Saturday, June 18, 2016

Connectating (credit goes to Chuck Taft) at Summer Spark, 2016

Whew...another fabulous Summer Spark is in the books.

How did that happen?

It seems like I was just driving the 5 1/2 hours to Milwaukee and posting selfies to indicate how many hours until my arrival.

It seems like only yesterday that I saw my good friend Heidi Jones at Applebees and met pirate educators Shelley Burgess @burgess_shelley , Quinn Rollins @jedikermit, Julie Smith @julnilsmith , Don Wettrick @DonWettrick , and Lori London @SciTeach7Davis .

So great to give head #ditchbooker Matt Miller a big hug. We met for the first time last year at Spark.

Just like anything you look forward to, it always seems like it's over in the blink of an eye. So before the memories become a little less vivid and time takes me further from June 13-14, 2016 on the calendar, here's my reflection on this incredible experience.


The first day of Spark started with a delicious buffet breakfast in the USM (University School of Milwaukee) gym. It's always fun to connect with friends: some I had met last year, and others I was meeting for the first time. So fun to see Ku Yau-Jau @yaujauku and Brian Durst @RESP3CTtheGAME , and to chat with Christine Hodges @Christineah88, Lori London and Julie Smith.

Then, it was time for the incredible keynote from Innovator's Mindset author George Couros @gcouros . Such an invigorating message of moving beyond a growth mindset. My morning sessions included Gamification with Tisha Redmond @tishrich . I had only connected with Tisha during our weekly Wednesday #xplap chats. She shared some amazing ways she has gamified her culinary arts class. I can't wait to adapt Chopped and The Amazing Race for my ELA classes.
Next, I had the opportunity to learn about leading like a pirate from the fabulous Shelley Burgess, I also got to hang out with Ku, as we used items in our purse/bag for an extreme hook challenge. After a delicious lunch, I learned from the gamification guru himself, Michael Matera @mrmatera. He shared lots of ways to add items/badges/currency to my existing ELA gamification. His ideas made me so excited for a full year of gamification next year. My final session on day one was a session on Media Literacy by the Queen BS Detector, Julie Smith. She reinforced the importance of teaching our students to look at all media with a critical lens. I know I won't look at media the same way again.

That night, I had the opportunity to have dinner with many participants, including Ben Brazeau @Braz74 who moderates #sstlap on Thursday nights. Then, I headed over to the Chancery for a live tweetup of #tlap. Led by Shelley Burgess, and attended by many fabulous pirate educators and authors like Andrea @andreakornowski and Sean @polonerd , it was quite an invigorating experience. 

Day 2 started with a quick breakfast and meet/greet after coming in to USM through pouring rain. Our keynote was given by none other than Pure Genius author Don Wettrick. He is simply amazing and inspired all in the theater to practice the "Six Traits" of Innovation. That which is: Collaborative, Task-Oriented, Daring, Relevant, Reflective and Ongoing. He shared some work his students have done...simply mind-blowing! It's amazing what the right teacher and freedom to innovate can do. Thanks for all you do, Don!

I attended a few unconference (edcamp) sessions about social deduction games and gamification in the elementary classroom, Then, I chatted over lunch with friends following a BreakoutEdu session led by Rebecca Gauthier @GauthierRebecca. So glad I had the chance to experience a Breakout, and I can't wait to add this component to my Gamification. I had fun getting my pirate books signed by these fine authors.

Then I had the opportunity to attend another session on social media, debunking Facebook, with Julie Smith. She really knows her stuff. We learned about some great resources and tools to help our students better analyze what they see on social media. Such an important skill.

Finally, it was time for my session on teaching argument and persuasion. Although it was a small group, those in attendance learned how to build and develop argument and reasoning skills with their students, that can lead to effective persuasion. Two attendees received copies of Erik Palmer's @erik_palmer new book, Good Thinking. Thanks to Erik for donating them.

Now I look toward another amazing year teaching middle school English, standing on the shoulders of these amazing educators, their inspiring books, and the plethora of creative ideas. Thanks to Chuck Taft @Chucktaft , Pam Nosbusch @PamelaNosbusch  and Will Piper @wdpiper for igniting my SPARK once again. Already planning for June 12-13, 2017.


  1. This sounds wonderful! I'm going to keep it on my radar for 2017!

    1. You will love it! Hope to see you there next year.

  2. Gah! That sounds AMAZING! My summer reading list before your eyes! Having just read Teach Like a and Explore Like a Pirate as well as Innovator's Mindset, I would have been an embarrassing fan girl!

    1. Oh, no such thing as an embarrassing fan girl. They are all amazing people, who are so generous with their time and talents. Maybe you'll make the trip to Milwaukee next year.

  3. Sandy - I'm enjoying your blog! Summer Spark was a great kick off to summer learning. Hope to see you again next summer!
    Mary Kienstra

    1. Thanks, Mary! I enjoyed Spark so much. Looking forward to talking more with you next summer (unless we see each other before that).

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