The following post was written jointly by Britt (5th grade teacher) and Jon (6th grade teacher).
What is an Edcamp?
The current state of professional development in education is stale and lifeless. Teachers dread the ordeal and enter with their brains set to autopilot. Interest is remarkably low and differentiation is rare. Edcamps are different. Using the Edcamp model teachers can take control of their professional learning. For a brief explanation of the Edcamp model please take a moment and read this post from Edutopia - Introduction to Edcamp: A New Conference Model Built on Collaboration.
What did we learn?
The most immediate lesson learned at EdcampKC is that there is a better way to do professional development. Because of that better way, we learned things that are pertinent to our needs.
For me - Britt Pumphrey, teaching 5th grade - I learned about some new ways to have my students record their voices. I plan to use audioboo.fm to have students record their thinking. I love simple voice recording tools because it is the best way I have found to do formative assessments to see what each student has learned.
My - Jonathan Ferrell, teaching 6th grade - biggest take away was what I learned during the student blogging session. During that presentation teachers shared how they used blogs to enhanced student learning. I was able to glean ideas for my own classroom and make connections with other teachers who are blogging. As a result my students have been able to connect with a classroom in Iowa and share their learning experiences with a broader audience.
Could this work at the district level to breathe life into PD?
Sitting in the Maximizing Your PLN session facilitated by @kevcreutz I learned that professional development can be beneficial even when it’s not something I have a significant need to learn about. There were some key elements that are often missing in common professional development. For one, the use of Google Docs with the presence of smart phones and laptops allowed EVERYONE to be involved. Second, the integration of the Google Doc that had guiding questions for discussion with live, face-to-face discussion made the time more lively and personal. Third, the use of a Twitter hashtag allows for a global backchannel where people from everywhere can join in on the topic.
So how can these things help out professional development at a normal school in the Kansas City area?
- A backchannel should be standard. Whether it’s Titan Pad, Google Docs, Wallwisher, Todaysmeet, or Twitter a backchannel is an easy way to document the progress of profession development as well as involve everyone. The backchannel discussion drives engagement through the roof and provides a richer learning experience.
- Topics should be pertinent, timely, and hashed out with discussion that is guided by facilitating questions.
- Teachers must be involved in the planning and preparation. When teachers merely show up and are told where to go and what to do their buy-in is minimal. But, when teachers are active participants and there is a measure of choice as to the topics engagement will increase and learning will take place.
A special thanks to Kyle Pace (@kylepace) for orchestrating EdcampKC. We appreciated being able to join in the event and learn from everyone who attended.
Also, this is the Google Doc where we took notes during the unconference.