Educators as Rock Stars

By Cathy Collins

Up until this week, the closest I’d ever come to rock star status was extremely peripherally, as the teenage girlfriend of the drummer in a popular rock band in the Gulf Coast, Florida hometown where I spent my junior and senior high school years.

This somewhat dubious honor included sharing the passenger seat of his 80s model Plymouth Champ with drums, cymbals, speakers and related sound equipment, after having assisted in the process of loading said equipment while simultaneously fighting off various brightly made up, leather-clad  “groupies.” Phew! So glad those days are over!

Rock Star Teacher Camp has been way more fun! The MassCUE PD Committee brought the Camp to Boston to support Massachusetts educators, but it turns out teachers came from all over the country. We even had two teachers from the Bahamas join us! Jon Corippo from CUE  (the ISTE state affiliate for California) conceived the idea of Rock Star Camp in order to provide a low-cost, fun way for intensive teacher training.

All CUE Rock Star camps are purposely designed and focused as small group events that have three items in common: hands-on learning; small presenter to attendee ratios and ample time for valuable collaboration and networking.  All three days consist of two, two-hour sessions allowing attendees to “dig in deep” and really get to know their topic and build resources.  Morning sessions are repeated in the afternoon so that attendees have two different opportunities to attend a workshop. All sessions start later in the morning, end early, and offer extended lunches so that all attendees have ample opportunities to collaborate and network as part of a learning community.  CUE Rock Star events feature one presenter for every ten attendees and a cap on attendee registration at approximately 70 participants. This allows participants to get hands-on support and learn directly from knowledgeable educators.

I’ve enjoyed a low-key, productive week with awesome, “rock star” educators who have passed along their knowledge and passion in three important and timely topic areas. Day one’s sessions focused on Microsoft, Google and Apple. Day two’s sessions focused on STEAM. Day three’s sessions focused on innovative pedagogies.

The Camp emphasis was on getting educators directly involved in their own learning. The attendees are truly the “rock stars” who contribute to the high-energy buzz the camps produce. The three days focus on bringing out the best for all in attendance and inspiring a new crop of educational tech leaders to step up to the plate and share. This “teachers training teachers” model is ideal in that it reaches teachers at their individual comfort and knowledge levels and coaches them for success. Peers help peers at a relaxed pace that is especially suited to summertime learning.

I was pleased to see many fellow librarians and instructional technology specialists in the crowd, along with classroom teachers from a diverse range of subject areas and grade levels. The camps are designed for educators to take instruction to the next level through learning about the latest and best technological tools and their practical applications.

Those of us involved in the planning of professional development activities would do well to look to the CUE Rock Star model for inspiration. I was pleased with the sessions I chose, ranging from “Are you a Final Cut Pro?” to “Explore Your Wild Side” (STEAM-related curriculum); and “Present Like a Rock Star.” Each session provided innovative ideas along with practical strategies and tips for effective integration and implementation.

Presentation topics were introduced during “shred” preview teaser sessions held for 30 minutes at the beginning of each day.  Presenters pitch their focus areas to the crowd in a lively, fun-filled and good-natured spirit of competitiveness. Though some might feel intimidated by this format, I applaud the way it challenges educators to embrace their topics as they passionately share their areas of interest and expertise with the audience. After all, isn’t this what we should and must aspire to do as educators each day with our students?

I am fired up to begin the new school year with the energy and flair of a David Lee Roth or Madonna and the innovative mindset and expertise of a rock star educator.

Cathy Collins

Cathy Collins

About the Author: Ms. Collins has worked as a Media Specialist/Librarian for 14 years in locales ranging from California to Kathmandu, Nepal. She currently works as Librarian/Media Specialist at Sharon High School in Sharon, Massachusetts. She serves on the Executive Boards of both the Massachusetts Library System and MassCUE (Massachusetts Computer Using Educators). She earned National Board Certification as a Library/Media Teacher in 2009 and is the 2014 recipient of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Award. Her writing contributions include a chapter featured in the recently published ISTE book, “Literacy in the Digital Age,” Library Media Connection (“Survival Tactics for the Warrior Librarian,”) NEA and other education-related blog posts and journals. She served as a project consultant for the learning layer of the multi-media e-book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes from the Digital Age of Journalism.”

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