This past weekend I went down to SE Polk for Edcamp Iowa. This was the largest connects Edcamp in the country as we had 5 locations in all corners of Iowa. Somewhere around 700-800 educators took part and from what you could tell on Twitter, it was a giant success as far as learning and connecting of educators.
This was my third Edcamp and I am a huge fan of them. The idea of an “unconference” that is driven by the participants with no presenters and only facilitators,, no handouts but often times a collaborative note taking experience, and the general feeling that we are all there to learn together creates a dynamic learning experience.
One of the big rules of an Edcamp is the rule of “two feet” where if you find yourself in a session that is not working for you, get up and find one that will. This should be a rule at every conference and even PD as we don’t have time to waste and we should be effective as possible with our time. I found myself in a session discussing byod (bring your own device) but I was following another session dealing with teacher leadership that was more interesting and I just got up and left. I joined the other discussion and made sure my time was being used correctly. You can’t feel bad leaving, your time is too valuable to waste on any topic that is not a top priority for your own learning.
My other sessions dealt with digital citizenship, teacher blogging and of course a “rocks vs sucks” session. The “rocks vs sucks” session is a favorite of mine as it allows for a quicker discussion of various issues and topics that people have a wide range of opinions and experience with. The key to this is to keep the topics vague enough that the clarity comes from the discussion and not the facilitator. Our facilitators Kristina Peters (@Mrskmpeters) and Jamie Fath (@jamiefath) did an awesome job. The fact that we can have such great discussions about topics that affect us greatly is a great aspect of an Edcamp. You have to wonder why we don’t do this more in our building or district level pd sessions.
I came away from the day with a lot of ideas that I hope to work on soon. The need for some more digital citizenship training for both students and staff, the desire to keep blogging to share ideas and resources, and the constant desire to continue my research into better pedagogy methods. This was not a day to learn a new tool but a day to focus on our craft and find ways to improve the learning environments for our students.
The biggest take away from any Edcamp is that we have some great educators out there who are always willing to learn. No one was getting paid to be there or getting credit for it, we were there because we feel we are in a career where we have to be always learning and growing. We are modeling the learning that we can only hope to see from our students. Maybe our schools should be more like Edcamps, maybe that is what 20% time in schools can lead to.