EdCamp Cincinnati took place on Saturday, Oct. 20th. I was there to see and participate in this wonderful event. My curiosity towards this growing movement was fueled by so many people I come into contact via the #sschat hashtag on Twitter. The setup was really laid back and very inviting for teachers. Like TCI does in our PD offerings, the EdCamp sponsors started with a meaningful icebreaker where participants labeled themselves with stickers indicating what they would like to learn more about….tech tools, common core, writing, etc. etc. Participants mingled and shared their desires, and then the facilitators used this information to begin crafting the agenda and session offerings (each about 50 minutes). Participants were encouraged to vote with their feet and attend sessions that they would be interested in.
When I chose my sessions, again I was interested to see if someone took the lead or whether they sessions would be organic discussions and sharing. I found that it was a mix. My first session was on writing in the content area. Here, a teacher who was passionate about writing shared their insights with others, and together we shared our experiences and challenges, and also possible solutions. Perhaps the session that I enjoyed the most was about blogging. This was a free-wheeling organic discussion where teachers/admin shared their thoughts on professional blogs and student blogs. Since I have been blogging for over two and a half years, I felt that I could share some of my insights on what has worked well and what hasn’t. I learned more than I could have imagined. One teacher shared how they are using Edmodo, while another preferred Blogspot (aka Google Blogger), and yet another WordPress.
The most interesting session I attended was on how teachers are using social media in their classroom. What was of note here was that there were more teachers in this session who do not currently use it but were coming to find out how others were using things like Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media outlets. What is striking is the pace of change I heard. Two years ago I went to the T&L Conference in Denver. There, most participants were only then dipping their toes in the murky waters of social media. Most of their schools blocked such tools anyway; so most were just sharing how they were using it themselves to build PLN (Personal Learning Networks). Here just two years later, a majority of the people in this session work at schools that allow at least one type of popular social media. That is both a tale of hope and caution. The hope is that schools become more responsive to what is happening in popular culture and utilize the tools students are most inclined to use. The caution of course is that even though schools need to support and use such tools, that they must be founded on sound pedagogical use first.
EdCamp is a growing trend. This unconventional professional development offers a laid back atmosphere where teachers can grow professionally. You can find more about EdCamp HERE and I would also encourage you to view this brief VIDEO. Most of the EdCamps are of nominal costs or free as well. I’d definitely encourage you to check to see the closest one to you. I can bet you and your students will benefit from this unconventional experience.