As I made the journey to Ancaster on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning with @sbruyns, @technolit and @cordym I couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation and eagerness about my first experience at an Edcamp. Each of us have been involved in organizing and planning conferences in our own district but going by everything I have read about Edcamp this was going to be a much different venture.
To start I must say congrats and well done to the organizing committee of Edcamp Hamilton ~ Sue Dunlop (@principaldunlop), Heidi Siwak (@heidisiwak), Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca), Michelle Horst (@michelle_horst), Cindy Lee (@dangergirl1218), Lisa Neale (@lisaneale) and Karen Wilson (@kawilson68) ~ what a great job. I'm sure I speak for everyone that attended that the hours you put into planning Edcamp are very much appreciated.
So onto Edcamp itself. From everything that I have read about Edcamps, the day started off in typical style. A brief introduction by Heidi was followed by attendees generating a list of questions which were posted in the hallway and then grouped into similar topics. At this point everyone got 2 post-it notes to vote for the sessions that resonated with them. Shortly after the voting the sessions were given time slots and assigned rooms and Edcamp Hamilton was truly underway.
Each session had lively conversation, interesting ideas and even some dissenting voices. What was interesting to me was the dynamics of the room. Before the first session began I wondered how it would start since there wasn't a presenter or facilitator. Would there be awkward silence or would the problem be getting participants to share the conversation? Honestly, I was amazed how each session just well....started, for lack of a better word. People were eager to talk and share.
Each session I attended gave me lots of food for thought and I took a lot away from each. Below are the major talking points from the sessions I attended.
- the designation of master teacher is not a destination ~ continuous growth is essential
- teachers coming out of teacher's college are falling back to how they were taught
- innovators in schools often feel isolated, criticized or even bullied
- innovators need support of administration
- big difference between "doing" school well and learning
- what does play do for the brain of young children
- play-based learning centres have elements of gamification ~ rules, opt-out and choice
- kids enjoy video games because they experience success at different levels as they progress
- tinkering, getting kids to make things often overlooked in schools
- schools are struggling with the management of iPads, updating apps, philosophy behind effective use
- we must guide students to drive their own learning
- the culture of a school is crucial to student engagement
- how do we encourage students to be leaders in our schools
If you are planning on attending an Edcamp in the near future, my advice is to set your expectations aside and just go with the flow. I must admit that I was a wee bit overwhelmed during the sessions. I was uncharacteristically quiet, but maybe that's a good thing as I listened to some very intelligent people with a lot of experience present their thoughts. What I loved about the day was that it had a organic feel to it. The sessions were created out of the needs and questions of the participants. They took control of their learning and made it a priority. I loved that participants could just take it all in, in whatever manner they felt and leave feeling that they learned something. I loved that there were passionate individuals, with strong convictions that voiced their opinions because they felt they were in a safe environment. I loved that there were participants from all walks of life. There were teachers, administrators, parents, students, business owners and new graduates. I loved that we were given the option of leaving a session if we felt it wasn't meeting our expectations. I loved that people were tweeting live, drawing in people who weren't physically there into the conversation. Finally I loved that the conversations and debates that happened in our sessions carried over to a "tweetup" at a local pub and car ride home. How many times can you say that happened from attending a traditional conference.
I can't remember where I heard it on Saturday but someone said "I wish there was an Edcamp every week". Could you imagine? Outside of all the planning and organizing, that would be an incredible vehicle for professional dialogue in any district. Well I can tell you that the group of educators from Thames Valley that attended Edcamp Hamilton were so impressed and inspired that the planning for Edcamp London started as we indulged in a few post Edcamp beverages.
So start following @edcampldn for updates, we're pumped to bring the experience of Edcamp to London.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts, impressions and ideas about Edcamp.