- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
The unthinkable happened. Our faculty provided expertise for a recent In-service. Incentive to turn the reigns over to in-house professionals result from either our successful embrace of the PLC model or because the budget is frozen. Whatever the reason, the opportunity to explore the Ed Camp model of professional collaboration is a turning point in our school wide move towards 1:1 iPad instruction. Our school is committed to 8 days of in-service development, working to unify the K through 12 curricula under mandated structures. Usually the 30 minute breakfast serves as our only opportunity for camaraderie and colleagueship. And the calculated districtwide consumption of breakfast bacon averages 40 pounds per breakfast. It is shocking to think that teachers spend so little time to engaged in meaningful dialogue and that salted pork has such following. This in-service was different. The whole day was organized by a teacher and run by volunteer faculty. Overall, it is a model that has found favor at all levels of our administration.
Ed camp is not a new idea, but it was a new experience for our school. It relies on administrative faith in teachers as task masters who will step forward with presentations, solutions and problems. It relies on respect for one another as educators to put forth best collaborative efforts; cynicism is set aside as spontaneous groups work through any and all questions. A true Ed camp is free of solicitations or venders. Individuals decide the moment they arrive as to what sessions to develop. Ideally, there is no mandated time frame. People move in and out workshops as necessary. Our school is in its preliminary year of campus wide 1:1 iPad technologies, and we were still reluctant to embrace a radical model. We needed more structure. Marc, the school tech integrationist, had been wanting to implement this Ed Camp model for quite some time. Even he conceded that we were not ready for complete independence. Many high school teachers have avoided instruction with iPads. They made tepid attempts at implementation of provided work horse apps and had forgotten how to use them. The day would be built around differentiated instruction with the hopes of bringing everyone closer to the same goal. A few days ahead of the in-service, Marc sent out a single question survey requesting volunteers to design and lead a 30 minute session coaxed a few pioneers to step forward. The open invitation and the opportunity to present our own expertise was enticing. It promised a rare opportunity to play.
The morning began with a full faculty meeting. Instead of the usual paper agenda, Marc shared all documents through several resources: email, google docs, QR codes and the Smartboard projection to meet every individual at their own level of comfort with technology. Instead of powerpoint slides or rereading of our code of conduct, Marc set up quiz questions in Kahoot.it, a gaming assessment website. Each table of teachers joined a team, agreed upon a nickname projected on the leaderboard and began racing to earn the accolades for understanding the code of conduct for digital citizenship faster than others. The laughter and race aspect of assessment was fun. It set the stage for possibility. For the rest of the day the faculty broke into sessions. There was no sign up or mandated session. Teachers were encouraged to choose where they hoped to begin and then come and go from each session at their leisure. Voice announcements helped us set a pace but we were free to meet at designated sites or move to convenient locations. A sample of the range of sessions:
- Twitter and the power of 140 characters,
- compare/ contrast flash card apps,
- round table discussion concerning the paperless classroom,
- updates and operating systems,
- tips for classroom management and iPad gestures (5 finger swipe, etc.)
- A year of using google docs (led by the principal)
Admittedly, I attended only two sessions. During the other sessions, I sat with colleagues and helped them individually. The nurse had never seen a need or use for iPads but was frustrated with the overwhelming health paperwork. She needed someone to help her map out how to design and manage a paperless system. Another educator tended the session I co-taught on Twitter. She had never added apps to her own iPad. We set up an account and then I offered her a private Twitter tutorial. We practiced hashtags and followed trends and retweets.
In both private sessions I came to the realization that each educator had the same issue. They were afraid to play. They were afraid to swipe or tap an icon. Unlike children they had no instinctive curiosity to engage with the iPad. Teachers want text instruction not icons. The common complaint is "just tell me how this works" and we don't want to try something a second time. We are a generation concerned with breaking devices instead of experimenting because we are unaccustomed to making time for play.
So, most of Edcamp was, admittedly, devoted to play. We drew smiley faces on cat photos. We made meaningless videos. We brainstormed new apps. I taught the Twitter session but learned more myself because of the questions posed by peers. Educators spend a great deal of their time learning to directly improve the classroom and there tends to be heavy responsibility for failure to meet expectations. Simply having fun, drove that expectation of failure away. The peripatetic nature of Edcamp gives me hope that learning, sharing and design without an agenda will be a model our school uses more often. #TIL (Today I learned) that we can do this, yes we can.