Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DENSI 2013: My Reflection of a DENmazing Experience

Wow! What an experience! I just got back from what I can only describe as the most incredible tech PD experience any teacher can be fortunate to experience. I spent 6 days at the University of Vermont with almost 150 other like-minded teachers learning, talking, laughing, collaborating, and experiencing what technology tools work in classrooms across the country. To me, DENSI2013 was a game changer!

What is DENSI2013? DENSI stands for Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute. This is a week long collaborative training opportunity put on by Discovery Education (you know, the same folks that bring us Mythbusters, Shark Week, Deadliest Catch, North America, Life, Planet Earth, and too many more to name...not to mention all that online streaming content we all use in our classrooms). Each year Discovery selects up to 125 DEN Stars (Discovery Educator Network Star educators) to attend a week long institute to share, learn, and collaborate. It is in one word, DENmazing.

Here is my reflection of this amazing week long learning experience.

From the start this was a different PD experience than any I had ever had. After getting checked into our dorm rooms (just like the old college days) we had our Press Photos taken (yes, I am now a celebrity!). Afterwards we had a BBQ meet and greet. This was my first DENSI, but I could see the connections of all the returning attendees. Hugs, smiles, and "glad you are backs" were everywhere! Each day meals were either in the dorm cafeteria or a common dining room and attendees would sit by (and make) new friends and connections each meal. In this way DENSI was the ultimate model in professional networking.

Now now week long conference can be only work al day. We had a few outings throughout the week in addition to the learning sessions. We traveled to Shelburne Musem and Shelburne Farms. We also attended a Vermont Lake Monsters baseball game. PD and Fun...who could ask for more?

Each day was kicked off with an impressive keynote speaker: Richard Byrnes, Hall Davidson, the DEN Team, and Dean Shaeski were highlighted. We were so fortunate to have these amazing speakers and resources for teachers all in one place! 

Most of the institute's days consisted of many sessions to choose from. Some were one hour while others were 2 hour sessions. There were more sessions that I wanted to attend than hours available. I had to make some tough decisions to not attend some sessions over others. But fear not...the good news is the collaborative and family-like mindset of all attenedees. All the sessions had notes posted and shared for all attendees. This means that we had access to all notes for sessions we could not attend. Did I mention how fantastic the attendees were? Below is a list of sessions I personally attended:

Conference Sessions I attended:

In addition to the scheduled sessions, the last day was set up as Unconference sessions. This gave attendees the chance to set up session that they wanted to learn more about or had expertise and wanted to help others with a topic. The best part of these unconference sessions was that they were collaborative. Questions were answered, direction was changed according to what the need was, and everyone had the opportunity to participate. These were truly fantastic! 

Unconference Sessions I attended:
  • Talking Faces (Morphe) and Apps to Extend
  • Digital Citizenship 101
  • Evernote and Edmodo
  • MacGyver Videos: iMovie
  • Mind Blowing Closed Captioning
  • Screencasting with Camtasia for Mac

All the sessions I attended during the week were fantastic. There was always a sense of collaboration and acceptance throughout each. I gained so much insight into new tech options that my head is still spinning. 

In short, DENSI is: 
Dynamic friends being made
Educational experiences gained
Never-ending connections developed
Summer Camp feel to learning
Insightful tech uses gained

DENSI2013 was full of almost magical experiences. These will stay with me as a teacher forever. It was much more than just another PD conference. It was more than just a gathering of like minded educators. It was more than just a great experience. The only thing I can compare it to was as a child I attended week long overnight summer camps each summer. The memories of those friends made and experiences still linger. DENSI is much like summer camp. The Joy, excitement, and life long feelings will always remain. DENSI was summer camp for adult (techie) kids! My fingers are crossed that I will be fortunate to experience it again! Thank you Discovery Education for this opportunity!

Check out the shared DENSI2013 Resources!
Check out the  DENSI2013 Photos!