Monday, March 23, 2015

#edcamp Reflections

On Saturday, I attended my fourth #edcamp and second #edcampomaha. I needed a little battery recharge and #edcampomaha did not disappoint. I was especially excited to see all of my friends and hear about all of the great things they are doing in their schools. One friend I was particularly excited to see was Brent Catlett (@catlett1). Since Brent moved to MO, I don't get to see him as often as I used to. I just love being around this guy because of the excitement he exudes always. So when Brent issued a blogging challenge, I immediately accepted.

Brent's challenge was to write a blog post about the evolution we have gone through regarding what we wanted to get out of our first #edcamp to what we want to get out of an #edcamp now.

I haven't been to as many #edcamps as some people but I have been to a lot of conferences in my day. At a traditional conference I generally expect to sit and get and those are generally the types of presentations I give at a traditional conference. I think teachers who haven't been to an #edcamp still expect that type of session. That is what I found so refreshing about the #edcamp model. A conference where no one prepares a thing and sessions are decided that day. A conference where the session "presenter" is really more of a moderator and maybe has a question or two but no set agenda and no prepared presentation.

The first couple of #edcamps I attended were all about smack downs and who could demo the coolest tool or newest app. As you know, I am all about the cool tech tools so I thought this was great. But over the last couple of years, I've found that I'm not excited as I once was about the latest and greatest tool or app. I'd really rather my teachers find one or two good tools and learn to use them effectively rather than trying the latest and greatest thing all the time.

The sessions I look for now at #edcamp are the ones where a good conversation is had. I do not want to go to a session and sit silently while a presenter presents. I am there to contribute to a conversation not be talked at. After all the smartest person in any room is the room itself. (If you ever lead an #edcamp session, please remember that.) And this is why I love the #edcamp rule of "listen with your feet." If you aren't getting anything out of a session, it is perfectly fine to get up and leave.

The best #edcamp session I have ever attended is one that Brent did at #edcampomaha. I think the topic was something along the lines of 1:1 initiatives. Brent threw out a question and we just talked. Brent did a masterful job of directing the conversation without "presenting" the topic. Everyone in that room felt like they were a part of that session.

At #edcampomaha on Saturday, Patty Wolfe (@wolfep) and Dave Evertson (@dave_evertson) from Cozad did a session on their Maker Fair. They showed a video of highlights of the day and talked a little bit about it. And that led a couple of the participants in the session to talk about how they are using Genius Hour with their students. The conversation that Patty and Dave started with just naturally evolved into Genius Hour and it was great.

I also love the hallway sessions that are held at #edcamp. These are sessions where you get so caught up in talking with someone in the hallway that you forget to go to a session! And these sessions can be just as powerful as a scheduled session.

As a tech trainer I have struggled with continuing to offer the traditional sit and get style sessions, although I know some of my teachers still want that. Attending #edcamps has really broadened my view of how professional development could be conducted. I love that NETA has jumped on the bandwagon and started to offer conversation strands which are very similar to #edcamp sessions. And I need to do a better job of offering this type of PD to my staff.

I went to #edcampomaha on Saturday needing a little battery recharge and I definitely got that. If you haven't yet been to an #edcamp yet, what are you waiting for? I do believe #edcampcentralNE is just around the corner! See you there!


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