Getting the Most Out of MassCUE Winter Camp: Featuring Google Apps for Education (or any conference for that matter.)

By Jonathan Schmid

We’re looking forward to this year’s Google-themed February break workshop, MassCUE Winter Camp. Building off of last year’s Googlepalooza, we were struck with the overwhelming response by educators excited to take a day from their February break to dive into using Google Apps for Education to enhance and transform teaching and learning.

Spending a day at a workshop is an investment – how do you ensure the day is a success?  How do you maximize your experience at Winter Camp, or any workshop?

Here are just a few things to keep in mind to get the most from Winter Camp:

1 – The Law of Two Feet

Too often we feel trapped to stay in a workshop or session that’s not meeting our needs due to the fear of seeming rude by exiting the room. The law of two feet, one of the core aspects of the EdCamp model, frees everyone to keep learning at the heart of the day. If you aren’t actively learning or contributing to learning, it’s your responsibility to respectfully find a place where can do one or both of those things. If you get into a session and it’s not the right fit for you, quietly find one that is! Don’t worry about seeming rude – the session facilitators expect and encourage you to find a space that works for you, and the seat you vacate will likely be filled from someone leaving another session.

2 – Learn by Doing

Be selfish in your learning and experiment with new ideas during the workshop. As teachers, we work to create hands-on experiences for our students to learn, as we know that active learning is the most successful. But when given the space to get active in learning new methods, techniques, and models, it’s easy to become passive. The sessions at Winter Camp are designed to be hands-on. Take advantage of it! Try out a new tool, start planning a new project, or start acollaboration. You can’t improve your student’s experience by listening – get doing!

3 – The Smartest Person in the Room is the Room

One of the best parts of a conference is being surrounded by other teachers who are passionate about improving education. Strike up conversations, follow each other on Twitter/Instagram/Voxer/etc, and make some connections. While Winter Camp has an experienced group of Google Certified Teachers and Trainers, the wisdom of the crowd is the most valuable asset of any conference. Don’t be afraid to share – what you’ve found in your classroom is likely really valuable for others.

During Lunch, join the Demo Slam, where attendees give fast-paced 2-minute tricks, tips, and more. Short, to the point, and potent, these slam sessions are always a highlight.

4 – Different Strokes for Different Folks

Learning is not one size fits all. We know this from our students, but with PD we too often give every educator the same experience. Winter Camp has something for everyone, with sessions designed for a wide range of topics and levels. Facilitators also work to provide hands-on experiences in each session so you can find something that’s right for you. Customize your day – make a schedule that works for you, challenge yourself, and find what works for you. And if you ever find yourself in a session that’s old hat or over your head, follow the law of two feet.

We’ve been working hard to design a Winter Camp that works best for you. By following these tips, you can help ensure your time results in better learning for your students.

About the Author: Jonathan Schmid is the Director of Innovation & Technology at The Meadowbrook School of Weston, Massachusetts, which was recently recognized as an exemplar school by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. He has presented at numerous conferences such as ISTE, NAIS, MASSCue, and AISNE on subjects including Digital Citizenship, Design Thinking, 3D Printing and Making. Jonathan is a certified Google Education Trainer and Certified Google Administrator. He can be found online at tech.savvyteachers.com and on Twitter @schmidjon.

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