Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: edcampNJ and so much more! A good year for NJeducators!

The first edcampNJ took place on Saturday, December 1, 2012. This event was a labor of love for a number of people (see photo below).  I know at least one person is missing from the photo, but you get the picture.  For me the journey to December 1st started almost a year earlier when I decided to start using Twitter for professional purposes.  My first attempt in 2008 was traditional and did not provided me with much value; however, the second go around gave me a whole new perspective on the world of education and the people who are out there simply working to connect and learn from one another!
edcampNJ team
As I began to connect with some amazing educators, a sort of cadre of New Jersey folks began to form.  It was nothing formal, just a bunch of people from the Garden State who seemed to have similar interests in connected learning and personal/professional improvement.  After some time, the bonds among strangers became stronger and things like #NJED came about.  Wow, New Jersey educators had their own twitter chat (1st and 3rd Tuesdays @8:30pm EST). +Dana Sirotiak and +Bill Krakower took it upon themselves to  get things rolling and start bringing us together.  I had the privilege of co-moderating one of the earlier chats on preparedness for the Common Core.  Honestly, it was exhilarating connecting with all of these other people in my own state who were as jazzed about this stuff as me!

After some time, I connected with +Jeffrey Bradbury who created and runs TeacherCast, an amazing resource site for all educators.  Jeff's vision and tech skills helped to foster even greater connection between New Jersey educators.  He began podcasting about #njed and more people started to become a part of the fold.  Some of the people in this group had been to some wonderful professional development days that took place on Saturdays, didn't cost anything, and were participant driven, called edcamps.  After some back and forth on twitter, it seemed like we needed to meet to discuss the ideas.  A meeting was organized on Big Marker.  After our first meeting we began to meet more frequently on both Big Marker and Google+ Hangout. Between the focused discussion and the laugh-out-loud fun we were having, the group seemed to gel and the decision was made that we needed to have our own edcamp: edcampNJ.

edcampphilly team
edcamp leadership team
This is the point where things truly changed for me.  I met up with Dana and Bill and we drove down to edcampphilly.  This experience changed the way that I look at professional development.  You can see my reaction in this post from June of this year.  After initially hearing about the edcamp movement, I was intrigued and interested in being a part of organizing one; after attending an edcamp, I was hooked.  Soon after, I registered for edcampleadership, which took place in July and thought about attending edcampNY, but it conflicted with Teachers College Readers and Writers Project Saturday Reunion.

In the meantime, some other amazing educators began a venture that was spurred on by their love of twitter and its power to bring people together.  +Scott Rocco and +Brad Currie co-founded #Satchat.  As per its facebook page, "Satchat is a weekly discussion on Twitter that takes place every Saturday morning at 7:30EST.  School leaders from all areas of education are welcomed.  Feel free to sip and chat." +Bill Krakower joined on as a co-moderator and the discussions are phenomenal each week.  I couldn't believe that others would get up at 7:30am on Saturday morning to have educational dialogue, but they did and #Satchat has grown to include a West Coast version that takes place 3 hours later.  Once again, New Jersey educators making a statement in 2012.

These are just some of the things that happened in #njed and led up to the hosting of #edcampnj. at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, NJ.  After doing my small part with the crew to organize the event and working that morning to set up, it was heartwarming to see that 200+ participants showed up for a day of professional learning.  A live #satchat was held to kick off the day, Teachercast was creating videos of events and sessions throughout the day, a Guidebook app was created to assist participants, the session board filled and we needed to open additional rooms, and a great time was had by all connecting and learning.  New Jersey educators showed their support for victims of Hurricane Sandy through the purchase of t-shirts and a toy drive for Toys for Tots.  Please visit the #edcampNJ site for more information and pictures! You won't be disappointed. Here are two reactions to the day:  +Damian BariexcaEdcampNJ Two Weeks Later and Kate Baker: My EdcampNJ Highlights.  Please add any others in the comments section below. Now it is only another 11 months or so until edcampNJ 2013!  Check out the great photos by +Kevin Jarrett and other from the 1st edcampNJ!

As if all of that were not enough, +Jeffrey Bradbury also started another NJ virtual gathering place after edcampNJ to help facilitate even greater New Jersey connections.  If you have not checked out, you need to do so.  This is a new landing spot for New Jersey educators to connect and learn.  Jeff has been working tirelessly to make this a functional and valuable tool for New Jersey educators.  It is a community that will grow and looks to provide a one-stop location for all of the needs of the NJ educator!

I must add a little disclaimer to this post.  It has been a crazy year.  I haven't touched on half of the amazing things that have changed my perspective on connected learning and education in general during 2012, so if I got some of the events/facts above out of order, please forgive me.  It is hard to keep all of these great things straight.

I am proud to be a New Jersey Educator and I am looking forward to an even better 2013!
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