Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My first EdCamp

I love going to conferences.  I love flipping through the conference guide to see what trainings or professional developments will be available.  In the past I used to get color coded crazy with markers or highlights to plan out my agenda and even my back-up agenda incase my first choice was full.  Now it's so much easier with conference apps and web pages that allow you to just scroll and click to find the best presentations.  Where you sit down and let the instructor, presenter, or if you are lucky the key-note tell you all about what they discovered or plainly, what they think.  I love conferences!

For years my Instructional Technology Office who I work through in FCPS has does similar conference type set-ups for beginning of the year "SBTS Kick-Off" (as they call it).  Incase you are not part of the FCPS system SBTS stands for School Based Technology Specialist.  We are the instructional technology leaders in our school.  I call myself a Tech-Coach.  It's easier.  I always tried my hardest over the summer to come up with some great ideas to present at our kick-off and talked to my SBTS friends to see what they were working on to present.  This year we weren't allowed to do that.

Then this year our kick-off was changed up a bit.  We shifted to an EdCamp model.  If you are unfamiliar with EdCamp this might help:  
What is Edcamp?

Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for educators 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, participants engage in discussions that lead wherever the group wants them to go.

Built on principles of connected and participatory learning, Edcamp strives to bring educators together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. Educators who attend Edcamp can choose to facilitate sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.

At EdCamp there are only a few simple rules:
  • It’s all about the conversation - NO presenting.
  • Remember the ‘rule of two feet’: if a particular conversation is not offering what you need, use your two feet to find another.
  • Remember the ‘rule of 20’: if the size of a conversation exceeds twenty people, feel free to split the group and find a new space.
  • Everyone contributes to the shared understanding, using any available tool.
  • Have fun.
For more about the EdCamp movement and process, watch these short videos.

So instead of scheduling and planning to attend sessions my co-workers and I planned all summer, we simply came with ideas and we talked.  Educators having conversations? Go figure!  Apparently I am behind on the EdCamp movement.  Tim Stahmer, our Secondary Instructional Technology Specialist, has been to a large number of EdCamps and was able to impart his wisdom of the process on to us.  I have to say I was impressed, which is putting it mildly.  Not only did we sit and talk about everything from coaching teachers to BYOD to being true digital leaders we actually brought the conversations back to our schools.  This is the first year in my 7 years as an SBTS that I can remember actually staying in communication with my fellow SBTS about the "Now what?" We have plans to get together and talk about ways to work with teachers and even to improve our own professional development.  Now all we need to do is actually follow through.