Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 Google Science Fair

Greetings Everyone! 

I wanted to let you all know the 2015 Google Science Fair is now up and running. All submissions need to be turned in by May 18, 2015. If you think you may be interested please go to for tips about what to do and what not to do. 

Here are the instructions on how to enter.

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration on the possibilities within the Google Science Fair, please check out the video below from the 2012 Google Science Fair winner. She was able to develop a new way to help in the detection of breast cancer. Amazing story... 

I look forward to seeing what all you can do!

Monday, March 23, 2015

EdCamp Rome: A Reflection

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5:30. I got up, did my morning routine, and I was on the road to Rome High School at 6:30 to begin a day of learning with close to 150 of my closest friends. If you were at EdCamp Rome, you know how amazing it was. If you weren't I hope this post will take you further to understand how amazing this day of learning and sharing was.

Let's back it up a little and tell you where this day came from. I've heard of the EdCamp model for a couple of years now. In short, the EdCamp model is one of empowering teachers to learn what is important to them. For an EdCamp to happen there will be a facility in place with an outline of session times and no scheduled presenters. Attendees are presenters and the sessions are put up on a board the morning of the event. Attendees are encouraged to go to sessions that apply to them and if the session doesn't, then they are asked to "vote with their feet" and move on to sessions as needed.

This EdCamp movement is a movement that has grown rapidly over the past few years. Atlanta will be having their fourth this coming year and communities around the state are in the process of holding them. If you go to the EdCamp Wiki, you can find a record of thousands of these types of events around the world. Last week there was one in Cobb County and next week there will be another in Roswell. I'm personally excited about EdCamp GigCity coming to Chattanooga on May 9th.

The idea for EdCamp Rome was born at this past years GAETC, Georgia's premier EdTech Conference. My friend, Kate Matthews, was doing a session on how several Fayette County Schools were utilizing the EdCamp model for their professional development. I was blown away by how empowered Fayette County teachers and administrators were through the process. The Fayette County presentation made it seem as though EdCamps were a feat anyone could pull off. I was immediately on board with launching our own EdCamp here in Rome, but I knew I would need a lot of help. Luckily, when I turned around in the Fayette County session at GAETC, I saw Terrie Ponder behind me. Terrie is the Rome City Schools Instructional Technology Specialist. Terrie and I immediately started talking about holding our own for Rome City and Floyd County Schools. Our thought was things are always better when you are working together, so bringing the two systems in would be beneficial for all involved.

Terrie and I were on board, so what's next? We needed a place to host the event. Terrie shared that Rome High School was in the process of a wireless upgrade. She was able to work with Dr. Evans at Rome High and found us a date. Putting that date down on the calendar made the event real and we knew we had some more work to do. It was too much for the two of us to handle. This is where the event really took off. First, my boss, mentor, friend, and office neighbor, Craig Ellison said he'd love to assist in any way he could, so Terrie and I now had a third partner in the mix.  Then, EdCamp Rome scored a coup de gras by gaining the support of Cat Flippen from Georgia Gwinnett College.

Cat is the engine that kept things going for EdCamp Rome. She has been in the planning and implementation of multiple EdCamps in Georgia and her expertise was invaluable. She has a strategy for every facet of the EdCamp process. Due to her persistence and planning, everything about EdCamp Rome ran on a dime. If you are planning an EdCamp and can have Cat on board, do it. She lives to serve and would love to help.

Lee, Cat, Terrie, and Craig; EdCamp Rome Organizers Extraordinaire

The process of getting to Saturday the 21st was awe inspiring. Craig made calls to RRW Multimedia Services and boom, we have Bojangles for breakfast. Craig made a call to EDCO Education and boom, we have t-shirts. Craig made a call to Logical Systems and boom, we have Chick-Fil-A lunch for all attendees. It was amazing how many people stepped up to provide door prizes for the event as well. Through all of us reaching out to our various resources we had swag from Techsmith, University of West Georgia, Yapp, Flocabulary, Voicethread, Little Bits, Chick-Fil-A Rome, Blue Sky, Bird Brain Science, Makey Makey, Kahoot, Edutopia, Brain Pop, Mellow Mushroom, Edupuzzle, and Padlet. So many sponsors! Thank you all for making this day so great.
Yep. These people are sitting on the floor in a classroom to learn on a Saturday morning.
We had sponsors, we had food, we had t-shirts, we had swag, and the final step was getting people. From Cat's advice, we created an Eventbrite page and opened up to 150 attendees. A couple of weeks after launching the Eventbrite page, we hit our target. People dropped out and people were added, but when it was all said and done we had roughly 120 people in attendance at Rome High School. On a Saturday. To learn. For free.

Carrie Siegmund and Clint Winter from Clarke County Schools gearing up for an amazing day of learning.
The organizers and the sponsors are great and all, but EdCamp Rome would be nothing without the attendees. At an EdCamp, no attendees means no presenters! We were not at a shortage for presentations at EdCamp Rome. Our local staff stepped up, but we were also graced by amazing people from Alabama, Chattanooga, Athens, Fayette County, and Atlanta. PK Graff, a veritable superstar in robotics and coding, shared with teachers throughout the day. Craig, Cat, Clarke County Schools crew, and I did a session on Pop Culture in the Classroom with the phrase that pays being, "I Kanye do technology." Kate Matthews from Fayette County was able to share about Transformational Leadership in Technology.

The EdCamp Rome Session Board, Before and After. Look at all the learning taking place! 

The beautiful thing about this day is that I think it will continue and grow. We have shown two systems what can happen when we work together to advance learning and I think there are more opportunities in the future to learn and grow together. In fact, Terrie, Cat, and Craig may not know it yet, but we are already planning EdCamp Rome II. Stay tuned for more details!

I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a few thank you's for the day. Aside from the coordinating crew, I have to thank Chris Carey of Logical Systems, Jeff Bunch of RRW, Amie Briggs of EDCO, and all of the other sponsors. You all made the day a huge success. I also want to thank Rome High Principal Dr. Tygar Evans and Rome City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Buck for their hospitality and letting EdCamp Rome use Rome High School. Another huge thanks goes to the support of Floyd County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaniel, Chief of Academics Tony Bethune, and Director of Professional Learning Terri Snelling. It was great of you all to take the time to come out and support EdCamp Rome. 

The final thank you goes to the most important people of the day. The attendees. You all gave your time in service of your schools, students, and community. I hope the learning continues and you all are able to extend what happened at EdCamp Rome into your daily life. Vote with your feet, find things that work for you, and keep on learning.