Tag Archives: teachSDA

This is happening: hosting an online Edcamp #teachSDA

teachSDA ''Daily Planet'' BaBuFor the last couple of years, my mentor and former high school History teacher Stephen Bralley and I have been leading a group of educators in a weekly chat, called #teachSDA. The “SDA” part of that is Seventh-day Adventist, our church, the 2nd largest parochial system next to Catholics. Our goal has always been to find a way to help Adventist educators, scattered all around the world, make better connections with eachother. It’s been a slow process, but we’ve been able to amass almost 60 weekly chats over 2 years.

Last week, our church has a really big meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and there were lots of people tuning in to see the way some decisions were made. As I was online, I saw hundreds of Adventists 1 Tweeting and Facebook posting about what was going on, and it made me wonder how many of those people were teachers, and if those teachers were plugged into the utilizing-social-media-for-PD system. I did some querying, and after a little while, posted this blog post, declaring that #teachSDA was going to try to parlay this San Antonio meeting into an Edcamp!edcamp

It took a couple of days of more tweeting, asking questions, etc, but it turns out that we’re going to actually be doing this next Sunday or Monday! This is a really big deal for #teachSDA, and we feel like the stakes are really high, but this might be the thing that gets our chat numbers quite a bit higher and gives us a bit more notoriety within our community.

As I’ve been laying in bed, thinking about what’s coming up, I keep coming back to “what are the goals of this Edcamp?”, and I think it’s important that we consider them before actually moving too much further. What is this Edcamp all about? What do we want out of this? What do we need to learn? I’ve got 3 big things I’ve determined:

  1. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing myself. No matter what happens with this, I need to come out of this experience better off. It seems really selfish to focus on my own needs, but really, why put so much work into something that ultimately won’t make me a better teacher? With all the organizing, PR stuff, tech support, and so on, I’ve still got to make sure I take the opportunity to sit in chat rooms with other teachers and learn from them.
  2. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing my PLN. Again, a bit self-serving, but I think that putting so much work into this has to be something that grows the number of teachers I can go to to support me, and to support them. My own circle (as in my own @webby37 circle and my #teachSDA circle) must increase through this experience.
  3. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing my church. Selfless, huh? 2 Bralley and I have really gotten a lot out of learning on Twitter, through our own PLNs, and we truly want to make sure that other teachers have the great experience that we have from all of this. How can we help our fellow teachers have great experiences as we do ourselves?

More to come on this. Wish us luck!


  1. To call Adventists technology-phobic would be an understatement.
  2. Only took me 3 bullet points to get to others. :)
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The secret to the greatest year of growth I’ve ever experienced

“But now, by saying what his future was going to be like, he had created it. A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities—never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked.”

~John Steinbeck, The Pearl

I’m hesitant to talk about it, as to put it into words—to write it down on a blogpost, available for anyone in the world to read—seems to make it real, “easily to be attacked.” But I guess that, without knowing where I was a year ago, it’s hard to express where I am right now…

It was pretty bad timing—I mean, the very beginning of the school year, before any of the stress kicked in, and it was as I lie my head down in bed. I’ve come to learn about myself that often times, I feel something, yet can’t quite put the idea into words, so I circle around it, explaining it any number of ways, until I accidentally stumble onto some unconscious truth about myself. On that humid August night, I kept coming back to these tenants:

  • I was becoming burnt out on how/what I was teaching.
  • I was becoming complacent with what I knew.
  • I was feeling professionally alone in the world.
  • I was not sure what I needed to “cure” myself.

I’ve always envisioned myself to be a life-long teacher—one of those guys who leaves the classroom at the age of 75 or 80, after half-a-century of working with kids—so to just be starting up year #4 and already be feeling exhausted and unmotivated was something I’d never thought through. Is this it? Am I in the wrong job? Should I leave my school? Worse yet, am I in the wrong job? Should I start on a backup plan?

As the year progressed and I got in more reps with my students (i.e. the reasons I’m alive), I stopped feeling so sorry for myself and actually began enjoying school, but the underlying sense of stagnancy and isolation never went away. I continued to lead a double life of Super-Teacher by day and Señor “I don’t know how much longer I can do this” by night, until something happened:

I rediscovered Twitter.

Now, I’d been a big user of Twitter for quite a while, but only in the most superficial and pointless way. I regularly posted jokes that only I thought were funny, shared relatively narcissistic and opinionated takes on the world around me, and essentially used Twitter as a sort of open-mic night. But I’d never heard of using Twitter professionally, as a form of professional development, until I began to stumble on these excellent articles about that very thing. (I wish I had enough foresight to bookmark the first page that convinced me to rejoin, but alas…) Could Twitter be something that was for more than just wasting time?

I began following a small group of innovative educators on Twitter, gulping each message as if it were a cold bottle of Dasani in the Gobi desert. From these highly-prolific Tweeters, I found other, more accessible teachers from around the world, and began to follow and tweet at them. Shockingly, a lot of them replied to my questions or comments, further pushing me down into the rabbit hole. A lot of them appended the hashtag #edchat to their ends of their tweets, and after a bit of investigation, I discovered the secret back-channel world of synchronous Twitter chats. I joined my first and felt overwhelmed; I joined my second and began to contribute; I joined my third and became completely hooked.

In 140-character bursts, I learned (among other things):learn-twitter

Most of these things I only learned within a period of days—not months, or even weeks, but days—and a lot of it was stuff that, in conversation with colleagues, they had never heard of either. As I suspected, we were living on a literally and figurative island, professionally-speaking, and being passed up by innovative educators elsewhere. However, though one small social media tool, I went from an uninformed outsider to “in the loop”.

If you're a teacher, FOLLOW THIS MAN!

If you’re a teacher, FOLLOW THIS MAN!

Better yet was the connections I made with the hundreds of inspiring teachers I met along the way. There’s that initial group of educators 1 that got ball rolling for me, and then a second wave that came from following the people that the people I was following were following. When I learned about QuickKey, I contacted Walter Duncan about becoming a beta tester and accidentally made a great friend who’s been an enormous encouragement in my daily life, not to mention his dedicated army of the most caring people online. There were pals I made through some awesome, insightful, productive Twitter chats, and some even better pals I made through the most epic Lord of the Rings pun run imaginable. 2 And, of course, how can I forget the 63 rockstars I met and learned from at the single-greatest professional experience of my life, Google Teacher Academy… Remember how, when you were young, your days were filled with so much wonder and learning that the hours seemed to just creep by, and weeks took forever, and a year was just a completely unfathomable concept? The 36ish hours I spent learning with these fantastic educators in Chicago truly feel like weeks (in a good way), and in the couple of weeks since, I’ve felt a surprisingly strong connection grow between our cohort. I’ve truly developed a Personal Learning Network of other teachers to swap ideas with, share concerns and problems with, and exchange much-needed support with.


And once more, to make this completely clear—this is from Twitter. You know, where narcissists waste time talking about their lunches. Thanks to making some connections with a couple of brilliant minds online, I’ve truly had the greatest year of professional growth I’ve ever experienced. In fact, it’s been such a wonderful ride, my mission has changed—from becoming a Twitter taker to, in the next year, becoming a Twitter giver… or at least a Twitter connector.

In my video application to Google Teacher Academy, I talked about, as one of my goals, finding a better way to link Seventh-day Adventist teachers 3 around the world to eachother. As I’ve reflected on the extraordinary year I’ve been blessed with, I’ve come to recognize the value of Twitter, and I’ve become obsessed with helping as many colleagues as I can build as many awesome connections as I have been privileged to. I believe that the best way for me to innovateinspireleadand change the world is to pursue my goal of building and developing a worldwide professional learning network of Adventist educators.

So that’s why, for the last 48 hours, this has been my obsession. Game on!


  1. That group is so influential to me, in fact, that I catalogued them into a Twitter Starter Kit list for my colleagues to use.

  2. In case you don’t know, a lot of Adventist teachers, especially in the elementary and middle school ranks, teach in one-room schoolhouses OR multiple grades at the same time (ala one teacher who’s in charge of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades). I’m sure those guys, scattered around the country and the planet get pretty lonely and feel awfully isolated, especially when it comes to new teaching techniques and technologies.
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