#StuCamp What I Learned and How I Have Changed

This post is way overdue. It is almost a week since the event and I have just struggled to find words. Not in a bad way, but in a way to bring all these powerful and eye opening ideas that are floating in my head to this electronic paper.

I will start this off by simply stating that #StuCamp has changed me. Yes, that might sound cheesy, a bit dramatic, and strong, but the four hours working and listening to students during the event has me really thinking about several key issues in education right now.

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Before I jump into those issues, I want to give thanks and my deepest gratitude to the handful of students(Iowa High Five) who worked to make this event happen. I had four 8th grade students really do a nice job working behind the scenes and staying after Friday for a few hours setting everything up. Additionally, we had two high school students help with the planning along the way starting back in December.


After months of planning with Dane Barner through Voxer, Google Hangout, and email the structure was in place to make this event happen. We had over 140 students sign up for the two events. At our location in Bettendorf we ended up with over 40 of those students showing up. This is a great turnout for the first event where not many people could really grasp what StuCamp was all about. Those 40 students were one of the most powerful groups I have been part of as I listened to their ideas and PASSION about education and topics that impact their learning. I give much praise and thanks to all of the students, admin and educators who gave up a Saturday to talk education.

Saturday morning started in a bit of a panic. We walked into our school to have everything the students put together taken down and discovering we had to move location. Despite my frustration and panic with this, we did not have time to mess around and quickly transported the whole event to our media center and surrounding classrooms in about 45 minutes as students started to show up. We pulled it off and it worked out great. Once again showing the power of students.


Starting at around 8:15 people started to show up. We had breakfast served and after most people had consumed their food we had students take lead and assemble the Awkward Family Photo Challenge which was designed to mix students up and get them talking with other students from different schools.


At 9:00 we kicked off the event and it was important to stress the power of student voice. I felt it necessary to remind them time and time again that those of us who organized these events believe in student voice and their ideas WILL be heard. This is not just a feel good day, but a day to inspire students to connect and come back to their schools and make education better.

After explaining the concept of EdCamp and how to create sessions we dived right into developing the day. I thought I had this recorded, but it did not record. To me, this was the most powerful part of the day. Listening to students share ideas, tweak the sessions, move and merge ideas being shared was amazing. Grades 6-12 were talking on the same level. In a matter of 15 minutes we were ready.


We grabbed some food and headed off to the rooms for breakouts. For each session students formed circles and started sharing, talking, brainstorming, and developing awareness, connectedness, and inspiration for their own schools.IMG_1617IMG_1622


This is the beauty. Students begin to realize that perhaps grass is not greener on the other side. Perhaps they are all in this together. Perhaps they can learn the great things other schools and students are doing and import those into their own schools. Perhaps they can develop an action plan to make positive change. This whole event is about sharing the good in education to make the good –> great. When issues arise that need to fixed instead of complaining they worked to develop solutions.


But it takes agency. It takes action. It takes adults to REALLY listen to their ideas. I mean really listen. We don’t have to agree, but when was the last time schools actually stopped and really listened to what students are wanting, saying, and thinking?

After all the sessions we wrapped back up with some closing activities. We did a gallery walk with all the notes shared in the hallways. Some sessions ran longer because they had so much to say. Some just connected back in the media center. There was some real powerful conversations happening. At this point there was no need for adults. They were in complete control making this day about and for them.

We concluded with students working in teams to develop paper slides of what they learned. They had 15 minutes to create their slides, record and share out.

Here are the three that I received


Finally, we took one big awkward family photo and called it a day.


Overall, it was one of the proudest things I have done as an educator. I was and still am moved by the power of students. I see my job as an educator and advocate of students to provide the platforms for their voices to strengthen and move into agency. This is something students need help with and I can help. I can help put together an event like StuCamp and leave it to them to make the day special.

I could not believe how fast the event flew by. It took so much time and effort to organize and get ready and just like that it was over. To operate on a budget of zero(except for a small sum of grant money left over for food) and pull this off is amazing.

I hope that students are organizing plans to make change. From the event we have created a Google Community for students to stay connected to share what they are working on in their schools. We would love to get more students and educators involved to keep the momentum going. Even if you did not attend StuCamp, but want to learn more and get involved please do.

Working with Dane we are so excited for the potential of the future of student voice. There are so many great things in development and I cannot wait to share when they are ready and look forward to pushing the boundaries of student empowerment.

To all of you who attended StuCamp at either location THANK YOU! Thank you for being brave to activate your voice. Thank you for taking charge of your education and learning. Thank you for taking the risk to join us as we work to find ways to allow students to take charge in their education.

Please take time to look at the photos, read the notes, check the drawings. We have many more coming in so check back soon. Feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts.

We hope to gather more strength in numbers and voice as we plan for another event next year.

Until then, keep believing in what matters most……students.

Last, here is what you can expect in the near future.

  • Check out the Student Voice rally coming up next month
  • Be on lookout for a podcast from students as well as myself
  • Be on the lookout for a video from the day as well as my own paper slide video coming shortly
  • If you would like to get involved and get connected please reach out to me as we work to build a structure that is open to all students, schools, and educators
  • Join the Google Community mentioned above
  • Follow the #stucamp and #stuvoice hashtags
  • Keep checking back for some big announcements.

In the near future I will expand on the issues in education based on the sessions, but for now I celebrate the day and the students.

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Choose2Matter: Bettendorf 8th Graders Ready To Change The World! Press Release #bettpassion #coffeechugPLN

Contact – Aaron Maurer, Bettendorf Middle School (563) 359-3686 amaurer@bettendorf.k12.ia.us


Media Opportunity

9 a.m. – 2:20 p.m. – Tuesday, September 3

Bettendorf High School, 3333 18thSt., Bettendorf

Contact – Celeste @ (563) 359-3681 ext. 3005 or (563) 529-2501

Social Media Hashtags – #choose2matter #bettpassion
BMS Students Learning that They Matter

& Working to Change Our World

Bettendorf Middle School 8th grade students are attending a day-long workshop on Tuesday, September 3 to learn about changing lives and our world through Choose2Matter.  Angela Mairers consultant, speaker and former elementary teacher and Mark Moran are coming to work with Bettendorf Middle School students and staff on the concept behind Choose2Matter – when someone believes that they matter, they see the world in a different light, and behave differently. When people realize they matter they approach life and work in a manner that understands that their actions can have a positive impact on the world.

During a 2011 TEDxDesMoines presentation, “You Matter,” Angela Maiers spoke of how these two words can change lives and change our world, if we understand them and we leverage them in the right way.  Students everywhere reacted powerfully to this call to action, completing jaw-dropping quests to address problems in our world. These range from:

·       Building a library in a rural village in Ghana;

·       Raising money to build wells for communities without water;

·       Starting and scaling non-profit organizations to support issues in education, environment and other social causes; and

·       Creating innovative support mechanisms to help others in crisis.

Bettendorf Middle School students and staff will begin work on their call to action on Tuesday. Through December they will develop an action plan, work with experts/professionals, review plans, and implement their plans. Students will be hosting an exhibition of their project and work on Thursday, December 12. This unique opportunity will provide students a chance to utilize the power of student voice and their ideas to make a positive change in the world.

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Are you using Google Research Tool in Google Drive?

I have crafted a short video showing the power of the Research Tool within Google Drive. This is something that needs to be explored more by teachers and utilized by students. A major time saver and also a key tool when collaborating and conducting research.
Let me know how you use this in your classroom. I am looking to make this a staple in all of my classes from here on out. 

I have made a video tutorial with some ideas on how it all works. The link is below.

Here’s how it works!

1.     Go to your Google Docs/Drive page

2.     Choose “Create” and then select “Document.”

3.     Start by writing your information whether a research paper, script, debate, etc. 

4.     When you get to a word that you need some guidance and help with or it is a place where more research is needed go ahead go to the toolbar. 

5.     Click on “Tools” and then find “Research.” You can see below that I highlighted Twitter in my document and Research already has Twitter researched for me.

6.     You can click the little down arrows underneath your search box in the Research panel to select the options you want

Citing the sources

Web Results:

When you have the resource that you want to use you will get three options to choose from. They are Preview, Insert Link, and Cite

Preview will give you a preview box of the website before you click on it to open it up to see if it is worth your time.

Insert Link will take the highlighted text in your document and make it a hyperlink to that site if that is what you need. In image below you see Twitter as a hyperlink.

Cite will then site the article/website for you and make it a footer.


When searching images all you do is drag the picture and it will site it automatically.
What I like best is the option to find images that are not copyrighted!

These are the two major uses I see with the Research tool in Google Drive. Don’t forget you have many more options within this tool

As stated above I would love to connect with fellow educators who are using this tool to see examples of it in action and to enhance my own knowledge. I think it would be foolish to not use this if your school has Google Drive.

I would love to hear from others who use this, how they use this tool, and any other advice, tips, or ideas.

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@FlatClassroom @EracismProject Global Debate Learning From Teacher Perspective

I know, you are probably thinking what in the world can I possibly have to talk about in regards to the Eracism Global Debate project?

I have blogged about this project several times(see the end of post to see past reflections). Well, I have some more ideas to share. I have learned that I am not good enough yet and have made preparations to be better as an educator. Talk about a model learner! Yes, I admit that I could have been better as a teacher. That is the truth and I accept that.

Doing this project for the second time, but with a younger group of students was essential for me to realize that I have more to learn. Without this opportunity I would have never known.

Working with sixth grade students on this project has really changed the operations of this project. Here are some issues that I did not discuss in the first 6th grade reflection.

1. They need more strict guidance and focus because they are just too immature mentally and socially.
2. Many don’t use Facebook or social media tools so this just debunks the whole notion of them all being online using these tools.
3. Wait……why are they not online connecting to learn besides the apps that lead to nowhere good?
4. Structure on how to do research because they really have no idea how to gather research and piece it together as a team.
5. Teach them how to listen. They don’t know how.

So, what I am going to do about it?

1. Google Research in Google Drive – I recently realized that I am an idiot for not using this tool. I will require this tool for them to research. I will teach them and the first thing we will do is create an annotated bibliography using the tool to gather research and work through the How-To’s. I made the mistake of assuming that they could find an article, extract the proper information and share it with their team. They made a feeble attempt, but I needed to give more step by step direction and then let them go. I left it too open too soon and we struggled in this area during the first round.

2. From the annotated bibliographies of each student I will have them critique the information provided to get them ready to create rebuttals in the debate. Having them look critically will help them listen. I think by doing this activity throughout in terms of arguing the merits of the article or book will help them process the information while at the same time working on persuasive skills needed to debate. While debating we wanted to talk like it was a summary and not really sell our ideas.

3. Teach them to create a chart and how to document the information shared by the other team. As opposed to just a blank piece of paper to capture ideas I will give them a template to follow. I have found that the open piece of paper is too broad and they miss out on key phrases and facts to respond to. There is not enough time to listen to the debates twice so they have to be on the spot. When I judge debates for this project I use a grid system and for some reason I never thought to teach my students the method. We used it second round and it worked so much better. It forces them to key in on key facts and phrases and learn to scheme and strategize much more efficiently.

4. Evaluate their scripts and statements for grammar and spelling. We often don’t have time to cover this in great detail, but with so much time on speaking, listening, writing, and research why am I not hammering this big time? Time to bring out the guns and teach them. This will help them in organizing ideas as well as speaking.

5. Kick kids out who don’t work. I give them several chances to work and warnings, but this is not a required class. If you are just going to goof around and mess up the document, leave immature comments in the Google comments, and not contribute…..see you later. Grow up and try again. Sometimes I need to be a bit more harsh. I like to let them learn and let the group bring them in, but 6th grade they don’t do this. In 8th grade they will call the person out, but not at this level. I need to be that person. I think if I remove them after giving some warnings and vision about what to do, then they have had their chance. If it continues, then remove them. They need to realize this is a great opportunity to learn. If you don’t want to be passionate about it, then perhaps this is not for you. I really believe that sometimes removing a student from an opportunity like this can be a wake up call that they need to take advantage of what is being provided to them. I don’t think they always understand this. Once they have lost that chance, they will realize it and next time around they will be more focused. And yes, I have that luxury over most teachers as this is an enrichment opportunity. I am blessed to hold that over their heads which I know most classroom teachers don’t have this, but I need to use this when needed.

It has been an interesting journey for me. I have found myself more frustrated with the sixth grade compared to 8th grade, but I have to remember they are lacking several key tools, skill sets, and thought processes that 8th grade came to me with. My frustrations stem from me not preparing them as well as I should have and therefore I point the finger at myself and not them. I have to step back and teach them. I assumed too much and that lead to my frustration. Next time I will take care of the gaps and I know that it will resolve the frustrations I felt during this sixth grade enrichment. I have high expectations and I need to remember that if don’t equip them properly how will they ever achieve this status?

With that all being said, I am so proud of how much we turned things around from the first round to the second round. I implemented some of these ideas and the students realized they did not quite work to their potential. I think it was a great wake up call to not win the first round. It knocked them down a notch and made them realize they had to improve and I had to do the same. We were in this together as a unit, the students and I, and as a unit we modified our system to make it work.

It has been another wonderful experience for myself as a teacher and creating a classroom that was able to see growth in learning and engagement. The learning did not stop with a letter grade as I did not give a grade. I told them the world was listening to them and that should be all they needed in order to do well because who wants to sound unprepared to the world? The learning has continued beyond the debate class and I am so excited to work with these students on new projects this year and the years to come.

Any suggestions or thoughts? I would love to hear them. Especially on how to teach listening?

6th Grade Debate Project: Eracism

March 15th, 2013: Flat Classroom Global Debate Project: Eracism
“How do I operate my classroom and run the day to day operations of preparing for a global debate?” 

8th Grade Debate Project: Eracism 

December 19th, 2012

December 14th, 2012
December 12th, 2012

October 25th, 2012
Flat Classroom: Eracism Round 1: AMAZING!

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ALCOA Eagle Eye To The World: Bettendorf Student Showcase Night Part 1

On Monday, March 18th from 5:00 – 7:00 students who are part of the Bettendorf Schools ELP program conducted a student showcase to show off their work on their independent study projects that they have been working on all 3rd quarter.

We have 85 presentations spanning from grades 4-8. The elementary grades (4 and 5) focused on bald eagles as part of the Eagle Eye to the World project that was created by several teachers and former students.

IMG_5379Students made their way into the middle school around 3:30 after being released from school at 3:20 to setup their stations. We placed 30 elementary students in four classrooms in a manner that gave each student plenty of space to conduct a presentation and to quiet the noise from the hallways. Students had from 3:30 – 4:45 to get ready and prepared. After setting up students could eat pizza with their mentors from 4:15 – 4:45 (we have our elementary students paired up with 8th grade students to offer guidance). Also, during this time they were able to talk with Allen Holloway. Outside of the classrooms we had expert painter Allen Holloway set up painting a bald eagle to show the community all the various career pathways that studying something like the bald eagle. could provide. He was in the middle of painting a current painting of a bald eagle which was just amazing. To watch him work was a sight indeed. I had a chance to speak with him and he was such a remarkable guy. He had lots of visitors passing by and stopping to admire his work. It was a great pleasure to have him for our showcase night. When I was discussing ideas with him I found a couple ideas to be important. First, by sharing his passion for painting students are able to realize that you can make a living out of your passions despite what people tell you. He told me how everyone told him he could not live as a a painter and now he does just that. His story is important for students to hear that they should never give up on their dreams. Second, he talked about how important having something like this is for students. He wished he had something like this project available to him as a student. That was a big compliment to what we are doing and what we are striving to achieve.

Our big goal with the showcase is help our students learn to speak publicly and be able to articulate their thoughts and ideas. If we can begin to develop this in grade 4 and have them speak to hundreds of people on a night like this, then think about how amazing they will be thinking on their feet by the time they graduate. They will be ready for the real world.

IMG_5380Even more important to me about this night is that it provides students a chance to showcase their hard work and talents. I have told the students from day one that if you put in the time and hard work to this project, then you will be busy all night. I don’t have to give a grade because the audience response will tell you how you did.

Additionally, this gives the students a chance to show off their work. So often in school kids turn in work to one teacher who looks things over and gives a few comments. This gives them a chance to share their knowledge with hundreds of people That is awesome!

Each student had to focus on one aspect of the bald eagle that they were interested in studying more in depth. They had to create a display and have a station for people to visit. Additionally, to keep things engaging each student was required to have one interactive component. This interactive component forced the audience to engage in the material. When they complete the task, then they are awarded a clue to our scavenger hunt. You can view our scavenger hunt and handout here – http://eagleeyecamera.wikispaces.com/Final+Showcase

I will be sharing their stations and work shortly. I have been working on some video and images. In the meantime I wanted to share just one of the things we offered during our showcase on Monday. Below is the painting he was working on. And yes, I have all intentions of buying this print when it is finished.

At 4:45 we began to usher the students and anyone who showed up for the sessions into the auditorium for our next special presentation which I will share in Part 2 coming shortly once the video finishes up. Stay tuned.
You can check out all things about this night and our global project here – http://eagleeyecamera.wikispaces.com/
We are currently tracking and keeping a log on the eagles and eaglets. Feel free to help us out. We are trying to crowdsource the documentation of the eagles.
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Our Words Matter – A Personal Example

I am sorting through my Gmail account trying to get back to an empty inbox and organized online and real world life. As I was sorting through all these links, emails to myself(I send myself emails all the time), and just general decluttering I was reminded of a very special and cool moment for me.

Vicki Davis a.k.a. Cool Cat Teacher who is an education extrodainer and someone who has really helped me find my passion for flattening classrooms and making global connections bookmarked one of my projects via her Diigo account. I know not a big deal as many people do this, but her words mean so much

Here is the link to her blog and this page – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/daily-education-and-technology-news-for_22.html

If you don’t follow Vicki, then you have missed out on some integral thoughts, visions, and ideas that can really help  you as a teacher.

A few days before this she had posted a really insight blog post – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/3-characteristics-of-people-builder.html

I left a comment in regards to her post because I felt that I needed to. Her words spoke to me. What stood out was her taking time to respond and I cannot tell how good her words felt to me.

I am not sharing this to toot my own horn. I am showcasing this to get to an even more important idea.


It might be that one sideline comment that students overhears or that one little phrase that we don’t think twice about that can make all the difference – good or bad. Her words helped me. They still help me and still hold a place in my mind(obviously here I am writing about it a month later). It is a reminder about how we phrase our words and statements to students, family, friends. Are we really delivering the true message that we want to get across?

Sometimes we need these little positive urges to continue our journey. There are times where I question why I am up late working and up early prepping for the day. I question if it is all worth it when I sit and converse with educators and other professionals around the world to find something to make me better in my classroom. I connect and hear positive things and I am reminded that it is worth it. I always go back to my own kids and what would I want? I would want that teacher always striving to be their best and expecting the same for their students and my own children. I want my kids to come home and tell me that their teacher(s) have a burning passion for what they do. I want to provide this same feeling as an educator.

This weekend I will return the favor of positive words. I am going to handwrite a few positive notes to people and send out. I need to remember how important these words from Vicki were to me and return the favor. Maybe, just maybe, that is all that person needs to keep the journey alive with whatever their passions might be.

And maybe sharing this will spawn others to do the same.

Have a good weekend.

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Liberty and Justice Sharing Egg Duties 2.9.13

Here is a few more clips from Saturday, 2.9.13. I was able to capture the eagles sharing egg duties. What I like to note from this video is when they walk down to sit on the egg. When they do this you really get a sense of how deep the nest is as they have to walk very careful as they make their way into the 5 foot deep nest.

As posted on the ALCOA Bald Eagle page:

No Parent, Not To Worry

If you tune in from time to time and see the egg unattended, you really don’t need to worry. As the second and hopefully third egg are laid, Liberty and Justice will spend less and less time off the eggs. It seems they give the first egg or two a little more cooling time to try to get the hatchings to happen a little closer to the same time. Even when the eggs are unattended, at least one of the parents is never too far away from the nest. Be patient, the average incubation is about 35 days. I think last year it was 36 or 37 days before the first egg hatched.

A few people have asked about zooming in. This camera is zoomed out as far as it will go. When the eggs hatch we may zoom in a bit to make it easier to see the little ones for the first few days.

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