Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Grassroots PD Movement

There is a movement happening in Philadelphia Education. In case you were asleep for the first half of 2010 you might have missed some amazing conferences in the city of brotherly love.

In the past 6 months, the city of Philadelphia has played host to two great conferences: Educon 2.2 and EDCAMP Philly. Although different in style, both conferences - edcamp falling in the unconference model - displayed contagious passion for education and how we can make it better. In July, NTCAMP will take place at The Boys' Latin
Charter School in Philadelphia. This event will follow the unconference model and focus on bringing new and veteran teachers together for a day of impromptu professional development. All three conferences will be annual events and next summer Philadelphia will welcome ISTE2011. This makes Philadelphia a must attend city when it comes to education.

So why is this such a big deal? Great, Philadelphia has a few Education conferences every year, why should I care? So does every other city in the country.

What's unique about Philadelphia is that teachers are banding together and creating conferences specifically for teachers that are run by teachers. We are not aiming to bring in the big keynote speaker or major vendors, but simply create a dialogue about the current state of education. Philadelphia is creating a grassroots professional development movement.

This movement is bringing teachers together from all over for one day - usually a Saturday - or maybe more, for an engaging discourse on everything from IEPs to information literacy. Everyone has the opportunity to present and the sessions never feel like lecture halls. After attending edcamp Philly twitter began to illuminate with #edcamp ideas across the nation. edcamp Boston, edcamp Detroit, etc. began surfacing all over the country. There are currently 10 cities in the US that will be holding edcamp events and ntcamp which will take place in Philadelphia on July 24th. The word is spreading and things look bright in the world of educational professional development.

Teachers across the country should pay attention to Philadelphia this summer and next. The movement to create worthwhile professional development for teacher by teachers is happening. Teachers are tired of sitting through the lecture model of professional development just as much as our students. We don't want to sit in front of a vendor pitchperson and attempt to take something away from a man or woman who recently got into pitching educational software because the economy was bad and figures it's hard to outsource classrooms. In short, teachers need to learn from each other.

If you haven't looked into starting an edcamp in your city, you should. Bring your administration in on the plan, in fact, bring your entire district in on the plan. Show them the value of this event and prove to them that it will produce better classrooms. I learned so much about my classroom practices and new ways in which I can incorporate technology and 21st century learning skills and assessments. I walked away from edcamp Philly with so many great resources and ideas that I could immediately implement into my classroom. I also gained a wealth of knowledge about my new position at Instructional Technology Coordinator.

At edcamp Philly I decided to run my own session not because I wanted to present, but simply, I wanted to have a conversation about my new position as an ITC and hopefully bring together other ITCs for this discourse. In short, it was a success and I walked away with a better understanding of my new position and a lot of great educators who I could now incorporate into my network.

This summer as you spend time basking in the sun at the beach or climbing up a mountain, think about what you want to learn in your practice and what questions do you have about how you teach. Could you be better? Of course. Think about attending an edcamp in your area or creating one if there are none available. Attend ntcamp in Philadelphia if you are a new teacher or an experienced teacher who thinks they could share some experience or learn something new from the kids. Think about professional development that YOU want. Don't settle for the pitch.

*image courtesy of