Thursday, January 22, 2015

Edcamp is All About Community...and We Need More of That

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were the best. I looked forward to college football, recreational soccer games, and episodes of Recess. On special occasions, my dad would pick up Yum-Yum Donuts and, on really great days, I would get to eat two.

Fast forward a few years, and things are a tad different. I don't watch Saturday morning cartoons. I couldn't even tell you where to find Recess (maybe Netflix?).  I no longer play soccer and, now, I actually look forward to waking up early to read and write.

But I still love Saturday mornings.

I especially love a Saturday morning that begins with an Edcamp.

An Edcamp is an 'unconference' driven by the teachers that show up to the event. There are no preset themes. There is not a keynote speaker. There is not even a schedule until the day of the event. The bulk of the day is crowdsourced by the teachers themselves. The entire success of an Edcamp is built upon ad hoc community participation.

So how does this work?

Go back a few sentences and we see the answer...community.

Teachers build their own space to connect, share, and learn. It is inherently ours. It is a place for teachers by teachers. This emphasis on community breeds a special type of collaboration. It is a collaboration where all those involved feel empowered and affirmed. There is a belief that we will make ourselves better by working together, by learning from each other. Hadley Ferguson, Executive Director of Edcamp Foundation, writes, "Edcamps became so powerful because they recognize and honor the expertise of teachers."

This past Saturday, I attended EdcampLA. I attended a session on Social Studies games that turned into a deep conversation on critical pedagogy. I learned how to build iPhone apps in minutes. I (accidentally) facilitated a discussion on project based learning.

Best of all I got to connect, learn, and share with some of the best educators in Southern California. I got to contribute to the vibrant community of educators I call colleagues. In my opinion, there are not enough of these opportunities for educators and teachers (something I am really thinking about). How can we continue theses face-to-face conversations and meetups between teachers? We are often confined to the classrooms we teach in. 'Getting out of the building' is a phrase used in testing technology, but I think it is a valuable practice for educators. 

I know when teachers get together, "What happens is magic."

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