A couple of weeks ago, I got to participate in my first virtual EdCamp! I have always wanted to attend a live EdCamp, and was even signed up to go to one in early November (but didn’t manage my time and responsibilities well enough, so I had to skip it). So I was thrilled that I had an opportunity to do one on Google Hangouts with some of my CEP 811 classmates.
If you are unfamiliar with what an EdCamp is, watch this short explanatory video:
I was nervous about the technology working, as I had never done a multi-person Google Hangout before. And, of course, I ran into a couple hiccups with that. I was unable to connect to the Hangout with my personal laptop, and had to switch to my school-issued laptop at the last minute. I think in part due to that switch to a less powerful computer, when it was my turn to present, Prezi crashed as I tried to share my screen. I got a little flustered, but my amazing instructors were able to rescue me and share the Prezi I created through their devices. From all of that, I was reminded that I should always have a thorough backup plan, including printed notes for myself to look at, especially when doing something new with technology!
Other than those little bumps in technology, I really enjoyed my EdCamp experience. I think my favorite part was how easy it was to connect with my classmates living in such different parts of the world. There’s something different about seeing one anothers’ faces as you communicate, rather than just responding to blog posts and tweets. I liked that each person was able to bring their unique experiences from their school context to bear on the topic at hand. And it’s amazing how many things I learned from our conversations — a great summary of the 4 pillars you need to have in place to go 1:1, how to use green screens and Google Earth in my classroom, and TigerTeams as a way to create PLCs for technology integration. I’ve referenced each of those ideas in conversations with colleagues at my school in the last week.
I think in a real-life EdCamp, you’d be able to get more back-and-forth conversation flowing than we had, because you wouldn’t “mute your microphone”. Now that I’ve experienced an EdCamp once, I think I’d start my segment with a question to elicit the other attendees’ experiences and opinions, and let the conversation flow from there.
As teachers, we have so many great ideas and experiences that don’t get shared outside of our classrooms, because we are so busy with the day-to-day tasks that we don’t get to reflect and share. In contrast to the traditional “sit and get” PD, where you’re told where to go and what you’re learning, an EdCamp provides a place for thoughtful dialog and a means by which teachers can select the professional development topics that are interesting and meaningful to them. Just like our pedagogy is shifting from instructivism to constructivism and experiential learning, and our curriculum is shifting to emphasize skills, understandings, and transferring knowledge to other situations, our professional development needs to shift as well. I’m excited for the day I’ll get to experience that kind of dialog with my peers at an EdCamp.
That day might actually be closer than I anticipated. The other instructional technology coach and I have been asked to help organize our January Teacher Institute Day at the high school, and we have been allowed and encouraged to consider an EdCamp model for that day! Because most of the teachers in my district haven’t experienced this model before, I think we will have a semi-structured format, as we did for our EdCamp in this class, where teachers (and maybe even students!) can volunteer to lead sessions ahead of time. We will hold a short training session for those teachers if they haven’t been to an EdCamp before, so they are familiar with the feel and style we want the sessions to have, and know to come prepared with discussion questions. (Otherwise, I fear we might end up with just a cheaper version of the traditional PD sessions!) On the day of, we will gather the faculty together to explain what an EdCamp model is and probably show a video clip like the one embedded above. I think it will be important to explain that teachers are free to go to whichever sessions interest them, and that their role is not just to listen to the presenter but to engage in thoughtful dialog and attempt to connect the topic to their current classrooms.
Logistically, it will be difficult to anticipate how many people will attend each session, so we might send out a pre-survey to find out what topics teachers are interested in, while still perhaps leaving room for last-minute topic additions on the day of the EdCamp. Also, in order to give teachers professional learning hours, we need to know where they are during each session, so we may not be able to let them move from session to session as you usually can at an EdCamp. Additionally, it will be important to get feedback from the teachers who participate about the sessions and the day as a whole, to inform future PD decisions.
I will share what we end up doing here on the blog, so that you, my readers, can hear how our EdCamp ends up going and learn from our success and mistakes!
Lee, S. H. (2014, Jan 11). EdCamp 101. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7DwCI7j0Bg