Innovation Series: nErDCampKS is the best literacy PD you will receive all year!!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the nerdcamp movement, it is growing. From what I have been told, it originated as a result of readers of thenerdybookclub wanting to get together and share resources in person. Here is all that you need to know about the movement. The Nerdy Book Club is actually made up of four people. Donalyn Miller, a children’s book author and teacher from Texas (@donalynbooks), Colby Sharp, a third grade teacher (@colbysharp), Katharine Sokolowski, a teacher from Illinois (@katsok), and Cindy Minnich, a high school ELA teacher from Pennsylvania (@cbethm). Each of these individuals helps to keep the site updated with reviews of new books, helps to recruit and vet new “nerdy bloggers“, and helps to keep the the nerdy bookcast running to name a few features of the blog. This truly is an online community for educators, administrators, authors and well anyone who is passionate about children’s/young adult literature and wants ideas and recommendations for sharing that passion with students.

How is this different from EdCamp?

nErDcamp is different from EdCamp because it has a specific theme. Participants in nErDcamp are showing up to discuss children’s literature, young adult literature, meet book authors, buy books, learn more about the publishing industry in general, or gather resources for delivering quality literacy instruction in their classrooms. Teachers did not for example, have a session that focused on math strategies. Not because math strategies are not important, but because nErDcamp is focused on literacy alone. Every session is tied to that focus and the authors are brought in to help lead sessions as well solidifying the theme for the camp.

The other difference from an EdCamp is that there are planned whole group talks. While to date I have only attended @nerdcampKS, I am making the assumption here that their model is a replica of what happens at nErDcamps nation wide. At nErDcampKS, some sessions were set before our arrival, giving the day a more official conference feel. We had two keynotes, an author’s panel, and talks from a local bookstore owner to preview new titles coming out. Not only were these sessions helpful and an important part of nErDcampKS, they were also built into the day strategically with an opening keynote, author’s panel just before lunch, and a closing keynote at the end of the day. This kind of flow, the inclusion of an actual bookstore owner, and sessions that were planned and run by authors themselves makes nErDcamp feel like a bigger bang for the buck. I know I felt almost lucky to have stumbled upon such a content rich FREE education conference and maybe others felt the same.

Finally a big difference for me was the intentional focus on diversity at nErDcampKS. Authors led sessions about the lack of Native American representation in children’s literature, teachers gathered to discuss how to best support reluctant readers and low level readers, and teachers as well as administrators swapped ideas for helping students to self publish and get their voices heard. It was invigorating to find a community of educators so intent on including everyone. I was impressed and hopeful that as the movement spreads, so will the idea (with actions to support it!) that every voice deserves a seat at the table.

What sorts of resources did educators and authors discuss?

I sat in several sessions and assembled the following (partial) list of ideas that may help you to expand your literacy engagement and efficacy in the classroom.

  1. Storybird App– this is a writing generator for students who have trouble getting started with story writing. It has art built into the app that students can use to create digital books!
  2. Global Read Aloud– connect your students to classrooms across the world as you share a common book through the lens of your different experiences!
  3. Book Tasting– I mentioned this in another blog post but it bears repeating here. One way to engage reluctant readers is to allow them to “sample” new books at your classroom book tasting! Click the hyperlink for more info on pulling this off.
  4. Rory’s Story Cubes– this is a collection of cubes that help get students thinking about story telling. They are literally rolled out by students and they use the images on the cubes to craft stories! It is really fun.

How Can I Attend a nErDcamp?

I will be honest, I think that the rules for nErDcamp are kind of like the rules for Fight Club. No one talks about nErDcamp unless…they are a part of nErDcamp! lol A quick search online tells me that each is pretty tied to the region that supports it AND that at present they appear to be few and far between. Fortunately for you, the internet exists and I have managed to find a couple that you can attend!

  1. nErDcampGA (September 2018)
  2. nErDcampMI  (July 2018)
  3. nErDcampJunior (July 2018) join waitlist for this one it is full!

Listen, if you have not heard about the nErDcamp movement you definitely will soon. At this time, @nerdcampKS is the only nErDcamp in our area and it is finished for the year. Be sure to follow the nErDcampKS blog for more updates on their next event and follow the amazing organizers on Twitter. @megankohlman   @rbharder  @rach3liblady  @mrskaufman1st or email them at nerdcampks@gmail.com for more information. These professionals work hard and the evidence of their success is in the sheer number of people that descended on Hesston, KS to attend nErDcampKS this year. The event was completely sold out and every seat was filled. I always say that teachers need development too, and if your PD well is running dry, look to one of these camps to help you get your mojo back! I am not sure if we will begin to see these popping up with other themes (like science, SPED, languages, or math). In keeping with the Nerdy Book Club blog, these may need to stay focused on literacy. Still, as a former ELA teacher I am happy nErDcamps exist and provide a needed evolution to the traditional edcamp model. I look forward to attending more of them!

Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will, it is important to empower educators and to support those who are daring to try something new. The next time a new PD notice comes across your inbox, take a chance, it may be just the thing you need to get your practice to the next level. – Dr. Kia

**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at drkia@toadminwithlove.com