Monday, April 21, 2014

Why #Edcamp Is So Awesome

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending another Edcamp. This one makes 7 for me. #EdcampElon was another event in a long like of teacher-driven professional development that can have a lasting impact on the learning of all who attend.

Don't know what an Edcamp is or looks like?

My experience with Edcamp has been that of a participant and an organizer (EdcampNC!). And seeing it from all sides really helps me believe that Edcamp, is quite possibly the best Professional Development I've had.

But why?

I really think it comes down to 3 things.

1) Attendees

EdcampElon brought together teachers, administrators and education professionals from across NC and beyond. It was a very diverse group with K-12, higher ed, all subject areas, experiences and locations represented. I knew just looking around the room at who was there, the day was going to be great. And they did not disappoint. During the sessions every person contributed. No matter how small or in what way, every single voice that was at EdcampElon was heard. We could deeply disagree about a common theme and that was ok. We listened to each other and pushed each others thinking.

Edcamp appeals to educators from all walks of life. It's not just teachers, or just admin or just other groups that attend. It's a diverse group with a diverse background that makes the Edcamp experience a rich one.

2) Sessions

It was clear even before the event that deciding on sessions was going to be difficult. There was a Twitter chat before EdcampElon to help prepare folks before they came and to get ideas on what folks wanted to talk about. The Padlet board was filled with ideas even before Saturday came. And when the time came to decide on what we talk about it was a mad dash to the board to get your session there. It wasn't just people who had experience on a topic that wanted to share. It was people who had something they were struggling with that they wanted the wisdom of the crowd to talk about it.

That was the case with my session, "To Flip or Not To Flip." I make no bones about the fact I think flipping, in the commercialized way it has gotten, is terrible for kids. I knew there were going to be flipping experts there so I wanted to have a conversation about it. I only had my point of view. I wanted that of the others. It wasn't a presentation and it wasn't a lecture. It was a conversation about the pros and cons. In the end both sides came away with a better understanding and lots to think about.

The sessions at an Edcamp you would be hard pressed to find any where else. The Edcamp setting is more conducive to conversation rather than the lecture. And lecture is discouraged anyway at an Edcamp. The diversity of the attendees lends itself to a diversity of sessions proposed which helps push the learning of everyone there.

3) Collaboration

Hands down, the best thing that came out of EdcampElon were the collaborative notes. Once the sessions were decided on, docs were set up so that during each session participants could add notes so we all had takeaways. Again, its the wisdom of the crowd. So while I was in an amazing session on digital leadership (which you should really check out the notes for) I could watch the notes for the BYOD or Twitter chats session. And even if I couldn't watch the notes in real time, I had them afterwards.

Sure, I've been to plenty of workshops and conferences where there were collaborative notes. But never had I been anywhere when there were notes like that for every session. And it wasn't a big deal to set up or organize. When the session started someone asked if there was anyone willing to take notes. Most of the time someone was already on the doc and had started. That kind of collaboration lends itself to deep learning and understanding.

I had a great time at EdcampElon. There is lots I was able to reflect on during the drive home and plenty to consider this week. I encourage you, if there is an Edcamp near you, go. You won't regret it. And if there isn't one near you, start one. You could provide the professional development of a lifetime for another educator. 
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