Monday, July 14, 2014

The Great Eight About #nErDcampMI 2014

Last week, @nErDcampMI took place in Parma, Michigan. It was the best professional development of the summer (just like last year's was). The conference was full of hanging out with great friends, learning about great books, and attending interesting sessions. Thanks to all of the organizers, planners, and supporters! 

I could write an entire day's worth of take-aways from the conference, but instead I will highlight my "great eight" from the conference (in no particular order).

If you have not been able to attend nErDcampMI yet, do not miss out on next year's event. It is truly a remarkable time!

The Great Eight

8. Tony Keefer's (@TonyKeefer) session about technology in a reading workshop classroom was not to be missed and posed the question, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" This question was in regards to using technology with your students. His point was that teachers sometimes go through a lot of hassle to use technology and he wonders is it always as valuable as we think it is? According to Tony, authenticity with technology is important and I walked away realizing that I have used technology "just to use it" before. I see now that I should only be using technology to engage students in extending and reflecting on their reading. I also loved Tony's comments about how reading time each day in class - from day one until the end of the year - is a non-negotiable. I agree!!!

7. The technology tool smackdown between Stacey Schuh (@sschuhtech) and Brad Wilson (@dreambitionwas awesome! I learned about so many writing technology tools in a head-spinning amount of time. I highly suggest you check out the following writing tech. tools: Narrable, Storybird, Padlet, Animoto, and my favorite, LittleBirdTales. 

Check out these adorable LittleBirdTales videos: Max's Tale and Lucia's Tale

Brad Wilson is the creator of  and . He is also co-founder
of Check these out, too!

6. Running in the inaugural Nerd 5K was a fun, albeit painful, experience. I had not run a distance that long since my half-marathon two years ago. Whew! Luckily, I had the encouragement of my buddy, Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic) to help me along. This race could have probably been considered a Tough Mudder. It was extremely humid and the sun was ablaze - but I did it! Luckily for me, not many men under 35 ran the race, so by miracle of miracles, I won third place. I got a rad Nerd 5K cup for my sweaty efforts :-) 

5. The swag bags ROCKED! I scored copies of Kate Messner's Manhunt, Linda Urban's Hound Dog True, Jude Watson's Loot, and many, many more. Getting a copy of The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson for sharing a take-away from the conference at the end was also sweet! The work that Colby, Alaina, Suzanne, and so many others put into this event is amazing. And did I mention #nerdcampmi is totally FREE?!

4. Meeting Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads) was a highlight of the trip. He has been a hero of mine for many years, and I really enjoyed the time we got to spend talking about books and life in general. I am glad now I can call him a friend. I also want to say I was glad to meet these previously online-only friends - Kurt, Jason, Ann, Lesley, Meagan, Mary Jo, Tricia, and more. And hanging out with my friend Kathy was a pleasure. I am her job now. I was also super excited to meet authors Jess Keating (How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied), Liesel Shurtliff (Rump and the upcoming Jack), and Ruth McNally Barshaw (the Ellie McDoodle series).

3. Attending Katherine (@katsok) and Donalyn (@donalynbooks) session on the Best 2014 books (so far) was great. I had my Goodreads page open and added books to my "want to read list"  at breakneck speed. There is nothing better than sharing good books in an auditorium full of other book lovers, is there? Check out the Padlet created by Katie Muhtaris (@literacysparkthat gives you lowdown on these awesome books: Best Books of the Year

2. Attending Kristin McIlhagga's (@TeachChildLit) session on graphic novels was a helpful experience for many reasons. I never thought that much about the ways in which readers of graphic novels read differently than other readers. They scan the text and comprehend the story much differently than a reader of a text-only book. I walked away with a better understanding that every color, line, and shadow in a graphic novel is intentional and has a meaning behind it. I also loved this session because I got to hear ideas from Matt Faulkner, author of the new graphic novel Gaijin: American Prisoner of War. He had a lot of great theories on why boys may be drawn more to graphic novels than girls.  Check out the book trailer for Gaijin: American Prisoner of War

1. This quote from Donalyn Miller's keynote speech is still sticking in my mind:"Reading does not belong to school or to teachers. It belongs to readers." We cannot forget that we teach readers. Our students' lifelong reading journeys should be our focus. 

Thank you, nErDcamp!


  1. Great post! It is interesting to read about everyone's sessions. It makes me wish I could have been in several places at once!

  2. I agree! It is good to hear of the others and read the notes. It was so nice meeting you!

  3. I read your post on the Nerdy Book Club blog and followed the path to this blog and this particular post. The quote from Donalyn Miller at the end here is even more poignant given the striking contrast to what you went through during the change to a scripted reading program. As a former teacher and now an associate in a children's public library, I wholeheartedly believe that reading does belong to readers and proudly wear a badge that says, "I believe that reading is reading, so read what you want." Keep fighting the good fight, Ryan!

    1. Kary, you are so right. Thank you for reading my post and visiting. It was difficult to be at #nerdcamp and hear all of these great things that I agree with, and then be faced with the scripted program. I am trying to make the best of it, though. :)