Why edcamp?


It’s 7:08 PM and I am super energized!

Today was edcampHill, the first edcamp hosted by a boarding school. The Hill School (Zach Lehman, Headmaster) graciously opened up its campus for the afternoon to a group of teachers who traveled from far and near to spend a few hours of learning. I was happy to assist Kim (@ksivick) and take part in the organizing team.

As soon as edcampHill began around noon, teachers’ enthusiasm enlivened the room. The session board filled up just as quickly the meeting room was being filled up by the attendees. After checking in and getting their name tags, teachers enjoyed a big bagged lunch provided by the Hill School. Teachers enjoyed talking over lunch and got ready to begin their learning.

I want to point out 3 noticeable differences of this edcamp over other ones from the past:

  1. Later start time. Starting at noon was a practical decision made by the Hill School as it holds classes on Saturday mornings. A later start to edcamp gave travelers time to travel to edcamp location unhurriedly. I know I felt good coming in later in the morning.
  2. Free, delicious lunch. It was so great that we started the learning day with a delicious lunch. Not worrying about where to find places to eat (and for organizers, not having to point attendees to local eateries) was a huge plus!
  3. A personal touch. Nothing beats face-to-face meetings. It was great for Zach Lehman, the headmaster, to greet many attendees as they walked in. His personal welcome set a positive tone to start our learning.

Sessions – Conversations

As I mentioned earlier, teachers wasted no time posting sessions. The sessions were:

  • ArtStor: Using High Quality art from museums
  • Using Primary Sources for Student Engagement
  • Play = Creativity: 21st Century Children – Are they missing this?
  • RTII: Response to Instruction and Intervention. Data, Exceptions and Technology Integration
  • “Digital Writing” in various disciplines
  • Technology and Real World Learning in Foreign Languages
  • The Connected Educator: Learn to Build a Personal Learning Network
  • Flipping Instruction
  • Blogging in the Elementary Classroom
  • Inquiry-Based AP Labs
  • iPad Apps
  • Can Entrepreneurship be taught?
  • Connecting Classrooms to Open Data for real world learning
  • Educational Leadership: Drivers of Systems relating to people
  • Homework – No; Studying – Yes! (achieving mastery)

Three 45-minute sessions passed by quickly as teachers engaged in meaning conversations, sharing experiences and resources. What I love is the conversations and sharing that takes place at edcamps. Personally, I attended the sessions underlined. It was fun co-leading discussion with Kim on being a connected educator. Every session was meaningful.

So why do I get involved in edcamps?

I believe that it’s the best learning format for teachers to learn and share. Coincidentally, this morning’s #satchat topic was on faculty meetings. Edcamp model for Professional Development was mentioned numerous times by yours truly and other educators. What is there not to like? Nothing can beat free registration, teachers teaching teachers, casual and fun learning environment.

If you took part in today’s edcampHill, thank you! I learned much and my colleagues and I will take back what we learned to our school community. You have made me a better educator and colleague.

Thank you Hill School! Many teachers left energized and happy! Thank you for being a gracious host.

Let’s do it again real soon! *High* Five*


Learn. Create. Talk. #etmooc post #2


So I’m being pushed.

I’ve been MIA on Twitter and G+ last year and a half due to many reasons. I don’t need to go into what those are, but I had made my decision after much thought. As I mentioned in my #etmooc intro video, my daily learning life changed since I started joining Twitter and building my PLN. This network included a wide range of educators, administrators, education groups, edu product builders (and some edu product promotors) etc. I started gathering resources and links. In secret, I became a ninja curator on Diigo and Delicious. Here was a music teacher, wanting to save a lot of things for other teachers to share and build relationships.

Connecting with people takes a lot of time. Reading & commenting blogs, tweeting, retweeting, cross-posting on G+, Pinterest, Learni.st or Facebook take some time (to set up, especially if you are anal about intricate ways to connect all your devices to services). Face-face meetings are the best in cool conferences, but they come with an expensive price and need a lot of planning to do all cool things. After a full-blown, all-power-to-me kind of start to social media learning plunge, I had to take a step back. I took a long break….ok, I wasn’t totally disconnected. I just wasn’t actively tweeting ;-).

After all, I had changed because of online learning. I connected with the world and gained real, precious friends. Through many kinds of learning and connections, I’ve had the time to think/imagine/assess/dream about who I am as a learner and teacher. It was mostly good stuff. I just needed time to repurpose and reflect.

In the last two months, though, I’ve been imagining/dreaming again about connecting and learning. This time, not about curating (how to get stuff), but about creating. How am I enabling my students to create music? What essential skills am I teaching them so that they feel secure to wander and make their musical journey? What relationships am I building with them?

While I’m contemplating these things in between teaching, driving, being a mom & wife, I was trying to get to #etmooc archives (I signed on very late!) and had some Java upgrade problems. I tweeted and this is what I got:

In the previous tweet, I told Ben I liked his video on #etmooc homepage “#ETMOOC Is Overwhelming. So, Let’s Make Some Meaning.” Instead of just saying, “Thanks,” he casually invited me to join the conversation – #ILikeConversation. I was nudged to respond, but it was late so I went to bed instead. Next morning, I find a G+ invite from Ben to join Reflective Practice Vlogging community. Naturally intrigued, I accepted the invite and started learning. Surprisingly there were only 40 people in this community. Lurking as the 41st member, I read some convo threads and started watching some vlogs. It was very cool that Ben et al made videos to think together with others. It’s like being f2f, but you’re not. The cool part is that you can respond to someone’s question/idea via vlog. I haven’t had the time to think about making a vlog and it might take me a while, Ben. The concept is brilliant and scary for me. Conversations need to be real and natural, just like how we talked at Educon two years ago, Ben. Just maybe this is what open online community needs!

Another push comes from a book I’m reading by Scott Watson, a music teacher who wrote Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity. I’ve known Scott to be a great role model as a teacher who enables his students to create music and share with their community. His book reflects his gentle spirit which guides teachers to “allow students to share themselves” (p.6). Thank you, Scott! Can’t wait to read more!

The last push comes from my students. I’ve shared with my middle school students how I’ve started photo-a-day challenge three years ago. I asked them a simple question this January to join me in seeing the good stuff and capturing it as a picture format. A handful of students got excited and started posting their pictures with descriptions on GDoc. So to be a hip teacher, I opened a Tumblr account and started posting pictures. I had no idea what pain it is to customize codes on it! I’m learning codes left and right, learning to add Disqus codes and all. Yesterday, I shared a post with my students giving them photo tips and ended the post with encouraging them to comment on each other’s pictures and having a dialog. Funny, reflecting and conversation found their way here, too!

So after 4 Java updates, I’m finally onto opening some #etmooc archives. I’ll be doing what I can and reflect. Thanks for the poke, push, encouragement, learning!


PS: Submitted my lipdub vid. Did you?

My first #etmooc!

I registered for #etmooc two days ago…

I’m not quite sure what I got myself into just yet 😉 All I know is that 1) I have learned a great deal through my Twitter PLN last three years, 2) I do a lot of daily online learning, and 3) today is a good day to begin my massive  open online course — with a huge class.

Here we go! Here’s my intro vid!

Happy  learning!

Up next: Massive lipdub!!


PS: made it in a hurry since I’m so late to the party. I used Animoto. If you’re an educator, get a free edu account here. Folks there are great for allowing teachers to use this cool app for teachers and students. I also used my pictures from Flickr and some slides from my Keynote. Song: “Closer to the Edge” 30 Seconds to Mars.


So Pumped!

I guess I can use any these words: psyched, elated, happy, & inspired.

Today is an in-service day. All of my colleagues and I have been working hard, thinking, teaching, laughing, and making connections with the kids. We’ve been feeling like we’ve had too much snow, and feeling like we’ve had too much of everything.

It’s just that time of the year when everyone’s sluggish (not to mention, our students started their 5-day break today!).

And then it happened.

My closest colleagues, Dina, Evan and Jerald, and I met together after lunch to talk about our department happenings. Dina and Evan teach art; Jerald and I teach music. All of us are very different, but work really well together.

We began to talk about our Visiting Artist Week – answering questions to what worked well? What didn’t? What can we do better?

And then it kept happening.

What, do you ask? Collaboration of ideas! Four of us actively engaged in lively conversations about integrated curricula for next two years. We were drawing, writing, laughing, smiling, and passion-driven.

This is why I love working with these people. They inspired me to keep going and create art and solve problems together.

I love it that we work beautifully together and make learning fun and excellent for the students.

Here’s a recent picture of us:

How incredibly blessed I am to learn and work with them!


N.B. This particular meeting went half hour into our personal learning hour (first time we were given this for in-service day). Since were encouraged to do something for ourselves to either learn or do,  I chose to reflect. It was fun sharing this post with my colleagues during our wrap-up!

Visiting Artist Week: Learning from Other Teachers

by J Bennett

Our school devotes

One week

out of year

to Art and Music. I don’t mean by offering classes, but by inviting other professionals to work with our students in addition to regular arts classes. The idea is to immerse the community in arts and the week finishes with a collaborative assembly where one might see performances and sharing of what had happened during the week. I believe it is one of the most special part of my school. And I’ll admit, this was one of the things that drew me in to teach here.

We invited two very different musicians.

Joe Tayoun, Middle Eastern Percussionist

Joe is an approachable and friendly guy. With big smiles, he talks with you – about everything. Put a  Doumbek in his hands and he can transform a huge group of middle school students into a percussion ensemble – an ensemble who work together because it’s fun. Joe had a tight schedule on a 2 hour-delay day. He brought his cousin, Michele, who taught our students Middle Eastern Dance (Belly Dancing) to a song (they learned the words and melody to this song as well). Each group had a chance to  drum and dance; at the end of each 45-min, we had both groups put their work together. It was so much fun.

Things I learned:

Joe is an effective communicator. He was clear in his direction, goals, and conveyed respect for the kids. I was happy to see my students responding respectfully and engaging themselves in some serious fun learning. Joe covered culture (he is Lebanese-American) and the origins of the rhythms, background of different drums that were being used, and connected to the kids with what they know with the material he was introducing. I particularly loved that he read his audiences well and adjusted naturally to their listening and playing abilities.  My 8th grade students enjoyed learning this 7/8 rhythm, Kalamatinio:

Because of snow and delay to our school day, we invited him back in February to rehearse with our students and put a performance together. I can’t wait!

Curtis Blues, a Delta Blues Musician

Curtis, a passionate and energetic musician, introduced lower elementary students to the sounds of Pre-War Delta Blues. He was fantastic at talking to our younger students. He made the instruments come a live to children through storytelling and songs. Students giggled, danced and looked at each instrument with awe. They were amazed at his harmonica playing. And his drum playing. And his guitar playing. All of these instruments were played simultaneously! When he didn’t play the harmonica, he sang!

Things I learned:

The rich history of the Blues was sung and explained to the young children in a language they understood. I liked how he used posters of the Delta Blues Greats – Robert Johnson, Bukah White, Memphis Minnie, and Muddy Waters as a part of the history. He never got too talkative, but balanced flow of music and talking. Students were definitely engaged and learned in a fun way. My 8th graders also had a chance to sit in a session and Curtis was great to bring them into a conversation by referencing the use of language of Blues lyrics. I loved the differentiated learning and the students appreciated being in the conversation!

* * *

Sharing from my experience~

If you would like to start something like this in your school, consider the following:

  • Begin a conversation with other arts teachers. Even if your school offers dance, music, art, and theater, consider partnering up with 1 other arts field to start.
  • Partner with the administration of your school and get an approval for a week-long (or a few days) of arts celebration. Find time in the year where things aren’t too crazy. We chose a week in January for this reason*.
  • Begin to budget for this event. Consider extra fees for travel, lodging, and food. And do look for grants locally and statewide for educational events like this. Money, always, will be an issue.
  • Begin researching for artists! Talk to arts teachers around your area or ask your PLN for visiting artists. Also check local art and music alliances for programs for schools. Many artists who have in-school residencies have a promotional CD/DVD. Ask for one. Also ask specific questions and the conversation going.
  • Keep a log of people you contacted and keep their contact info. You never know how people’s schedule will turn out.
  • Plan early and get agreed details  in writing.
  • Be flexible with the artist as much as possible for changes, but know when to go back to the “contract” or change the details of the contract.
  • Be a learner: get involved during the week, engage in conversation with the artists, get your hands-on experience with the students and reflect with them.
  • If possible, build an assembly time at the end of your arts week to bring the community together. Live performances, presenting pictures or movies of learning that took place that week is a nice way to close out the week together.
  • Evaluate the week as a team! What things were good? What can you improve for next year?

I am still learning and working on many of these suggestions :-). I need to address the (*) on the second bullet on scheduling the event went smoothly for 6 years – there were no changes once we had musicians were lined up. This year, however, we were thrown off because of inclement weather. My teaching partner and I worked early mornings and late nights those 2 days to reschedule everything. Thankfully, things worked out, but there was a chance we could have just given up on the week. Perseverance won that week!

In the end, it’s about creating a learning space for students. You are creative – share this week with your students and your community! I’d also love to learn from what you do during visiting artist week!

~ Yoon

So Do Tell What You Have in Mind: Start of a Collaborative Project

Happy New Year!

The first 25 days of December was insanely busy for me. There were simply too many happenings at my school to mention, but I wanted to try to get this post out before around the new year.


One way our school learns about cultures and traditions is through presentations during our weekly community meetings (we call them chapels, but they are assemblies. See here and here for examples and explanations). My department was asked to present for two of the December all-school chapels: Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Our music department is always involved with preparing music for every chapel (to perform, to sing or both), so this request had us look for other ways to present to our community. My teaching partner and I decided early on that I would organize Hanukkah chapel while he works on the other. We let these ideas simmer for a while :-).

December was approaching fast. So while mulling over ideas, I decided to make 2010 Hanukkah celebration about our community and elsewhere. Some questions I wanted to explore were:

  • What makes Hanukkah special for members of our community?
  • What is Hanukkah to them?
  • How do other people celebrate Hanukkah?
  • (Because I’m a music teacher) What songs are sung during Hanukkah in their community?
  • How do we learn about people outside of our community and how do I bring them to our school?

Other considerations I needed to be mindful were:

  • Having the Kindergarten class take a “presenter” role
  • 15-20 minute presentation time limit

Talking to a Person I Know: @WhatEdSaid

Making our school connections were easy: My teaching partner who teaches Kindergarten was teaching a beautiful song titled, Hanukkah Shalom; I talked to several group of teachers and students to give them a framework of what is to come. While I was thinking about asking outside people questions, @whatedsaid (Edna Sackson) came to mind. What I remembered about Edna was that she was a passionate educator who lived in Australia teaching in a Hebrew school. Read her blog posts (this one and others) and you will immediately see what I’m talking about. She is a very active participant in our PLN: she shares resources, writes posts about learning and comments on many of our network authors’ works. Everyone’s busy, I know. But at least I could ask a question to see if she can help me in some way.

I direct-messaged Edna on Twitter, giving her my email address and stating I had an idea to connect our school children around Hanukkah. And then I waited.

Edna emailed right away with:


So do tell what you have in mind 🙂


So our conversations began. It was about the third exchange of emails I had realized that end-of-the-school-year for schools in Australia was in a few weeks. Even with the busyness, Edna had sent out emails to her colleagues at her school, inviting them to collaborate, and assuring them how she will be there to help video their classes.

After our initial emails, things were moving along. I exchanged emails with two other teachers saying hellos and discussing possible collaboration now and for the future. Thanks to technology, I was easily being in touch with people so far away!

Edna helped tremendously. She posted videos from music classes from her school in a Dropbox I set up. She DM’ed me when she posted, I got the footage, and started editing them along with what I was working on from my end.

Our collaboration was a direct result of  open communication(emails, Twitter), efficient use of technology (VoiceThread, Dropbox, iMovie) and a mutual love for learning and our interest to make connections outside of school walls. I am so grateful for this initial collaboration and can’t wait for more!

Here is a VoiceThread of our project. Although I MC’ed the morning, you can get a good idea of what happened through this. What you won’t see is 1) the Kindergarteners performing their song with some kids playing the bells (this live performance commenced the chapel. You can hear the beginning of this song in a video we exchanged with Edna’s school at the end of the VT). 2) When you get to a slide that reads “Listen to the Words” this YouTube video by the Maccabeats titled, Candlelight was played during the chapel. It’s a great music video with a catchy chorus. What I love about it is that it teaches the history of Hanukkah.

The VT features our Kindergarteners, 2 of our teachers, the Preparatory class (5 year-olds) from Edna’s school singing with their music teacher, Janice Roth and Year 1s reflecting on Hanukkah traditions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Hanukkah 2010, posted with vodpod


  • Ask your network for help: I took a simple step of asking Edna. I thought about many ways not to “bother” people and come up with my own ideas. In the end, it was clear that I needed help. Your network people, especially the ones you’ve had conversations with, are respectful people. They will let you know what they can handle at that moment. If you do not have a PLN, start one today!
  • Use of video/VoiceThread in learning: Because I didn’t teach the Kindergarten class, finding time to rehearse with them proved to be somewhat difficult. Taping them on video helped me to use my time efficiently,  feature them for the presentation day and keep the presentation pretty short. Skyping with other school are great, but scheduling a live face-to-face chats are difficult when they are in a different state or country. Our school community loved listening to Edna’s school children and learning about what those children know about Hanukkah. Our students are eager to connect with them this year!
  • The learning continues for me and my students: I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am grateful for Edna and her colleagues who took the time to make this connection with me so that our school communities will learn from one another. I am grateful for future opportunities that my school sees now in making global connections.

If you are looking for opportunities to connect your class with outside people, take one simple step and look around you. Who do you come in contact with? And who do you learn from? Who can you ask? And will you have an open mind when someone asks YOU to collaborate?

Take the plunge and look around you! Here’s to great learning in 2011!


PS: Do you know who helped me to get my VoiceThread on here? (If you’re a WordPress blogger, you know what I’m talking about: WP doesn’t play nice with many embeds or files…) – Edna helped me to get it on here. Do you see how much I’m learning from her? 🙂




Learning for Pleasure, Seriously.

It’s been about a year since joining Twitter. I have met hundreds of passionate, student-focused teachers who are ardent about education today. Reading their blog posts and engaging in conversations about teaching practices, our education system and about today’s learning cultures have made me a different teacher.

Yes, it’s all Twitter’s fault 🙂

All kidding aside, today has been declared a National Blogging for Real Education Reform promoted by ASCD and AASA. It’s not that I have anything revolutionary to add to many voices, but I did want to join my colleagues everywhere who are blogging today for a real change. I do believe that a real change will happen through the voices of the people who believe.

Education Reform – Why and What?

Sitting with my 8th grade students, I asked the questions, “If you had power to change the way you learn, what would you change? And what role does arts education play in our community and does it serve to shape the overall education?”

The following words are from my students. The comments in parenthesis are students’ heartfelt reasons:

We need a nap/rest time during the day. Learning can’t happen when I’m so tired. (I often go to bed at 9 PM).

How about making classes in a virtual community, or talking classes online school? (I want to see what kind of person a teacher would be in a virtual world. I’d want to follow her/him around there).

I wish there was less memorization & more meaningful learning (I’m horrible with dates).

I think people learn differently. It’d be nice if teachers see the differences. (I’m a visual learner).

There should be less rules  – (What’s the point of blocking sites that we all know how to get around? The Websense blocks even the teacher-approved sites. Shouldn’t we learn to use the web more responsibly?)

On Music and Art

Music and Art classes are the only times when we can be creative.

I wish we had more time to create.

Why Do Their Opinions Matter?

I believe

my students are serious about learning.

My students did not blame the teachers, or the education system, but expressed that they felt like they were stuck with the “this is how it is” mentality. They also admitted that they needed to be more responsible for their education.

I say a lot of what my students were saying is right.

Learning should be meaningful. And anything that is excellent takes time. In this poignant New York Times article, America and the ‘Fun’ Generation the writer makes a great distinction about achievement over excellence and fun over pleasure. I can’t help, but feel for my students who are pushed to achieve high marks for core classes. There is no pleasure (or hint of fun) in what they do.
If we do not consciously create a space for students to explore their ideas and create anything, we will only produce students who will just do, do, do. What are they exactly becoming by being these busy bodies? Does it really surprise us when this generation gets easily bored?

Obviously, the answer to education reform does NOT lie in all-arts based education. But what needs to happen is that all of the adults, including parents, teachers, administrators, and the Department of Education, need to work together to reexamine our decisions for our young people. What develops the young in mind, body and character? How do we teach excellence? How do we allow creativity to happen?

Did you know that critical thinking, conflict resolution, collaboration and communication are just a few skills us arts teachers teach every day while teaching our specific fields? They aren’t very different than what language arts or physical education teachers teach, are they?


The most experienced and renowned composers coming together to work on a collaborative composition. Their purpose is to create a beautiful symphony for our youth. This work is going to be epic. This monumental opus involves multiple choirs, orchestras, ensembles, soloists, and conductors. A remarkably simple, but beautiful motif appears throughout the movements.

If you and I can create this simple, beautiful motif for learning, I think we can create a great “symphony” worth hearing.

Going Back to School

One day about this time last year, my younger brother told me a shocking news:

Old school
Image via Wikipediaz

I’m applying for art school!

He is a 35-year-old professional who’s been working as an IT for a very long time. He was the “artist” of the family. Of the handful things my parents opposed in our upbringing,  I still, to this day, don’t know why they were [vehemently] against him going to an art school. He obviously had the talent and the drive.

But they said no.

He ended up going to a great school in Pitt; life happened – very differently than he had hoped. He put aside his dreams of being a full-time artist and went to work.

But it’s amazing how life unfolds.

Something drastic happened a year ago at my brother’s job. Amidst mergers, new management, and reconstruction of personnel, a light bulb went off: the hibernating artist started to think about the “what if”s. He moved fast with purpose as he needed to get his portfolio together and get his application in.

I am so proud of my brother for trying. Thankfully, he got accepted into a great program in the city (4 years of BFA~ yikes) and loves learning. By all this, I learned that he is brave, hopeful, smarter than ever, and more passionate about his calling.

As I get back into the classroom, I am compelled to think about music and my role as a teacher (next blog post).

But for now, cheers for my brother & for taking risks!

Symbaloo: Webmix for Music Classes

After watching this smart 7th grader introduce her PLE (personal learning environment), I started thinking how I can use Symbaloo for teaching. What is Symbaloo? It’s a place where you can create a visual list of online sites and resources. I love it because I no longer have to search or keep a list of reminder notes. I can simply go here or share all of the links with my students.

I can add or edit any of the blocks at any time. My organization from left to right columns:  Web 2.0 tools, Music Reference, Online Music Tools & Free Resources, Games & Fun Sites.

Click on the image above or this here if you’d like to use this particular webmix.

I’ll be asking my students (5th, 7th & 8th graders) to add their favorite music sites, so check often to see what’s been added.

And please share other helpful links you might be using with your students by leaving me a comment!

Happy learning!

~Yoon 🙂