Even though teachers have been attending Ed Camps for years, I recently made the trek to my first in San Jose. After only 20 minutes in the day, I realized something: this is the answer. Why had it taken me so long to get here?
- The Board When you arrive at an Ed Camp beyond the smiling faces, greetings from other educators, and if you’re lucky, the coffee table, there is a board. Now this board is the key to the entire day. Here you place a Post-it (or something like it) with your idea on one of the two sides: things I want to learn or things I want to share and lead discussions. After the attendees settle in, the sessions are determined based on the board. If educators want to know more about blended classrooms, for example, the organizers will try to find someone willing to lead. If one is passionate about Genius Hour, he can invite people to come to a session. If others want to join, a session is born. It’s brilliant, really. It’s why Ed Camps are called an unconference.
- The Discussions Since it is not a predetermined session, there is no curriculum, no guideline for the way the course flows. If you are looking for structure go elsewhere. The leader simply starts the discussion, maybe helps answer questions, but really the participants are just as involved. In one session I attended, the topic was authentic writing. Our discussions went well beyond that, as well. I was collecting ideas from every teacher in the room. What works, what doesn’t work. We were brainstorming and exchanging ideas at such a rapid pace, the hour diminished before we knew it.
- The Rules The best part, there really aren’t any. If you attend a session, and it’s not what you were hoping, get up and leave. No one minds. It’s about meeting your needs as an learner.
- The Cost Unlike GAFE or even a CUE conference, Ed Camps are free. Yes, free. You really should be paying, though. The participants range from new teachers to veteran teachers who are experts beyond their own classroom. Of course, there are always educators in attendance who are innovators in the field and are so passionate about teaching, they are willing to inspire other teachers at EdCamps and other conferences regularly. They tend to lead sessions, but are just as eager to learn from you. They are the celebrities of the teaching world and the reason I drove 2 ½ hours to my first Ed Camp.
In recent years, there has been such a pressure to implement technology in the classroom and rightfully so. Districts all over the country are delivering Chromebooks and iPads to classrooms and dictating teachers use them. Some jump at the opportunity to try new ways to motivate and educate kids. Others are a bit more apprehensive. All of them feel they need more training. We need knowledgeable educators to effectively teach with technology. Ed Camps just might be the answer. Train the teachers, save the world.
To find one in your area: http://goo.gl/HCTb1u