SAGU Teacher Education launched a new effort to collaborate with educators in Ellis County and beyond. Teachers and administrators from Waxahachie, Midlothian, Palmer, Red Oak, Ferris, Ennis, Cedar Hill, and as far away as Bonham, TX, participated in Edcamp SAGU.

For many, the Edcamp model of personal development was a new experience. Described as "organic, participant-driven professional learning experiences created by educators, for educators," Edcamp democratizes teacher professional development. Nearly 90 participants joined on campus to identify topics, assign rooms and sessions, and spend six hours learning from or mentoring their peers.

Sessions varied widely from educational technology and applications, implementing genius hour, classroom management and organization, ebooks for Title I schools, gamification, STEM, Minecraft in the classroom to expanding professional networks on social media.

SAGU also setup a digital playground for hands-on experimentation with emerging classroom technologies. Early on, event coordinator Dr. LaShera McElhany tweeted a picture of a bunch of bananas with the quote, "Because you can't play @makeymakey banana keyboard without bananas." Indeed, teachers played digital music via bananas, marshmallows and circuitry. They also coded instructions for guided robots using pens and paper.

Dr. LaShera McElhany who championed Edcamp SAGU says, "My first experience with Edcamp was in 2014 when SAGU took a group of students to Edcampalooza in Commerce, TX. It was great exposure for our students. I thought 'Why couldn't we host an Edcamp to serve our community and students?'"

Just 2 years later, SAGU Teacher Education program was courting principals and superintendents throughout Ellis county to spread the word. A group from Palmer showed up in a big way, winning the award for most participants in a vehicle.

SAGU student Annissa Shell, who went with SAGU on their early EdCamp outings said, "I think this was one of the best Edcamps I have been to!"

Sponsors also participated in a big way. Food was contributed by Chick-fil-a, Taco Cabana, Chicken Express, Aramark and SAGU staff and faculty. Door prizes were generously donated by Johnny Carinos, Animoto, Comic Life, Atomic Learning, Easelly, EdPuzzle, Edublogs, Edutopia, Equalman, Flocabulary, IPEVO, JoyLabz, Kahoot, LiquidCustom, Makey Makey, Nearpod, Nepris, Ozobot, Padlet, Pear Deck, PiktoChart, TPN Reimagine Retail, Shake Up Learning, Showbiz Cinemas, Techsmith, Wonderopolis, Write About, Zaption, SAGU Harrison Graduate School History Program and Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

"This was an outstanding event, especially for a first effort. Well organized, warm welcoming environment, friendly people. Not to mention the food!" said Susan Jones of Midlothian.

SAGU is already evaluating feedback from this year and planning an encore for March 2017. The next challenge will be to grow the number of participants.

"The more participants you have, the more diverse the topics of study," said Dr. McElhany.

Dr. McElhany and Teacher Education Department Chair Dr. Christi Wirth want to see the school's notoriety grow in North Texas. SAGU's students have already earned a powerful reputation through student teacher classroom placements in Ellis county and through literacy labs on Waxahachie campuses. Ellis county teachers and administrators regularly report how pleasant it has been to work with SAGU education majors.

In turn, SAGU Teacher Education majors maintain a 99% passage rate on state certification exams - a result of demanding curriculum alongside productive mentorship from Ellis county teachers.

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