Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I've Been Edcamped!

It has been a while since my last post as things have gotten a bit crazy at school lately with state testing, end of year events, and general mania, among other things; however, I took some time to feed my professional soul by attending Edcamp Philly a while back and I am hooked!  I have researched Edcamps, I have seen pictures of Edcamps, I have watched video from Edcamps, I have even been working with a group of educators to plan an Edcamp; but now that I have gone to my first one, I know that it is one of the most worthwhile and relevant forms of professional development currently available.

If you are not familiar, let me take you through the day.  First, I met up with some of my friends from the Twitterverse to drive to Philly.  It was nice meeting folks with whom I've interacted online.  Of course, that was only the beginning of the meetings.  After arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, we registered, got our wi-fi codes and some swag and then we were off to the session board to see what was offered for the day.  The board filled up fairly quickly.  Different participants came up and posted sessions that they were volunteering to present.  Could it be? A professional development day that does not have an expert?  Ah, there's the rub, the participants ARE the experts!  As the sessions got posted, they were quickly uploaded to a Google Doc so that we didn't have to stand in front of the board to see them.  They were accessible electronically all day.

After some very brief opening remarks welcoming everyone, thanking sponsors and organizers, and explaining the rules of edcamp, we were off to our first chosen sessions.  I decided to go to a session on using Edmodo in the classroom.  It was conducted by a third grade teacher from Virginia and was very interactive.  While most moderators would be thrown by audience members interjecting, questioning, and adding, at an Edcamp, it is expected.  The leader keeps the conversation going and provides a framework within which the group can learn.  I learned a great deal from the presenter as well as from the knowledge base that sat in the room.

My subsequent sessions were similar.  One was on Skype in the classroom.  Another was about the flipped classroom.  It was a day that I felt mattered and I truly enjoyed.  Why?  Because I felt like a true participant rather than a passive consumer of information and concepts being dispensed by a guru (that does have it's place, but not here.)  Another fantastic part of the day was lunch.  A group of NJ educators who are connected on Twitter all got together for lunch at a local restaurant.  This involved more professional conversation, as well as a great deal of fun!  An added bonus was a visit from @Joe_Mazza of eFACE fame.

The day ended with a Smackdown.  As we sat in the room awaiting this Edcamp tradition, I asked my friends if this was going to hurt.  They just laughed and said, "wait and see."  It turns out a Smackdown is an opportunity for anyone who wishes to get up and go to the computer up front and demonstrate a useful technology tool, app, game, etc.  The catch is that you only have one minute.  This was a great way to leave with many new resources to investigate.  It is amazing what people are using out there!

Another great aspect of an Edcamp is that participants and presenters post notes and resources on a wiki afterwards so that everyone can benefit from each other's experiences during the day.  This blog post does not do justice to the Edcamp experience, so I suggest that you find an Edcamp near you and attend.  You can do so by checking out the Edcamp Wiki. If you live in the NJ area or want to travel here in December (?), check out EdcampNJ.  It is taking place at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, NJ on December 1, 2012.  I hope to see you there!
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