What do you get when you take 75 educators from across the US and Canada, put them in blue shirts, house them in college dorms for week, give them training and access to top experts on the latest educational technology tools, and put them in teams to experience these tools hands-on to produce curriculum-based projects? You get the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) Summer Institute 2010.
You would think that after attending two previous institutes that the talent, dedication and love of learning shared by attendees and presenters alike would no longer amaze me. You would think that I’d see the same or similar projects again and again. You would think that my third institute could not possibly match the energy and enthusiasm of the previous two. And you would be totally wrong. It was truly a mountain top experience – and I’m not just criticizing the countless stairs at Bentley University.
If I look back at the greatest professional development experiences I’ve had, the top three are Discovery Institutes. They do it right. First, they bring in top experts to train us.
- We learned about Edmodo from Co-founder Jeff O’Hara who didn’t just present a session and leave, but stayed with us for two days!
- We learned movie-making techniques from AFI’s Frank Guttler and Discovery’s Digital Storytelling guru Joe Brennan.
- Dr. Lodge McCammon spent the whole day with us and shared his “one-take video” technique using his own original music and student creativity to teach core curriculum content. Who doesn’t enjoy a good song about linear equations?
- Jim Dachos, the GlogsterEduMan, showed us Glogster and explained the new features of GlogsterEdu. (He and his team also threw us an ice cream party – in Glogster colors, of course.)
- Then there was Lance Rougeux and the awesome team from Discovery who spent the whole week with us. They not only helped us dig deep and learn their product inside and out, but also shared their expertise in other web 2.0 tools. One of them even got up at 5am every morning to run to Duncan Donuts to get coffee for us. I can’t say enough about the DEN Team and the work they did putting together this institute. (Many of them are pretty good actors too.)
But the week was not just devoted to teaching technology tools. Attendees are also expected to produce projects using these tools.
Here is where the DEN Institutes excel. They put us in teams, give us a project, and let us learn from each other. It was like being part of a group brain. If there was something I didn’t know, it’s a good bet one of the other teachers at the Institute could help. They help me, I help them, we work together and help each other – and learning happens. I completed 4 projects in 5 days! Best of all I had a great time doing it.
At the DEN Institute they understand that if teaching and learning isn’t fun, you’re not doing it right – and we definitely had fun. Staying in the dorms at Bentley made me feel like a college kid again. We’d stay up late finishing projects that were due the next day, share cool tips and tricks we’d learned, and just take the time to getting to know each other. Remember in college there was that one dorm that was always the party room? We had one of those too. One night I even got locked out of my room and had to crash on someone’s couch.
By the time Friday came around, none of us wanted it to end. The good news is, it doesn’t have to. Thanks to the DEN Institute I’ve added many new Facebook, Twitter, and Edmodo friends. I plan to continue the learning and friendships made in Boston, as I have with previous institutes. While I definately miss the face to face interaction – and the fun we had in room 105 – I don’t have to lose that Group Brain.
Thanks Discovery for a wonderful week of learning and for connecting me with an awesome group of teachers.
By the way, if you’d like to see the project I worked on with David Fisher from Florida, here it is. Enjoy.
I also created a Glog highlighting some of the projects and tools shared at the institute. CLICK HERE to see it.