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Things We Learned, But Did Not Teach: Takeaways from EdCampPhilly

May 22, 2011

cc Image from kjarrett on Flickr Image designed by @mritzius' students

A New Model for Professional Development

Dear Principals & Superintendents, please do not pay obscene amounts of money to training companies for professional development.  Or, at least, let that kind of training be supplemental, as necessary.  There is a better way.

Once again my PLN came through for me.  A special thanks to Shelley Krause  (@butwait) for the invite to participate in this event.  I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.  Another testament to how real our virtual world becomes and, her brownies were anything but virtual.  (Don’t ever turn down one of Shelley’s brownies ~ they are amazing!)

I attended my first unconference experience yesterday on the beautiful campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where there was no set schedule of events or predetermined workshops, no teachers being paid to attend, and no vendors trying to push their latest and greatest, costly tool onto us.  It was just passionate teachers who wanted to learn and share from & with each other.  And, none of them needed a substitute for the day.  They gave up a Saturday to do it.

There is a movement spreading throughout the United States for this new model of professional development and it began a year ago in Philadelphia by a group of passionate teachers. Fitting as one of my favorite sessions of the day was educaTED:  Getting Educated with Ideas Worth Spreading from Karen Blumberg (@specialKRB), the EdCamp movement reminds me of a TED video where Derek Sivers talks about leadership and how to start a movement:

Transforming Lone Nuts into Leaders

Takeaways from the Day

  • Putting faces & humans to the many twitter handles with whom I interact regularly or have just met ~There are too many folks I met face-to-face to talk about them all here, but meeting Jamie Josephson (@Dontworryteach) and Andy Marcinek (@andycinek) were definite highlights of the day.  I’ve participated in #sschat with Jamie many times but only through meeting her face-to-face did I come to learn how very much alike we are in both professional and personal ways.  Making the human connection has so much more meaning.  I just met Andy for the first time and learned he is originally from a neighboring small-town.  My parents know his parents, yet we were unaware of each other.  In just brief conversations in passing, many new ideas were generated.  Andy & I agreed to collaborate on developing a new course for high school that has a focus on 21st Century global studies, literacy, and citizenship. While some folks question the legitimacy of connections in the virtual world, EdCampPhilly served as yet another reminder of how human those folks are on the other end of the hyperlink.
  • Our educational systemic issues are more universal than we think ~Rich, poor, rural, urban, large, private, or public.  Each type of school has its own set of issues and challenges far beyond test scores and data.  As I’ve suspected for quite some time, this is more of a societal issue.  Most commonly, educational bloggers share their successes.  It can be intimidating for those trying to incite change in our classrooms to only read the success stories.  I needed to hear others talk about their challenges, as well.  I needed to hear Jamie share her experience from  EduCon 2.3 earlier this year where tours through SLA showed even they have their many challenges as a school.  After all, we are all working with teenagers.
  • Smackdown list of tools recorded by Kristen Hokanson ~ I could easily list the multitude of cool new technology ideas, but it is so hard to pick just a few as there are many favorites. Here is the Google Doc with a list of  the tools shared.
  • TED talk videos to use with our students recorded by Meeno Rami ~TED talks can be very inspirational and aide in leading thought-provoking critical thinking activities & discussions in the classroom. Here is a list with specific TED talks and ideas about how they are used.
  • Things That Suck from Dan Callahan ~ Every school should have a faculty meeting like this several times a year.  Period.  It is a comfortable, contained means by which to discuss the positives and negatives about educational issues and what we can do about them.  If nothing else, it provides an outlet for teachers to vent and discuss which could help alleviate too much complaining in the faculty lounge or venting negatively via blogging(although this type is NEVER acceptable.  If you ever feel like saying these things about your students, you should rethink teaching as your career.)  Things That Suck, however, discusses issues within the educational system, NOT students.
    sleep deprived brains

    Image by Will Lion via Flickrl system, NOT students.

Advice for Unconferencing to Future Newbies

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before.  You will be exhausted and you’ll come out with your head spinning.  I made the mistake of sleeping just a few hours.  Big mistake.  It was difficult to think straight at times with so many ideas being thrown about.
  • Don’t let fear get the best of you.  I did a little of that yesterday.  I had so very much more to share than what I did.  My students and I have had many positive experiences that could have been better shared.  I’m one of those types that take a bit to warm up to people I do not know.  I needed to listen and learn yesterday.  I need to get a feel for this model.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Now that I have it, I hope to keep moving and participate in EdCampDC and EdCampNYC.
  • Choose one thing or project that worked really well for you in your own classroom and be prepared ahead of time to present it.
  • It is OK to get up and go to another session if the one you are in isn’t what you thought it was going to be.  I had a hard time with this one, as it is a different feeling than what we are used to in our structured institutional settings.  Imagine if kids could get up and do this throughout the school day and move to the place where they will learn what they want.  Impractical?  Maybe.  Powerful?  Absolutely!

My head is still spinning.  I am inspired.  I’ve learned much without anyone really teaching me anything.  They involved me, they didn’t teach me.  Imagine what Mondays at school would be like if we had this kind of experience every weekend.

What was your most memorable moment from EdCampPhilly?  I’m sure I’ve left out many.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2011 2:26 PM

    Suzie,
    Thanks so much for coming to edcampPhilly. I regret that we did not connect until the end of the day. I would love to talk more and hear more about your successes in the classroom. I guess I will have to wait until edcampNYC or edcampDC. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the day with us, it means a lot.

    • May 22, 2011 3:44 PM

      Hi Ann,

      The feeling is mutual. There was just so many people to talk to… always difficult to get around to everyone. You all did a fantastic job. The organization of the event was impeccable. I’m certainly hooked on the EdCamp model and I’m sure it will get easier to share as a newcomer next time. It blows my mind how small a world this virtual place can be sometimes. When I first saw your name as an organizer, I knew it from somewhere. It just took me a bit to remember it was from Will Richardson’s Network Summer Camp Ning experiment with the kids. Thanks so much for comment. It was nice to meet you.

  2. May 24, 2011 8:32 PM

    Suzie,
    Amazing reflection on EdCamp Philly. I could have really used your advice for newbies before I went because I had no idea what I was getting myself into since it was my first time. I loved meeting that I talk to on Twitter and connecting a real face to their Twitter name. I agree that the environment of shared learning instead of being “lectured at” made it a wonderful experience. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to meet you but I’m glad you had such an amazing day of learning!

    • May 25, 2011 9:31 PM

      Hi Priscilla,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I could have used my advice for newbies, ahead of time, too. 🙂 While we didn’t meet, I think we were in the same session with Kristen Hokanson and Mary Beth Hertz about digital literacy. This is turning into such a widespread movement that I am certain we will have the opportunity to meet in the future. No doubt, my greatest learning came through collaboration and meeting other like-minded people. Your reply got me to thinking that perhaps it would be a good idea to have a pre-session for newbies in the future. More participants would likely come better prepared to share.

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