Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why YOU Should Attend a PLAYDATE in 2014

Because I said so? Bad reason.

So you go to a conference. Or an edcamp. You meet a bunch of awesome people. You feel inspired. You're ready to go make changes in your classroom. You've got a bag of new tech tools you've heard about. You're excited to implement them in your classroom.


Except then you get home from the event. You've got real life responsibilities. You need to get things done - lessons to design, grading to do. This bag of new tech tricks stays on the periphery; this bag stays on the shelf begging for you to come and play but you have no time. But those tools are there. They’re ready for whenever you find the time to learn about them, and about how to implement them in your classroom.

Well, enter PLAYDATE. The #BurNTA team outside Chicago conceptualized PLAYDATE as the answer to this conference woe: having a bunch of tools you want to try out but having no time to learn how to use these tools.

Similar to an edcamp, a PLAYDATE is usually held on a Saturday. And is free. Similar to an edcamp, there shouldn't be any presentations during sessions. Then things change.

First, the session board is built before the day of the event, but it is still participant-driven. Before the event, the organizers survey the attendees about what tech tool they are interested in learning how to use. The session board is built off of these desires: whatever tools PLAYDATE attendees want to learn are the sessions that are run.

Attendees are instructed to indicate interest in a session based on tools they want to learn, NOT tools they are already an expert in. Going to a PLAYDATE and messing with tools you already know how to use all day misses the point of PLAYDATE entirely: you leave PLAYDATE comfortable with new tools and knowing what this tool is going to look like in your classroom.

PLAYDATE sessions are generally about an hour long. The first twenty minutes or so are spent reading up on resources about the tool. The middle third of the session is spent trying out the tool. What can it do? What can't it do? The final third of each session is spent sharing out tricks for using the tool as well as implementation ideas for the tool.

Are these session guidelines hard and fast guidelines? Certainly not. However, the general idea of a PLAYDATE should be adhered to: hands-on playtime with a tool so that you could implement that tool on Monday.

Interested? I hope you are. Check out the original PLAYDATE site here - there are links there to help you start your own PLAYDATE. I was able to do a Google Hangout with the PLAYDATE founders - it is embedded below and has some great information about how the idea came about and what your PLAYDATE day will look like. Also, check out Jennie Magiera's blog post about how PLAYDATE came to be.

The first PLAYDATE of 2014 is on February 15th in San Jose, CA. The #BurNTA team is hosting the second Chicago area PLAYDATE on March 8th. In either part of the country? Both websites have registration information on them. Further down the road, Los Angeles will be hosting their second PLAYDATE on August 9th.

Come out and play!

Endnote: this shouldn't have been read as an indictment of conferences or edcamps. A PLAYDATE is designed to do all of those things you wished you had time to do at conferences or edcamps - talk, test, play, envision, implement, try, iterate, and revise. I'm on the organizing committee for three edcamps - clearly I believe in the model. Both edcamps and conferences inspire me and push my thinking. Getting to talk to other smart, passionate educators makes me better in the classroom. And really when it comes down to it that's what it's all about.