast to have a little quiet bonding time before the day got started, and pancakes are my favorite food of all time.

And now, I lost track of time. I tried to take notes throughout the weekend but exhaustion, excitement, and a sense of so much to do took over, so my notes stop here. Among other things, I enjoyed learning about #MTPSPride and Middletown School’s journey to get connected. This was really inspiring, and relevant to my practice right now.


I also had a blast discussing the digital divide and being thrown under the bus while playing devil’s advocate in Talia Arbit’s session. It was a lot of fun with some great big ideas to end the day. Plus, we learned that if you leave your Mac Airplay on public, don’t be surprised if there’s an #airplayhack from the #HouseofEdTech, Chris Nesi. Right, Ross?


The Big Picture

On a personal level, it was amazing to hang out with Dani, Chris, Stacey, Chrissy, Talia, and other friends. It was fantastic to see a #PLN come alive, and to meet dozens of people that I’ve connected with online and often admired, and make real connections and friendships. As a conference attendee, the sessions were generally real, productive, and filled with great discussions and activities. I loved how many of them asked participants to do something and contribute. As a professional, it was truly inspiring and validating to feel supported, reinvigorated, and proud of my work--and all of our work--as educators.




Thank you to anyone I learned from or hung out with this weekend, and a special thanks to the #NJPAECET2 steering committee, who did a fantastic job planning a huge weekend. Well done, and thank you for the opportunity.

Now, a day later, I need to go rest my brain...

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