Last week I participated in my second ever EdCamp, but my first ever EdCamp over Google Hangouts! EdCamp is an “unconference” in which educators gather around topics of personal interest, essentially creating their own schedule of the day with the sessions they want to attend (EdCamp OshKosh, 2014). I really love the freedom of choice that these kinds of professional development allow. When you choose which sessions you attend, and pick topics that are interesting to you, there is a lot of power in that, and the learning becomes more worthwhile.
I chose to present on BYOD Initiatives in Schools. You can access my presentation via Prezi by clicking here.
I really liked that this “unconference” could be experienced from the comfort of my relative’s basement. I think a lot of teachers would be more willing to attend professional development if they had an “over the internet” option for completing it. The fact that the session only had 8-10 people also made it more manageable and more likely that everyone’s views, opinions, and thoughts were able to be shared. The only thing I did not like about the EdCamp was that there were no hard copy handouts (it was online, so obviously this wasn’t an option). I’m the kind of person who likes to take notes on the handouts, and while I could have jotted notes in a notebook, I also appreciated the chance to just take everything in. I think next time I will create a one-page handout to send to others ahead of time, so that if they want a hard copy to take notes on, they’ll have it.
As I mentioned earlier, I really like the power of choice in these kinds of professional development opportunities. Often teachers do not look forward to having to go to PD (I’m guilty of this from time to time…) and sometimes it ends up worthwhile, but it does not always happen that way. Teachers sometimes find themselves wondering, “When will I ever use this in my classroom?” – and they may not ever get an answer (or, it seems too far-fetched to put into practice in a reasonable amount of time). By attending personalized sessions, teachers do not have to follow what everyone else is attending. They can choose topics that are of interest to them, and have the chance for dialogue with colleagues who have the same interests and questions. They can bounce ideas off one another and discuss what works in their current situations. By giving educators the chance to collaborate on topics of interest, the knowledge taken in is that much stronger.
West Bloomfield held an EdCamp last year and I attended with about five other educators from my building. Even though we work together every day, I found it much more valuable because we could finally discuss the ideas that we didn’t have the time and energy to discuss during our busy school days. Even though teachers see each other every day, it doesn’t mean there is time every day to discuss what works well in our classrooms. With staff meetings and PLC time dedicated to other goals, it’s tough to find time to discuss what really matters for our students. EdCamp can allow this to happen.
If I were to organize an EdCamp experience for others, I would base it off of West Bloomfield’s EdCamp that I attended. Participants were told to come with three topics on sticky notes and then the notes were organized on a huge piece of chart paper (see image below… not from our EdCamp, but it looked just like that!). I liked that by coming with your ideas, time was not wasted on thinking about what’s of interest to you or what could be helpful to you. As wonderful as it is to meet in person, I would love to have some kind of live streaming of each session so that participants could attend as long as they had internet access. Of course, this is not always possible. By taking a survey of participants before the scheduled date, though, I may be able to work out what needs to be worked out with those who cannot attend. Overall, it would be a valuable way for educators to spend their time outside of the classroom, discussing what takes place inside the classroom!
[photo credit – Fryer, Wesley. (27 July 2013). EdCamp Grid (2) [photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/938800229]
EdCamp OshKosh. (2014). What is edCamp? EdCamp OshKosh (website). Retrieved from http://www.edcamposhkosh.org/project-definition.
Fryer, Wesley. (27 July 2013). EdCamp Grid (2) [photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/9388002295/.