Monday, May 30, 2016

GEGNZ Sparkshop!

This past Saturday, I attended the first (I think) ever GEGNZ Sparkshop at Ormiston Primary School. Over the last few weeks and months, I've slowly started becoming someone who shares a lot, and it seemed like a good idea to come to this prepared to share.

The conference (or rather, unconference) started with a smorgasbord of ideas that people voted on. I put two ideas in. The first was sharing mystery hangouts (or skypes, depending on where your loyalty lies) by myself. The second was a collaboration with Angela Lee on makerspaces and robots.

I was pretty much the first person to share and it was quite nerve-racking to go up first, especially since I was trying to sell what I was sharing. I spoke quickly and tried not to be too imposing. I think I do give off a very nervous air, but that's ok.  It was then a lot of sitting and listening to other people share their ideas before we voted.

When all was said and done, both of my ideas were booked into places to share. I figured they might be. I'm not being full of myself, but they were interesting things. Luckily I was in the last two sessions, so I had a chance to go check out another session while I fretted away.

Forms (Sarah Allen, from Riverhills)

My one and only session that I participated in the audience was based around using Google Forms. This is something that I've done a lot lately, so I figured I might get some new pointers (there's always something new to learn) or at the very minimum be able to contribute something.

Among other new ideas, we were introduced to Poll Everywhere, a very quick way to get feedback from students and to get them to share. Like other tools (padlet comes to mind) it has some specific uses, but it was also extremely useful in that it can embed into slides (unlike so many other things).

We discussed reasons for gathering student voice (none of which were really earth shattering, but it's important to note that I do think it's important for a variety of reasons - I wouldn't be focusing changing my practice towards increasing this if I didn't), and also wondered whether or not Kahoot! can do similar things (I'm going to try this at some point in the near future).

We discussed various other uses of forms and some add-ons to use. I particularly liked the add-ons Choice Eliminator and Email Confirmation (it may be called something else).

A random idea that came up in the discussion (I actually brought it up) was to use a form to make a choose your own adventure story. I actually got so excited about this that on Sunday I went home and started making an example so we can do it as a class in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to write about that.


Next up was my joint presentation with Angela. We shared a few makerspace ideas, but in the end, it was the robots that were the most popular. Several other attendees loved playing with my Dash and Dot (I may, in fact, be one of the only - if not the only - classrooms in New Zealand that have these robots). I think Wonder Workshop may owe me a bit because I'm pretty sure I've convinced some people to buy them. I'd like some more myself.

We did have a lot more out - Squishy Circuits and Makey Makeys. The circuits got some attention, but I was naturally drawn to the robots and I think a lot of people followed me. I guess people can easily get overwhelmed.

Mystery Hangouts

The crowd for my second presentation was much smaller (6 people) but it was nice to have an intimate setting. I briefly talked about how a mystery hangout works and then we practiced it. I quite enjoyed watching adults have a go at figuring out different strategies for guessing. I think I sold the idea to them though as at least one had already booked a call for the week coming up!

Here's the slideshow I shared during that presentation (in case anyone else wants to try it).

All in all it was a good day. I had lots of interesting conversations about coding and got to know some more people (though to be honest, it's getting to the point where a lot of people know and remember me, but I can't remember them - at least I'm pretty good with faces, but it could make for an awkward meeting in the future. If you're reading this, I have't forgotten you on purpose, I'm sorry).

I do enjoy this presenting thing, though I do sometimes feel like I don't actually know what I'm talking about (ok, I don't actually know) but I think that's part of it. I don't ever want to feel like the expert, but rather I want to constantly be learning an improving.

That being said, apparently I've been included on a proposal for part of the pre-conference things (I think?) at ULearn this year. Should be fun.


  1. Thanks again for supporting the #sparkshop Michael, both you and Angela added real value for participants.

    ngā mihi nui,

  2. Absolutely loved both your sessions that I went to, it is so good to see you thriving and leading change. I'm planning a hangout or two in the coming weeks and have ordered Makey, makey kits - have you seen the NZ price of these!
    Thanks heaps for being so inspiring Michael :)