Best of times, Worst of times

I have just returned from the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute….and while my thoughts are fresh — I thought I would share my thoughts — both good and bad — as I reflect on the last six days of my life.

I have to admit that I left my home on Saturday morning filled with insecurity of attending the DEN event.  For many reasons that won’t make sense to anyone else but me — I truly was putting myself into a situation of dread, fear, and insecurities — but also with the knowledge that I would survive, enjoy, and laugh — but I still was afraid.

Being an “unofficial” airport pickerupper — I spent the time from 11:30 am to 5 pm shuttling back and forth to the airport…making new friends, hugging old friends…..doing one thing that Jen does do best — making connections and helping others.  It was an important part of my trip and an enjoyable part of my trip.  And it allowed me to push my insecurities to the back burner and I put on my smile and placed others comfort and convenience over my own thoughts.

Dinner on Saturday night was uneventful — made some new friends, ate an okay dinner (grins, it was not BBQ), met my roommates —

The evening concluded with a keynote by Daniel Forster which, though interesting, went very long.  Two take aways were (1) when he showed the pictures of how the wind, sun, etc does change how you would build a building…..(reminds me that sometimes I don’t take everything into perspective as I should)  and (2) I am a frightened little bunny.   When he showed the UP high slides and the WAY underground slides, I just shuddered.  Yep, I believe I am a fraidy cat.

Sunday was one day I was truly looking for — we were going to Sea World.  Again, my insecurities began as we got on the bus to go.  I am still NEW to the DEN network and am making friends…..as one of the last people to get on the bus, everyone had someone sitting by them…..and I sat alone.   At Sea World, I mingled with many groups but never truly joined one group.  However, when we went back to Sea World that night — to see Shamu — I DID feel a part of that group — and ended the night on a higher note than the day had started.

Monday was an interesting day.  We were reminded in the morning that the DENSI was not just for us — but also for the teachers/students/staff we were returning to….and we needed to not look for knowledge for ourselves but knowledge to share with others.   And then I wandered into 4 sessions that I pretty much don’t remember much.   The first session began with a video about the pythagorean theorem and within moments I was lost and never got back on track.  The second session had technical difficulties.  The third session was good but I still was thinking “HUH”.  The fourth session was more hands on, and there were a few good take-aways.  The #1 being to switch things up to make them more interesting.   Such as I know, I saw, I did.   And hooking the student.  Nothing new, but good reminders.

Left that session to go to a team meeting.  We were supposed to be working on pecha kucha (which were not really explained) and my team was really passive.  Then we had DENmazing Race.   I created a team that decided we would have fun and let everyone else win — which we did.  We had some tremendous issues with the GPS — an entire ‘nother post someday — but I believe we had fun (I know I did) — and I now know that I can eat 2 saltine crackers and still whistle immediately after.    During the DenMazing race, my friendship began with Tricia from Illinois.   She became my safety net for this conference.

Headed back to the dorm and chatted a while with Roxanne — Our evening conversations became one of the most important memories of DENSI.

Tuesday morning began with a very good ham/cheese omelet.  I don’t remember the first hour much of DENSI this day because I was presenting twice.   You can see what we did at http://jlwagner.pbworks.com/w/page/41474329/SIDEN ~~ I had small groups in both sessions but we had a very good time sharing ways to share information collected from google forms.

I then wandered in and out of several conversations…..however, still very much feeling like a lurker rather than a participant.

Tuesday afternoon and evening was the Pecha Kucha evening.  I wished everyone could have seen Nancy (principal from New York) pecha kucha.  However, each team only chose 1 from their group and I guess her’s was not selected.   Meeting Nancy, chatting with Nancy, and learning from Nancy was probably one of the best parts of DENSI.  She is the principal at a brand new school in New York and has a story to tell.  She had two quotes I will never forget:
(1)  She tells her teachers to remember that the importance of teaching is not to make a living, but to change a life.
(2)  She was a bored student that became a teacher.  And she discovered she was still bored — just on the other side of the desk.
Though the Pecha Kucha’s were interesting — a few were commercials — I don’t think we ever really understood the task…..until Thursday.

Wednesday was the day I finally started to feel a part and things began to click.  It was the unconference day and honestly, it was my best day.
I learned how to use “highlights” in diigo.
I was shown some great apps to use with students — especially interactive ones such as Talking Tom which helps the students with sentence structure and fluidity.
I learned much more about the DEN website and opportunities.
I spoke with Steve and with Porter regarding my role as a guru…..(insecurities flying again)
I listened and learned about G+ and then shared out what I know as well.  (Link here:  http://bit.ly/ndAUsb)
I wandered in and out of conversations and learning the entire time.

From the unconverence, we headed out to the evening activities……
I am not a drinker — and the theme was Margarita Ville — so I was a bit worried, but it all was okay.  Connie — dressed as a pirate — made me laugh quite a bit.  My conversation with Mary Carole Strather (http://maybellethecockroach.wikispaces.com/) was awesome.  While all the dancing was going on — we sat there and chatted — later someone said “why were you sitting there and missing all the fun — and my response was ‘I was having fun'” )  And I won a doorprize.

And then it was Thursday — breakfast and then a keynote from Hall Davidson.  Steve Dembo shared out a new opportunity from CogDog (http://cogdogblog.com/2011/07/13/pechaflickr-now-available/) and then invited Hall to do a 10 slide pecha kucha about DENSI.   It was THEN that everyone suddenly realized — “OH, that is what a pecha kucha is”.   It was excellent!!
My other take away from Hall was Google Search Stories (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/make-your-own-search-story-video-in.html)  — when you get to this link — click on CREATE YOUR OWN.  You have 7 links to tell a story.   I cannot wait to share this my staff and in my newsletter.  There are a lot of possibilities here, a lot of opportunities, a lot of critical thinking to be able to be concise and understood in 7 links.  It was my keeper site!!!

And then I hugged my new friends — who for the first 2 days were unknowns to me — and now very special — and I headed home.

Was I glad I went to DENSI — yes, very.
Did I learn a lot — hmmmm, I learned a lot about myself — and I now have material for several blog posts — and the conversations on Wednesday were invaluable.
Would I apply again — that would depend on the location, the time frame, and cost of transportation — but I would say “yep”
What is the best part of DENSI — without a doubt, it is the people!!  I met some very very grand people….very very grand.

Jen

PS:  The title of this blog is partly due to the Pecha Kucha created by the other Jennifer (in my group).  Her’s was not chosen to share and the book quote from Charles Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities” — now Tale of Two Techies was a keeper!!  Maybe we could create links to all the pecha kucha’s — both those that were shared and those that were not??  Hope Hope!?!

3 comments

  1. K Bosch says:

    Jen, it is so hard for me to imagine you feeling insecure – you have so many virtual friends and seem to have a gift for including people. I feel the same way going into edtech situations. Thanks for being transparent – it helps to know I’m not the only one!

  2. Jennifer Morrison says:

    Wish I’d known how you felt, I felt the same way! I didn’t know anybody, I’d only met my other LC member once before. I will record the PechaKucha and post it to Edmodo, maybe that will encourage others to do the same.

  3. Jen, thanks so much for posting your reflections. I was incredibly dissappointed that I couldn’t go to DENSI this year and hope to go back next year. I will be looking at your linked-to references because DEN conferences provide me with a ton a PD to share with others.

    As for your personal reflections, you aren’t the only one feeling insecure when attending. Being a natural introvert (some would disagree;) , I get intimidated by being in such a large group of fantastic educators. But I always find strength in the wide range of gifts that DEN teachers have can always learn from them. Have a great time being a guru! I look forward to reading more!

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