“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

CEP 811: My First EdCamp Experience

on August 3, 2014

This week in CEP 811, I had the opportunity to participate in EdCamp for the first time. EdCamp is essentially a place where educators (or anyone interested educational topics) can get together to discuss and share ideas. My EdCamp was held via Google Hangouts, but there are a variety of on-site offerings around the country every week.

The aspect that I enjoyed most about EdCamp is its casual, non-threatening environment. There weren’t any full-blown presentations, and I didn’t have to sit and listen to one person talk for an hour. With EdCamp, the experience is interactive. One person offered some ideas or questions regarding a particular topic, and everyone had the opportunity to add their own insights. EdCamp was also a great space to collaborate with other educators. While those other educators were strangers to me, it was amazing how quickly we started to mesh due to our shared interests in educational technology. I appreciated hearing how other districts handle certain issues (such as “Bring Your Own Device”) in places from Michigan to New Jersey. The map below demonstrates just how huge the EdCamp movement is, connecting people from across the globe:unnamed

CC licensed (BY) flickr photo by Kevin Jarrett

There were only two components of EdCamp that I didn’t like. One was the time limit – having only 15 minutes to discuss a topic felt rushed, and I don’t feel like my group and I were able to delve into our topics as deeply as we would have liked. In the future, I would like to do away with time limits and let the conversations flow more organically. The other aspect that I didn’t like was the presenter’s frontloading of information before the discussion started forming. Even if I had a comment or question, it felt rude and unnatural to interrupt the presenter. I believe that this issue could easily be overcome in the future with a little more practice and a higher comfort level with the EdCamp setup.

EdCamp has an enormous potential for professional development, for it encourages discussion and collaboration between and within districts. Rather than sitting through a dull series of workshops, educators have the opportunity to contribute something of value to the conversation. In my school, I can see EdCamp changing the way we go about professional development. Technology is a big focus in my district right now, and I can see EdCamp helping to inform my colleagues about the possibilities that exist. When teachers hear about the successes of peers firsthand, I think it makes them more willing to try things out for themselves.

If I were to organize an EdCamp for my colleagues, I would have to consider a few different factors. The first would be to find an appropriate venue: one that was both convenient and equipped to handle the technology load. I would also have to recruit other teachers who were passionate about EdCamp to promote the session, and perhaps someone to act as an MC to tie everything together. Additionally, I would want to have some topics or questions prepared that might engage and guide the audience. If the majority of those in attendance were unfamiliar with the EdCamp setup, I would expect that they would need a bit more scaffolding for their first experience.

Overall, I enjoyed participating in EdCamp. I believe that EdCamp is a valuable way to interact with other educators to share ideas and to continue to grow as teachers.


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