Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Gave Up a Saturday for Learning

On Saturday, February 8th, a group of over 300 educators braved a little snow to come out to Affton High School for EdcampSTL. I am proud to say that I was amongst this excellent group of learners. By giving up a Saturday, we sacrificed the ability to sleep in, time with our children, spouses, family, and friends. This sacrifice was made in the name of learning and when you gather a group like this together, only great things will happen.

My day started out by facilitating a session. The great thing about an Edcamp session is that you do not need to have a presentation ready. I simply made a quick Google presentation with some leading questions. I came into this Edcamp with the goal of discussing Google Apps for Education with other educators. Because participants are in charge of the content of the conference, I knew that I was in charge and responsible for setting the course of my learning. The session in room 6 was awesome! I really enjoyed that everyone felt comfortable sharing their best practices with Google Apps. As a facilitator, I just lead the conversation and added my two cents in when appropriate. I left that session with ideas to ponder and others to implement right away...that is success in my book.

And that is the power of Edcamp...the power of conversation. In our schools, we never get enough collaboration time. The time to talk and reflect is so powerful, but in the busyness of our days this opportunity is seldomly there. Instead, when given time to collaborate, the topic of collaboration is usually chosen by someone else and it can feel forced. Collaboration and conversation in schools also seem to be isolated to teams or departments. At Edcamp, teachers from all levels are talking with each other. In my session, teachers of all levels and disciplines, as well as administrators, were sharing ideas that are applicable across disciplines and grade levels. Do we ever get that opportunity in our schools? Should we promote for cross department or cross grade level conversation?

So could the Edcamp style of PD be applied to our schools and/or our districts? If teachers were giving more power to choose the direction of professional development, would they run with it? Would professional development time become more relevant? This was a topic of discussion during a session that I unfortunately could not attend. But the great thing is that I can revisit the session notes and get the links to notes from all the sessions. I can continue my learning after the conference.

The rest of the sessions I attended were filled with great knowledge being shared and great conversations. And as it is with any Edcamp, the side and hallway conversations were just as valuable. Those one on one moments are just priceless, whether you are giving the assistance or receiving it. Open and honest conversations are expected at an Edcamp. Sometimes you cannot replicate this back at your school and/or district.

In all, EdcampSTL was a huge success and one of the highlights of my year. Special thanks go out to Chris McGee, Bob Dillon, and the rest of my orange hoodie helpers out there for putting on a top notch conference. I will definitely be back and I look forward to implementing my new learning back in my district.