Saturday, April 18th, was my very first Edcamp experience. During #TABSEchat via Twitter in January, I was drawn into a discussion about Edcamp. I wanted to learn more. What was it? Where was it happening? Why had I not heard of this before now? Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely positively learn to love. Hearing about a model of learning that allows educators to decide what they want to share with each other in an informal sit and chat format was intriguing. I jumped online and immediately fell head over heels for the "unconference model" of Edcamp. I began to share the information I was soaking up with fellow educators, and then my wheels started turning as I began thinking of ways to introduce this to those I work with in the DFW area. From the chat session and my daily research, I knew that we needed this in our area, and I began to make preparations for Edcamp SWDallas. Then, I received an email from THE Kristen Swanson, Edcamp founder. She helped me sort out a few questions that were rattling around in my head about the planning process. Yes! It began to come together. I was sold. Edcamp SWDallas began to take shape.
I thought my next step should probably be to attend an actual Edcamp. I discovered there was an Edcamp Houston, which was perfect. My brother lives in Cypress, so I could kill two birds with one stone, spend time with family and fill my never ending desire to learn and grow with other enthusiastic educators. My husband and I packed bags, sent the kids to their grandparents, and hit 35 headed to Edcamp Houston.
The morning general session was exactly what I expected, a room full of people just like me! Teachers, administrators, technology specialist, and curriculum experts were all up and at it early on a Saturday morning to simply learn, share and grow. The day was filled with learning and sharing.
What did I learn? I will try to share with you my top 5, but please know there is a lot more I could add to this list.
Each session is only as collaborative as the members. There is a facilitator in the room who will start the conversation, but they really don't want to do all of the talking. Once everyone has introduced themselves, feel free to jump in and share what you know. Ask questions to gain insight from others in the room. You're surrounded by others who are doing what you do daily. Jump in the conversation.
2. Utilize the law of 2 feet
This is one of the very few rules of Edcamp. If you are in a session that does not interest you, use your two feet to find something you want to learn. Find something you will actually be able to use and share with others. It isn't rude to get up and walk out. It is expected throughout the day. No one will be offended.
3. Network with others
Try to take time to meet others during the day. It's great to travel to an Edcamp with people from your campus or your district, but you already know each other. Chances are you sit in the same structured professional development sessions, attend the same faculty meetings, and use the same structure of teaching. Branch out to see what others are doing on other campuses and in other districts. Then, follow them on Twitter to continue learning and sharing. Lunch is an excellent time to sit and chat with others. Sit down with someone new. Expand your PLN.
4. "Unconference" really doesn't mean anti-PD
How many times have you sat in a professional development session and thought to yourself, "I already know this"? Nine times out of ten, the presenter is unaware of what you know, but they have already prepared an agenda outlining what you learn for the day. There is some time built in to talk to others about the presentation during the day, but dependent upon the session, you may or may not walk out at the end of the day with a new perspective or new tools to use with teachers and students. Edcamp IS PD. You decide what you want to learn. You decide what you want to talk about with others. You even have the chance to share with others by facilitating if you would like to do so. No two sessions are the same. No two conversations are the same. What if you don't want to sit and talk? There's something for you too. Edcamp Houston had an area dedicated to hands on learning. You could dive into coding, experience 3D printing, or simply sit back and watch it all happen.
5. Teachers love STUFF
At the end of the day, there was a wrap up session complete with educational raffles. Teachers were able to win prizes that ranged from a drawer full of Sharpies to a Galaxy tablet. It was simply the icing on the cake of learning for the day.
Will I attend another Edcamp soon? Yes! I'm geariing up for Edcamp HOT in Waco, TX. We're also working to bring this experience closer to home with Edcamp SWDallas. Check us out at edcampswdallas.weebly.com.