I had the best of intentions when I got started blogging a few years ago: sharing experiences, encouraging dialog, learning from others. Where I've come up short is actually doing it regularly. The interest is definitely there. I have learning experiences: AHA! moments during quiet times focused on something else. Then there are the subtle nudgings and proddings of fresh ideas from out in the ether. Three such nudgings persuaded me to try and blog again.
I participated in #EdCampHome the Saturday just passed, January 4, 2014. It was my fourth #EdCamp. An #EdCamp is a gathering of people involved with or interested in education in the K-12 space. The first three I attended included #EdCampWT, #EdCampDallas and #EdCampATX; the '#' sign, by the way, is a Twitter hashtag you can search to learn more about that tag/topic. Anyway, #EdCampHome was different than the others. It was virtual. To me, this made all the difference.
In previous on-the-ground #EdCamps (Q: How do handle the same hashtag used more than once in a blog post? — seems like I'm using way too many #'s) it was harder to make individual connections with people given the need to dash from one session to the next. The virtual nature of #EdCampHome meant I could focus on finding then connecting with (usually via a Twitter or Google+ follow). I'm thinking next time I go to an #EdCamp I'll wear a tee or hat or something with my @urbie handle on it to make it easy for others to reach out and share with me.
The way an #EdCamp works, insofar as what gets presented, goes something like this:
- Write down in a central location (tyically sticky notes on a table or wall) topics they're interested in
- The organizers of the event figure out by some arcane arithmetic means which topics had the most interest. The most popular topics, thus identified, are laid out in a schedule and posted somewhere for people to choose which they will attend.
- Someone steps up (or is volunteered) to lead or present information on the topics.
- At the appointed hour everyone rushes about to find a spot in a session they're interested in.
- Information is presented (the best ones IMO are participatory — with the audience actually jumping in with comments and not just asking questions). If you don't find a session interesting you are encouraged to vote with your feet and go to another session.
- When a session ends there's a mad rush to the next session; except for a few laggards who hang back to talk with the presenter.
- Steps 5 and 6 are repeated until the clock runs out; there is a lunch break in there as well.
- The #EdCamp event concludes with a sort of mashup where (brave) people get up in front of everyone and present something they found cool. Some of the events had prizes they raffled off. This was how I learned what a Chromebook was (at #EdCampWT).
The sessions I was interested in included Show Your Work, Collaboration SI, and Student Ed Camp Model. I left Collaboration SI after a few minutes as it didn't seem like something I could put to use right away in my work. It was in this way that serendipity stepped in and led me to Concept and Practice of Rebellion. Getting up and leaving one session for another is something I hadn't done before. It's like a rule (for me anyway) it's impolite to get up and go once a session has started; this is at odds with how #EdCamp works, as people are encouraged to vote with their feet.
I joined Concept and Practice of Rebellion around the middle of the session. Almost immediately I chimed up that I had a problem with 'rebellion'. I thought 'critical thinking' was more appropriate. You can decide. The Google+ session was recorded and you can see it at http://www.youtube.com/embed/XYfNg4d3Dto.
Even cooler: all the sessions were recorded and are available on youtube.
What got me into attending #EdCamp? Hunger basically. I am hungry to for personal and professional development (PD). The PD events I've attended in the past have been expensive. They also seemed to be focused more on tools than experiences real people have to learning. While the best included content on processes they were often too specific to be of much value. Worse was the level of audience participation: neat rows of quiet people. So one frustrated day in late August I found EdCamp.
I decided after #EdCampWT in Abilene, Texas to make Low/No-Cost PD my mantra for the coming year: PD on a shoestring. One challenge I had to overcome was that while my home is in central Arizona I work in south eastern New Mexico. As near as I can tell there aren't any #EdCamp events in NM. I was happy to learn there's TONS in Texas. So off I went, driving as much as 600 miles to attend #EdCampATX.
I also joined the Texas Computer Education Association. If I hadn't gone to #EdCampWT I'd have missed out on a golden opportunity for PD: webinars, learning about events in Texas much closer to my location, and being able to connect with even more people like me: educators deeply committed to learning.
Looking back at the last few months I think that, while I haven't presented at an #EdCamp yet, I have shared at least two things that I know: that the one or two teachers in my life that have profoundly impacted me did so (40 or more years ago) by teaching like a pirate (sidebar: you have to follow @burgessdave) and that people of a certain age/generation might be more receptive to 'critical thinking' rather than 'rebellion'
I like to think I'm a critical thinker. I enjoy getting under the surface, researching how others are finding new ways of knowing and new ways of doing. I suppose that rebellion is a better word choice than critical thinking in the context of PD. I have learned a lot more over the last two or three years from reading tweets and blogs and digging deeper than from going to venues for expensive events. Satureday's #EdCampHome experience really brought it, literally, home. Connecting with a few people and speaking up rocks.
As I started to write this post I had intended to follow @nancyrubin's blog process. Looking over this, the result of a weekend's reflection and an hour or two of intermittent typing, I think I need to keep working at it. It seems a jumble of loosely connected thoughts. Oh well. Maybe practice..