EdCamps have been on my radar for a few years – following event hashtags and speaking with people who have attended them. I’ve been near ready to spend 4 hours in the car to participate on a Saturday event with zero participants I know personally…just to take it in. I understand and really appreciate EdCamps’ collaborative, and almost ‘organic’ approach to professional development. In a nutshell:
EdCamp is the edu-space created when engaged collaborators ask “what is my current reality?” & “what am I interested in learning & sharing today?”
The EdCamp model is so successful for so many participants because of its ‘freshness’…versus a ‘staleness’ of sorts. I offer these two words because this is often how educators view big-box Pro-D…as a one-size fits all approach to an idea or topic that might or might not (often not) have any direct impact on classroom experience Monday morning…
This freshness is evident in the EdCamp format – you sign up and suggest topics you wish to learn about…and in turn…you suggest ones you feel comfortable leading. Now, when EdCamp says leading, it really just means one thing: You are responsible to ask the first question, OR, you are responsible to start the discussion…and allow the room to take over. Here is a photo to help you see the topic suggestion process at work, tweeted by the organizers themselves:
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending my first EdCamp here in Kelowna, BC. Early in the day participants received wonderful advice from EdCamp guru and former Principal turned Educational Consultant Tom Schimmer (@tomschimmer) regarding each of our own mindsets and attitudes as participants at this EdCamp:
Be selfish with what it is you want to learn…go out and find it…
The day was a pleasure. The people there truly wanted to be there. This showed in each conversation I was involved with, and it also showed in the backchannel as educators joined the discussion from Twitter.
As of today’s post, three people have offered their reflections on EdCampOK via their blogs. There, they give more detail about the contents of the day’s sessions and each highlights a different aspect of an EdCamp. Each of them are worth a read – I recommend them all. They are at the bottom of this post for your reference.
Now for some of my Take-A-Ways:
1. Conference Culture: I often measure my take-a-ways through my twitter-filter…in other words, can my take-a-way be a one-liner? Or, did someone’s tweet stick in my mind and cause me to reflect? Well, the following tweet is from an outstanding Math teacher at OKM in Kelowna. He is comparing a very large Pro-D conference to the one we just experienced:
I hear him highlighting the community feel, the partnering, and the value of a local PLN that can be present when educators from the same region get together. Additionally, it was very special for me to finally meet face-to-face with many educators who I have followed via Twitter and Blogs for quite a while.
2. Fresh Grade: One of the sessions I attended was on the topic of Assessment. It was well voiced by all present. One participant, Steve Wandler (@stevewandler), admitted that he was not an educator at all. Rather, he was just a concerned parent. This got my attention. He shared that he knows of many parents who really desire to know how their kids are doing in school – beyond the required report cards (3 in elementary and 4 in high school) that schools must legally provide to parents. So, he did something about it.
He has co-founded Fresh Grade, an edu-assessment start-up that aims to help teachers more easily collect both small and big pieces of data (formative and summative) and to provide that information clearly and meaningfully to parents. Our campus school currently uses a web-based assessment and attendance program that provides parents with a daily report card of sorts. At HCS, when a family changes schools, I know first hand that the number one thing that family misses about our school is that they miss knowing their child’s updated marks each day. Good on you, Fresh Grade (@freshgrade), for helping parents and educators connect around their shared students. Keep up the innovative work!
3. No Risk – No Reward. What does this mean you ask? Well, it means that during the first time slot I ended up leading one of the three sessions that were offered. At the start of the day I added this to the collaboration white-board: Hands on with a Chromebook & GoogleApps for Education. Prepared or not – I just put it up there. I did bring two Samsung Chromebooks with me (that I didn’t even end up putting on the WiFi). But, because I had a bit of material on this blog regarding the CBs and GoogleApps, I thought I could tell our 1:1 story. It wasn’t the most attended session of the day and I am very thankful for that. Similar to the tweet above, our small-ish group fostered open conversation. To be clear, I certainly did not have any answers or definite best practices to share. I simply gave an account of what we are up to as a registered Google School, with the use of Moodle as our LMS, and in our being WiFi friendly for grade 8/9s and having a 1:1 BYOD & school provided hybrid in grades 10-11-12.
4. Professional Proficiency: On a personal note, although it was only one day, and by no means did EdCampOk claim to have the Okanagan Valley’s exhaustive group of cutting-edge educators, it just felt good be a part of the day’s events. I felt like I was at the table, like I had things to offer, like our small school’s voice was heard (and even caused some to take note).
This is my 10th year at Heritage. I love it. One year turned into ten. I have transitioned from full-time teacher to half-teacher and half-VP, and now this year have begun my 4th year as high school principal and Math teacher (two teaching blocks but teaching 4 courses…yes…I am the scheduler!). I have been given incredible freedom to explore, listen, lead, try, fail – all of this in our great community of families, teachers, and students. I am thankful that my school saw potential in me and covered the entire cost of my graduate degree through Gonzaga. I am also defining a PLN in our school’s Christian school association, ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International).
Yet, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I feel like I have ‘missed out’ on something by not being in the public district. I feel like perhaps I have not developed as much at HCS as I would have in the big-machine. I don’t know. Hind-sight is always 20-20 and I know that the greener grass next door only exists because it is fertilized like crazy…and then they hire someone else to mow the lawn… I just know that being at EdCampOk provided me a sense of personal and professional validation and confirmation that God, for the time being, has me where He wants me.
5. Self-Admitted Failure: Like the point above, this will be another personal note. [ I am not against personal notes on this blog…I mean, it’s my blog. Yet, often in a professional setting I hesitate to share as openly as I sometimes wish to. Has that ever happened to you? ] Anyways, part of the EdCampOk registration was to add topic ideas to a GoogleDoc. I added this: Possible round-table discussion on helping increase student accountability and responsibility in a 1:1 or device-friendly environment with today’s ‘instant-on’ and ‘easily distracted’ teens. I really wanted to hear what other schools are doing about student self-discipline in our device-crazy culture. I wanted to know if others are seeing a need to talk about this topic. I wanted to share that my school has many students who use their 1:1 device for PLAY all day, yet continue to FAIL their courses. I wanted to find the golden key that would unlock the answer to the question of student self-motivation and self-discipline.
Sheepishly, when I returned home following the EdCamp I realized that I was the one who needed to learn this skill. I was the one who showed a lack of self-discipline and a lack of discernment. You see, as professionally awesome as this EdCamp’s potential was, my family was home sick. And I went out to edu-‘play’ on a Saturday. In the grand scheme of things I landed on the wrong side of the life-balance spectrum: I chose work over family. Unfortunately, as educators, we do not have a 9-5 job. We will forever have marking, prepping, IEPs, sporting events, Grad events, and students needing extra times in our classrooms. All I know is that in the future moving forward, my family is far more important to me than one great day of Pro-D. As good as my EdCamp day was, I failed to make the right choice.
Ah, isn’t it by Grace that we walk day-by-day? Sure is wherever I walk…
By the way, here are the refection blogs mentioned above from #EdCampOk – each worth a read: