Getting up at 6am on a Saturday is not part of my usual weekend routine. But I did just that on January 14, full of anticipation for the day ahead.
I was off to edcamp43, an “unconference” hosted by Coquitlam educators, where those passionate about education gather, set an agenda in real time, choose topics of interest and dig into small group conversation.
There are no facilitators, presenters, speakers; no pre-set agenda. The format is highly personalized; participants have choice, voice and agency. The democratic structure and the presence of many committed, passionate and interesting educators, parents and students made the day a remarkable one.
Why go to edcamp?
1. Possibilities Abound
I was excited by the endless possibilities of how the day might unfold, similar to the feeling I get before a jam session with musicians I have not yet played with.
- who would attend?
- what would we discuss?
- would the topics we select be relevant and deeply interesting?
- how would I meaningfully participate?
- would the connections with others be sustaining and important?
2. Relevant, Engaged Learning
Have you ever gone to a pro-d session and scanned the workshops thinking hmmmm…..is there anything here I am really excited about? This was not a problem at edcamp. Everyone had a voice in generating topics and selecting their sessions of interest. I was keenly interested in all of the topics and ultimately chose Inquiry, The Transformative use of Technology (along with many others, see sticky note below) and Are Report Cards Necessary? (I did worry briefly that the latter session would last about 23 seconds – but the conversation was terrific….)
3. Democracy at Work
With no table facilitators or session leaders, we were on our own for rich, small group discussion–emergent content at its best! Teachers, parents, students and administrators came together to discuss what matters most in education.
4. Build and Strengthen your PLN
I connected with colleagues from across the lower mainland and beyond, as well as a number of folks I had only met through twitter. Social media definitely has an important place in building and sustaining our professional learning networks. Edcamp provided a great opportunity to meet f2f with educators I connect with in virtual spaces.
Also, as Darcy Mullin noted in his post edcamp post, it is a highly worthwhile event and it is virtually free.
Yeah, but doesn’t it all boil down to the conversations?
Yes and they were extraordinary! The conversations were so rich and interesting– one participant, Brian Kuhn tweeted that edcamp is “the hallway conversation on steroids.” Here are a few highlights:
INQUIRY – Loved that we did not feel a need to define inquiry but spent time talking about how it can be a powerful mode of learning – for adults and children. We wondered:
- How will children involved in inquiry change their orientation to learning?
- Will children ultimately demand more relevant, robust learning from their teachers?
- Who does the work in an inquiry classroom? What might this look like?
- How can we manage the persistent need for change?
Surrey’s Jonathan Vervaet brought two of his grade 11 students to camp. One student described how he did not really like Mr. V at first; he was used to doing worksheets and this inquiry stuff was different and hard. But that all changed. His next comment caused the room to fall silent: “We had to actually think when doing inquiry in Mr. V’s class.”
THE TRANSFORMATIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY – Themes were leveraging change, promoting growth, shifting power, explicit teaching (for both adults and students), the importance of using both digital and analog tools for learning (whatever best fits the purpose and the student’s needs and interests). Peppering the conversation was the enthusiastic sharing of blogs, twitter groups, websites and individuals leading change in this area.
ARE REPORT CARDS REALLY NECESSARY? This was a great conversation on formative and summative assessment–what do these mean and why do they matter–for all stakeholders. We discussed the positive outcomes as teachers have found creative alternative ways to share student achievement with parents and students. It is the “and students” part that I find particularly exciting!
Aaron Mueller shared some of his thinking from a Distance Learning perspective:
- introducing himself to students through video blogging (what a great idea for any teacher!)
- learning that allows unlimited submissions as students work toward mastery (this practically led to a standing ovation for Aaron in our small group!)
- the establishment of a private YouTube channel for ongoing feedback and connections with students and families
Thanks to the terrific organizational team from Coquitlam for hosting edcamp43!