Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the Western New York Higher Ed EdCamp at Daemen University. Except for a few visits to the gymnasium, I’d never set foot on the campus until yesterday. Soon after driving through the main entrance, I spied Duns Scotus Hall, which reminded me I was on the university’s campus rooted in the Franciscan Tradition. The conference took place in the Social Room of the  John R. Yurtchuk Student Center, which is at the center of the campus. Registration for the EdCamp provided me with a parking pass, and after some driving around, I found a spot in front of the residence hall and just a short walk to the student center.

Upon entering the building, I was directed to the second floor and the large Social Room. As I walked toward the front of the room, I spotted a long-time friend, Dr. Katie McFarland. She greeted me warmly, and we soon shared our lives since the last time we met. EdCamp organizer Angela Stockman also came over and gave me a warm greeting and said how glad she was to see me. We had a nice lunch, and then the conference began with a keynote by Daemen University senior Maggie Burns, who shared her journey as a recovering perfectionist. Who can’t identify with that? She was poised and passionate and invited me to remember what I might have thought of that subject when I was her age.

At each of our seven tables, there were 3×5 cards for us to fill out areas we’d like to learn or share about. I was at table one with Katie, Maggie, and another Daemen senior who was also a special education major. Katie filled in the topics we picked among our several common interests and added them to the shared Google Doc displayed on large projection screens in the front of the room.

I came to the conference wanting to learn more about how other colleges and universities approached the hot topic of artificial intelligence. I wasn’t disappointed as I heard firsthand from experienced professionals what they were doing. The senior students also shared their positives about how AI helped them write lesson plans, differentiate instruction, and rewrite objectives. I found that most of the professional staff embraced the idea of AI in the classroom. There were concerns about privacy and plagiarism, but overall, I came away with the impression that AI is here to stay. I was pleasantly surprised that Daemen University has a position statement on the use of generative AI tools at the university. Further research after yesterday’s conference demonstrated to me that Daemen is a leader in this area in Western New York higher education.

The last session I attended was one I had proposed on how folks were using social networking to share what they were learning. How have personal learning networks evolved in the post-Twitter/X? I shared about the Fediverse and Mastodon, but no one else at our table was familiar with that platform. LinkedIn has become the platform of choice for sharing. I came away from the conference encouraged and hungry for more. I hope that this conference will continue and that I’ll be eager to attend. The EdCamp model is learner-centric and encourages the free flow of ideas. Thank you to Angela Stockman, conference organizer and thought leader, for her leadership.

Every Wall is a Door

I first read the quote, “Every wall is a door” by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the wall of a Facebook friend. It continues to be one of my favorites. Just yesterday we got some unhappy news. When bad news comes it invites a response and more often that not I’m prone to think of the misfortune.  There is a lot wisdom concerning news like this. Romans 8:28 says. “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Another favorite expression is: “never put a question mark where God puts a period.” Life is full of paradox. In fact I’ve come to regard these paradoxes as a sign of blessing. As I was getting my tea made this morning I reflected on the many blessings in my life.

A little over three years ago I had become depressed at the thought of retiring. I thought my life was over. But in the three years hence I have become a frequent contributor and community moderator at Opensource.com. I have re-entered the classroom teaching and learning about Lego Mindstorms and robotics in general. I’ve taught programming and digital citizenship classes to children and adults. I have become active in the EdCamp movement and look forward regular communication on social media with those friends.  I’ve become a successful grant-writer and that has allowed me to give back to the community in ways I could never have imagined. I’ve learned about nutrition and wellness through involvement at The Warming House , Genesis House and the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Franklinville. Through the interest and work providing sustenance for those less fortunate has led to deeper involvement and learning about organic farming, open source agriculture and other life giving initiatives. I recently agreed to be an animator for justice, peace and the integrity of creation for the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Region of the Secular Franciscan Order and created a website to aid in that process. 

What once seemed like the end of the road has become a gateway to new life and new purpose. I am grateful for these opportunities to live, love and grow.

EdCamp is a learning opportunity you cannot afford to miss

Saturday I attended my second EdCamp in the last two months. I learned some new things as a result. Furthermore I’m inspired by the teachers and administrators whom I met there. There was an eagerness to learn and share that’s frequently missing at formal conferences. In fact at most educational conferences that I’ve either attended or presented at, the flow of information is typically one way. It’s presenter to attendee. But at EdCamps the flow of information and expertise for that matter comes from all the participants. There is a sense of excitement that’s palpable, enthusiastic and authentic. The people who are drawn to EdCamps come from near and far. They come on their own time because they sincerely want to learn and grow professionally.

I’m energized by the grass roots nature of EdCamp. I spoke with Katie McFarland the organizer of EdCampFLX which I attended on Saturday and she said they had received a mini-grant from the EdCamp Foundation to assist with the program. The rest of the snacks, refreshments and prizes were donated. I’m encouraging other retired educators to get involved with EdCamp because you might be surprised by what you learn and maybe even what you can share. Saturday I came to share on open source and open educational resources and while those sessions were productive I learned about Smore.com which I’m going to use myself and I’ve already shared it with my learning networks. I also taught a group of teachers how to create and use Twitter lists. I’m indebted to Christina Luce who first shared about EdCamp and whose enthusiasm for the movement invited my involvement. I’m looking forward to attending more EdCamps in the future and especially the one at Maine-Endwell in the April 9, 2016.


EdCamp is is an opportunity for learning you cannot afford to miss

I became aware of the EdCamp movement over a year ago through one of my Twitter contacts, Christina Luce. Since that time I’ve done a lot of reading about the EdCamp movement and I’ve been very impressed by what I have read. Recently I attended and participated in the EdCampCNY. I found it refreshing to be sitting around talking with professionals about solutions to everyday educational needs. I recently learned that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the EdCamp Movement two million dollars to continue this seminal work and to grow the movement. Because of my positive experiences with EdCamp I’ll be attending another EdCamp next week in Canandaigua, New York. Like all EdCamps it’s free and you can register by following this link.

Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs.  Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Participants attending the conference are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. Sponsors don’t have their own special sessions or tables, all of the space and time are reserved for the things the participants want to talk about.

Built on principles of connected and participatory learning, edcamp strives to bring educators together to talk about the things that matter most to them.  Educators who attend edcamp can choose to lead sessions based on their passions, interests and questions, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge, experience and questions. — Kristen Swanson in Edutopia

Learn more about the EdCamp Movement here.


What is a Bar Camp? That’s what I wanted to know a week ago. Lots of reading about them but no experience. That changed about 11:00 am yesterday morning as I sat in Room 1400 at The Golisano Computer Center at Rochester Institute of Technology. I saw first hand why this is an unconference because prior to 11:10 am there was no schedule for the day. Instead on a wall in a hallway was a list of rooms and time slots from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm with an hour for lunch. I came expecting to be surrounded by geeks and I was. But, I was also surrounded by a lot of other free thinkers who came to present on a myriad of topics including “How not to talk to an atheist.” That was the last talk I attended. The first talk I listened to was a guy who talked about how to live with perfectionism and how to recover from it. Along the way there was a presentation on Open Maps and my own presentation about my experience writing for Opensource.com and how I found a way to give back to the open source community. I want to thank the organizers of BarCampRoc. I know I’ll be back and encourage others to consider BarCamps and EdCamps. There is an EdCamp coming to Central New York this summer. Follow this link to more information about EdCampCNY.