Edcamp Logo – courtesy Edcamp.org
It was an incredibly nerve-wracking half hour. The cafeteria was filling with educators. We would hit 130 in attendance before the day was done. However, at 8:45 in the morning, the schedule lay bare. Finally, someone went to the board and placed a post-it note in the matrix . . . they would host a session on how to use Movenote in the classroom. Then, one by one, the schedule began to fill up with fascinating topics: Twitter 101, How to Connect with at risk Students using the Arts, Assessments that Don’t Suck, Yoga 4 Classrooms and many more.
This was an EdCamp . . . an unconference. The Edcamp Foundation describes an Edcamp as: a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs. What makes Edcamp an unconference? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions.”
EdCamp Hartford had a large number of EdCamp newbies. They were having a hard time wrapping their head around the concept . . . wait a minute! Where am I supposed to go? How will my principal know that I attended? Who is presenting? What? I can host a session? But I’ve only been teaching for eight months. After some awkward moments and a cautious first session, the EdCamp feeling of enthusiasm took off. There was a buzz of empowerment in the building. EdCamps are ruled by the law of two feet. If you end up in a session that is not relevant or interesting to you, leave. Find another session. The day is about learning, not about egos.
This was my first EdCamp, not just as the organizer, but as an attendee as well. I had heard about the concept from a couple of people, did a little (and I mean little) research and decided to give it a shot . . . five months later, EdCamp Hartford took place at the Learning Corridor in Hartford, Connecticut.
There are two moments of which I am most proud. The first is that a teacher from a nearby town brought a dozen students with him to this event. When I saw them at the registration table I wondered why they were there. I had read somewhere about teachers bringing students, but why? It very soon became apparent . . . this cadre of middle and high school students hosted a half-dozen sessions. They taught teachers how to greenscreen their students, how to use powtoon in the classroom and, my favorite, explained “If Students Ran the School.” These students (and their teacher) were an inspiration to all of the participants.
My other favorite moment was when I found out that there were 20 people in a room waiting for someone to start the session. One of the event’s sponsors was going to host a session on assistive technology, but she came down with a stomach bug and was unable to attend. There was a room of special education teachers, ready to listen to her. This was during the first session of the day and most people were not sure what to expect from a session. I went to the room and said, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Ms. So and So was not able to attend today, so she will not be here to lead this session. The good news is, this is EdCamp . . . talk to each other.” And I walked out. Later when I saw a couple of the teachers from the session, they told me that is took a couple of minutes, but pretty soon they started talking to each other, telling what kinds of technology they use with their students, asking questions and teaching each other . . . EdCamp wins again!
At the end of the day, teachers walked out of the final smackdown session (during which we shared take-aways and ah-ha moments and give away an ipad mini) with a bag of swag, including an EdCamp water bottle and t-shirt and a head full of new learning. I will be tabulating the survey results this week and will share the results with readers next week. People have said that an EdCamp is the most transformative professional learning experience they have had. I hope to gather data that supports this assertion.
If you were to attend an EdCamp, what session would you host?
For more information:
For a twitter recap of EdCamp Hartford: www.crec.org/edcamp
For the dates and locations of upcoming EdCamps: http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/
For the EdCamp foundation: http://edcamp.org/what-is-edcamp/