Thursday, July 23, 2015

DENSI 2015 Overview

I'll start off with saying that I believe all professional development should be like DENSI.  It was a purposefully crafted week that allowed for whole group sessions, hands-on exploration, discussion, collaboration, and smaller break-out sessions that were dictated by teacher's choices (unconference).  

Here was the overview:


We took arrived at American University and I was already exhausted.  I left Las Vegas at 12:30 am, landed in Philly around 8 am, then landed in DC at 11.  DENSI doesn't start until 3, but my suite mate was awesome and picked me up from the airport and let me drop my bags off in my room.  She had been there since Friday because she is on the Leadership Council.  I then found two newbies from Chicago and we went off in search of food.  We must have found the DENSI hotspot because I saw my roommate there (along with a good three dozen other hungry teachers).  After lunch (and gelato), we headed back to officially begin DENSI.

After getting our lanyards and fighting for the elevator, we took our press photos, unpacked, and had dinner.  DE brought in food trucks and then we did a gift swap and scavenger hunt.  Part of our packing instructions were to bring a gift that represented our home town, so I brought a mug, playing cards, and a poker chip key chain for my mystery person.  I got some peanuts from Virginia (lucky B!) and my person was super friendly.  We also got our DENSI swag, which included a Shark Week hat (I love Shark Week) and a selfie stick.

We then had our opening session, went over the schedule, and had some guest speakers.  We broke off into our smaller team meetings.  Since all of our team was female, we named ourselves the Estro-DEN.  One of the ladies on my team was also my suite mate, so that was a fun coincidence.


We spent the morning site seeing and the afternoon on our own.  I chose to spend the afternoon in the Natural History museum, including an accidental nap during an Imax movie on oceans.  (To be fair, it was a very soothing and calming movie.)

We saw the Thomas Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King Jr, Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean war monuments.  We drove by Embassy row, the Washington monument, and the White House.

Snapshots from Monday:

(Inside and outside of the Jefferson Memorial)

Dr. King
(Fun fact: His position means he's staring at Lincoln's monument, where he gave his I have a Dream Speech)

President FDR's memorial
(We were told not to sit on his lap. I'm disturbed that the tour guide deemed it necessary to tell us that in the first place.)

Washington's monument 
(Fun fact, you can see the different layers because of construction issues about 1/3 of the way up!)

Korean War Memorial

President Lincoln (Notice the hands are A and L in American Sign Language)

(Added to the Lincoln memorial steps to honor Dr. King)

The White House

After site seeing and dinner, my roommie and I crashed.  We'd been up for a while and both were on West Coast time, so the 6 am alarm seemed very early.


I immediately began to hate my alarm clock.  We had to get to the dining hall early to compete for food with hundreds of enthusiastic children.  I'm pretty sure the future leaders of America (or a similar spin off) were there, so there were lots of sixteen year olds in business attire trying to navigate the campus in heels.  We didn't even bother attempting Starbucks when we saw the line out the door. 

On the bright side, this was a site we saw every morning:

(As a Nevadan, I enjoyed the greenery.)

After breakfast was our morning session, then break out mini-sessions (which I'll reflect upon later) with lunch in between.  I took notes on my pink memo pad, which is ironic considering I'm at a tech conference, but that's how I process information the best.

(On a completely unrelated note, I also process learning best when I have Starbucks and chocolate...)

I attended: PBL in the media rich classroom (project/problem based learning), doodling in the classroom (as a means of note taking), showing what you know (projects), and library and digital resources (to share with my librarian).  All my sessions were amazing.

Dinner followed, then the DENmazing race (the Amazing Race, Discovery Style).  My team was not competitive (hence the name the Frolicking Unicorns) but we had a great time.  As an added bonus, I found some new team builder games to use next year with Sunshine committee.

We had to jog through the hoops and then crawl through the tunnel before throwing a football through another hoop at the end of the station.  There were at least eight different embarrassing games.  

After the DENmazing race, we did an escape room.  This was my first time participating in one and it was awesome.  It was 1985 themed and our team escaped the room the fastest.  We had to work together to solve clues and figure out puzzles to enter different rooms within the escape room (there were six rooms total, so I guess it was the escape suite).  


Again, the alarm clock came too soon as did the fight for the omelet line with the children.  The day was again broken into smaller mini-sessions.  

I attended: Coding (which I definitely need to investigate more), app smashing (combining different apps into a project), portable presentations (a good dozen things to use besides Prezi), and took the last session off to process everything I'd learned so far.

I also had some time with the DENSI gnome. 

He is not to be left alone and enjoys meeting all the DENSI participants.

We then did another team builder that focused on mini-debates that could be used in the classroom, had a team meeting, (had a post-dinner nap), and then had a DENovator (craft) fair.  I made a shark week coaster (because obviously), a few other small craft projects, and had a great time chatting with others.  

I don't know how, but I want to do something like this for our wedding.  The craft wheels in my mind are spinning!

I also snagged this iron-on to use on a future project:

Next time I attend, I'll definitely plan a craft to share :)


Thursday is both my favorite and least favorite day of DENSI.

It's my favorite because it's unconference day, which means the sessions are all created based on what we as educators want.  It's loosely structured and meant to allow for glorious amounts of collaboration.  

I attended information on utilizing twitter and instagram in the classroom (teaching_with_avice if you choose to follow), classroom dojo, mystery skyping, and more.  There was so much wonderful information that I can't wait to share (both here and with my school).

Thursday evening brought our history-themed closing session.  Being the only delegate from my state, it was a little sad to see all the group themed costumes and not have anyone to collaborate with.  I represented the West with Annie Oakley because I already owned all of my costume components.  Some of the other states went as cave women, Egyptian pharaohs, and history bees (yes, bees).


We cleaned our room, headed to breakfast, and then to our tear-filled final session.  I headed to the airport to meet Erika and then began our best friend filled weekend.  

I returned home late Monday evening and have been slowly processing the week since then.  I'm a little frustrated in my delay at getting out DENSI notes, but I've also had eye doc appointments and the puppy is interested in chewing on everything but her toys, so she requires constant vigilance.  Good thing she's cute.

Stay tuned for more in depth session notes!

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