Monday, May 9, 2011

Only the Educated are Free

Guest blog for The Tutoring Solution

Web 2.0 tools are all the rage in education today, yet no tool can ever replace the expertise of an educator.  From the age of oral tradition to the development of written language to modern technology and Web 2.0 tools, communication and the sharing of knowledge has been the key to education.  Two Web 2.0  tools used in education today to encourage communication in the educational setting are Skype and Google Docs.  These tools allow students to communicate, collaborate, discuss, evaluate, and create with other students down the hall or around the world, thus empowering students a greater sense of ownership over their work and a better understanding of their place in the global community.  However, there is a Web 2.0 tool that has personally enhanced my professional knowledge and has become my number one Web 2.0 tool of choice. This tool empowers educators through a support network of other educators, thus enabling them to stay abreast of current topics in education and to pass this knowledge on to their students in the classroom.   What is this tool?  Twitter, of course!
With the cutting of school budgets and stinging words of those outside the educational spectrum making headlines, the ability for educators to attend timely, relative professional development sessions has become scarce. This decrease in professional development has a direct negative impact in the classroom where teachers do their best to prepare students to enter a global 21st Century workforce using the 20th Century education model from which the majority of today’s educators were trained.  Twitter offers an alternative. 
A few years ago I attended a professional development conference for school librarians where I learned how to open a Twitter account, the history of Twitter, what a tweet is, how to retweet, and a few other functionary aspects of Twitter.  Always eager to learn new ways to grow professionally I opened a Twitter account…and there it sat…until Shelly Terrell’s Teacher ReBoot Camp: The 30 Goals Challenge provided my first glimpse into the awesome personal learning network (PLN) Twitter can provide. It wasn’t long before I discovered the hash tag that I have learned more from in just one year than in 19 years of professional development sessions and over 6 years of college: #edchat. 
What exactly can #EdChat do:
  • Develop your Personal Learning Network (PLN) by engaging in conversations with other educators.
  • Gather research for an article, blog, or presentation.
  • Collaborate with others in solving an issue at your school.
  • Exchange ideas to improve an upcoming lesson plan.
  • Receive constructive criticism on a lesson plan, presentation, or idea.
  • Share tips and advice for educational endeavors, such as holding a parent education workshop.
  • Show new teachers how useful Twitter is for having thought-provoking conversations.
  • Scan the discussion topics to decide which topics educators are interested in for your blog.
  • Poll educators to gather research for your blog post or articles.
With just five years until I can retire my passion as an educator has been reenergized due to Twitter.  My enthusiasm has incited passion in other educators who like me, hunger to know more but feel confined by the limited professional development offered through their school district.  Point in fact, just last month Twitter lead to my discovery of a “rogue” movement of plugged in, empowered educators across the country known as EdCamp.  EdCamp conferences are “events organized by local groups of educators who strive to create an UNconference environment that encourages participant-driven discussions in an informal area.  By attending, educators are guaranteed to learn something new, meet other motivated educational enthusiasts, and receive information that can immediately be applied in the classroom and professional life.”  

I attended EdCamp Birmingham and it was hands down the best professional learning experience I have yet to encounter.  At EdCamp Birmingham I presented a session with my professional idol, Jerry Blumengarten (aka: @cybraryman1), met and formed professional friendships with other like minded educators,  and was able to engage in meaningful discussions regarding current topics in education.  I can not begin to emphasis how empowering it has been to take professional development into my own hands.  Only the educated are free.

Contact me on Twitter at @NikkiDRobertson to join the learning adventure.

"Cybraryman Internet Catalogue." Cybraryman Catalogue of Educational WebSites - Educational Web Sites for Teachers, Educators, Parents, Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

"Oh The Adventures You Will Have If Only…." Teacher Reboot Camp. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

Robertson, Nikki D. "EdCampBham = Giant Vulcan Mind Meld." The True Adventures of a High School Librarian. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

"What Is #Edchat?" Teacher Reboot Camp. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2011. <>.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

EdCampBham = Giant Vulcan Mind Meld

The weekend of April 29th-May 2nd was a momentous one.  The 2nd worst tornado in the history of the U.S. devastated Alabama and other parts of the south, leaving over 18 schools severely damaged.  Then we all received the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a strategic maneuver courtesy of the US Navy SEALS.  Sandwiched between these two historic events was EdCamp Birmingham (#edcampbham); a historic event itself. 

EdCamp Birmingham can best be described as a Woodstock style professional development day attended by education mavens from schools in and around Alabama.  Attendees were greeted with a blank session board, index cards, and sharpies.  If you had a subject you wanted to brainstorm or a presentation tucked away you simply wrote it on an index card and attached it to the session board.  The topics varied widely from Using QR Codes in the Classroom to Teaching 2030. No matter the subject, the presentations were fresh, lively, exciting and anything but passive.  Every person in a session was the “presenter”, creating what could best be described as a giant Vulcan mind meld!

One of the most notable moments of EdCampBham was the Web 2.0 Smackdown that took place right after lunch.  During this Smackdown event EdCampBham attendees had one minute to share a web 2.0 site with the rest of the group.  I got fired up learning about new tools to share with the educators in my district and PLNs.  (

The highlight of the entire weekend was meeting my professional idol @cybraryman1, Mr. Jerry Blumengarten, and his lovely wife Gail.  I met @cybraryman1 at my first Tweet Up event the night before EdCampBham, thus enabling me to cross two goals off my Bucket List. If you are unfamiliar with @cybraryman1 (shame on you) take a gander at his website: . It has become my educational go to site and should be yours as well. 

The first EdCampBham Tweet Up took place at Jackson’s Grill & Bar and was a perfect way to meet EdCampBham attendees in a casual setting.  Ideas raced faster than Usain St. Leo Bolt as various discussions took place around good food and drinks.  One last Tweet Up took place after EdCampBham had ended at Brio’s, a tasty Italian restaurant.  I was grateful for this as I was not ready to leave the presence of such dedicated, knowledgeable educators.  If you have a chance to participate in a Tweet Up with people of this magnitude I would highly recommend it.

If you missed EdCampBham or the EdCamp in your area ( be sure to keep an eye out for it next year.  It is a must for every innovative educator.

You can access other blog entries and more information about EdCampBham at: