Ever since I had the opportunity to attend my first EdCamp a few years ago in Toronto I was hooked! I enjoyed the teacher-directed forward thinking that I encountered and how some ideas challenged my thinking and put me outside of my comfort zone. In addition, I loved networking with other passionate educators from outside my school board. As a result, I felt passionate about bringing this form of professional development to teachers in my area, as did the rest of the team that I was privileged to work with for EdCamp905.Last Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity of participating and helping be apart of the organizing committee of EdCamp905. It was a wonderful day and started with a inspirational keynote by Adam Mckim from CHAT to the Future. Following the keynote, several discussions were held based on the questions of participants. After lunch, participants had the opportunity to participate in a World Cafe in small groups, discussing questions such as, “Does Canada need a National Curriculum?” The day concluded with a special Skype call with the children of CHAT in Uganda who sang for us. Participants of Edcamp905 also sang with Diana Planche leading us in “Lean on Me”, a highlight for many and brought tears to some eyes. Finally, we were blessed to have many wonderful prizes donated by our sponsors. It was a wonderful day of learning, collaboration and networking. Thanks to all who attended! I can’t wait until next year! Below are some photos highlighting this great day.
Special thanks to organizers Tom Codotta, Steven Hurley, Dan Martinic, Karen Yates who were a dream to work with as well as the amazing volunteers who helped make the event a success! The feedback from attendees of EdCamp905 has been extremely positive; here is one of my favourites:
“I had an absolutely fabulous time on Saturday that my mind has been buzzing with excitement ever since. It was such an incredible thing to actually experience ideas in action. I go to conferences/workshops but many times the delivery is not what is being preached. Saturday’s form was definitely out of my comfort zone but I now feel more empowered and I thank you for being a big part of that. I can’t stop sharing the ideas and practices at my school and now have a group that is definitely curious. Thank you for all the incredible work, patience, inspiration and heart you put into this amazing day. The ripple effects will be long lasting.”
At EdCamp905 We will be using TweetBeam to engage our audience and share learning throughout the day.
If you've never been to an EdCamp before, you may be a little reluctant to share the questions that are on your mind. You may not think that others will be interested in what you have to say or you may believe that your perspective may not be in line with other participants.
Perfectly natural and perfectly acceptable.
But I would like to assure you that there are some pretty unique things about the EdCamp approach that should allay some of your hesitations!
First, EdCamps aren't designed as echo chambers. True enough, the format does tend to attract many like minds, but the real excitement at an EdCamp happens when people actually "respectfully" disagree with each other. It doesn't mean that the conversation becomes polarized. It's my experience that participants are quite respectful of everyone's insights, experience and perspective. All voices are of equal value at an EdCamp and this usually lends itself to very positive and fruitful dialogue.
Second, we assume that the questions you bring to EdCamp things that are important to you. And f they are important to you, chances are that they are important to others as well. That doesn't mean that you won't get some lively discussion or, perhaps, a little pushback. But that's how we learn from each other and that's the whole dynamic of the event. Really, it is!
Finally, the questions that make it to the agenda for the day are ones that are voted on by the group. Using a form of "dot-mocracy", your question is subjected to a type of reflective selection that ensures that others see value in the conversations that about to take place. It doesn't mean that only the BEST questions make it to the discussion table. It means that there is a powerful way of ensuring that all of the conversations that take place resonate with a good number of the participants.
We have two more days before EdCamp905, and we hope that you're getting as excited as your planning team. Don't stop thinking about the questions! Remember, you help to create the agenda from the things that are important to you!
Many people new to the EdCamp "unconference" format come to their first event fully intending to hang out on the edges of the conversation. We often hear, "Well, I'm just going to go to check it out." or "I'll sign up for a couple of conversations, but I'll just be an observer."
Fat chance! It's likely that, despite your best intentions, there will be a question, a topic of conversation or an idea that will capture your imagination and cause your lips to start moving!
After all, you're not giving up a Saturday of your time—away from family and your regular weekend routine—to come and be a fly on the wall. Oh, you may start off that way, but I'm pretty confident that, by the end of the day, you'll find yourself immersed in some pretty interesting conversations.
And the reason I'm so confident in saying that is because EdCamp905 is energized by the questions that people like you are living every day. They are the questions that you come to school with in the morning. They are the ones that you take with you at the end of the day. They are the questions that emerge when you're talking to your own children about their day at school. They are the ones that are inspired by the connections that they are making as they move further along their own learning journey.
They are the questions that excite you, make you angry and, at times, leave you confused.
They may not seem like profound, earth-shattering questions but they are important because they are honest, real and they matter to you.
So, in these days leading up to EdCamp905, take some time to think about those questions that are energizing you. Chances are they will also energize someone else.
And then you have a conversation!
Ok, I admit that I haven't been to as many EdCamps as some of my friends and colleagues. But that hasn't been because of lack of desire. As my children have continued to grow (who knew they would do that?), weekend time has become a hot commodity around the Hurley household and so I've been forced to watch some EdCamps from the sidelines.
But there is a very simple reason I continue to support, attend and get excited whenever I hear about a new iteration of the unConference concept: EdCamps honour the wisdom that is in the room.
For most of our career we work in relative isolation—in our own classrooms, with our own students and, to a certain extent, in our own way. Despite our talk about the power of collaboration through PLC's, Social Media and the like, the heart of the profession is still beating in a type of private world that Larry Cuban and others refer to as a black box.
EdCamps provide the space for each of us to crack the lid on that black box and, through conversations—many of them unexpected—pull out a few things to share.
EdCamps allow participants to set the agenda, ask the questions, decide the conversations that they are going to have and begin to understand more deeply that they have professional knowledge and wisdom. And when you add to the EdCamp mix parents, community members, and students, the knowledge base expands in a way that you're not going to experience at traditional PD sessions.
EdCamps are not designed to replace traditional forms of professional learning or development. They are taking their place, however, as one of the rising stars in that rich constellation of ways that we continue to learn.
Looking forward to meeting you at EdCamp905! Looking forward to learning from you and sharing in this small but powerful part of the journey!