Lessons Learned from Nerdtacular 2014


From July 3 to July 6 I attended the 2014 version one of my favorite annual events, Nerdtacular! A “thank you” for fans of Scott Johnson’s Frogpants Studios, it began 7 years ago as a communal geeky movie-viewing event with 30 people in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has evolved into a two-day, multi-track event including concerts (by The Doubleclicks and Andrew Allen) at Snowbird Resort up the mountain from SLC for around 700.

It’s impossible to encapsulate the awesomeness of this event or my joy at hanging out with my Tribe, but I can try to share a few lessons. Not surprisingly, I can easily extend them into my classroom.

1) Whatever gets your geek on, you are not alone! Like the bigger conferences such as San Diego ComicCon, Nerdtacular appeals to fans of comics (print and web), video games, tabletop games, movies, science fiction and fantasy, cosplay, music, tech, and podcasting. But unlike SDCC or any other con, it feels more like an intimate, wacky group of sisters and brothers from another mother. I can wear my tiara there every year without judgment. 😉

Classroom application: I plan to have students fill out a Google form in the first week telling me their interests so that I can include them in our curriculum.

2) People who make stuff are generally super nice and like to share! That goes for the podcast producers AND the incredibly creative fan community that’s grown up around them. No lane lines or handlers here. Internet celebrities and fans from faraway places (France, UK, Canada) share pizzas, cigars, inside jokes, and games of Cards Against Humanity way into the night.

Classroom application: I hope to identify student “experts” within the class and to bring in outside experts more often. My husband, a lawyer, loves to judge my mock trials.

3) It’s okay to be introverted or only situationally extroverted! As a teacher, I can put on a public speaker hat, but as a geek, I find myself surprisingly shy. Yet in this group, so many of us feel the same way that we extended ourselves to start conversations (yay for clever, nerdy t-shirts that broke the ice!) and to understand when people had to excuse themselves for some alone time.

Classroom application: Susan Cain’s call to action in her TEDtalk has changed my approach to collaborative work. I make sure students have as much choice as possible, even to work alone.

4) As individuals we are awesome, but as a community we are amazingly awesome! I loved seeing how creative and witty all my new besties were, from artists to costumers to skateboard crafters, etc.). One talented creator of custom leather embossed flasks (see below!) got so much love that he became inspired to start a small business. Also, I heard so many stories of resort staff going out of their way to mention that our group was so great to have as guests. In fact, the bride and groom of the wedding that was mistakenly booked at the same time into an adjacent space loved us so much they had pictures taken with our Maleficent and Iron Man. The cosplay this year was incredible. But what I loved the most was the synergy of creativity and support that inspired even people like me to try new things.

Classroom application: as I do every year, I will help students develop a safe learning community in my classroom.

5) Go forth and make cool stuff! Scott Johnson himself is an inspiration to the creative community. I was present seven years ago at the taping of the 1000th episode of Buzz Out Loud, a long-running tech podcast produced by C-NET/CBSinteractive when Scott announced that he was quitting his day job and going full-time into podcasting and cartoon art. What a great role model for following one’s passion!

Classroom application: isn’t this our ultimate mission as teachers — to create lifelong learners who take responsibility for their own growth and creativity?

So how was YOUR holiday weekend? 😉

NT14 Flasks



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