Friday, 5 August 2011

Why I camp

edcamp Boston
Last Saturday marked the third new teacher camp (ntcamp) that was held at WHYY studios in Philadelphia. I had no idea that we, the ntcamp organizers, would be putting on another show, let alone our third event. Nor did I ever imagine the unconference movement erupting into what has become today. It is now possible to attend an edcamp nearly every month of the year. Plus, edcamps are starting to focus their attention on specific groups such as an edcamp for administrators and an edcamp for superintendents. I have also heard about edcamp models being used in school PDs throughout the summer and school year. There is no denying, the edcamp model is catching on.

For years, the education world has operated, in many cases, in isolation. Teachers and Administrators (not all) plan behind closed doors and most never cross district lines to see what others are doing. edcamps have torn down these walls (Reagan in 2012 plug) and broadened the conversation. If you leave an edcamp with one thing, it will be that the scope of your network is limitless (Limitless plug).

Most question the appeal of an edcamp and ask “What’s the deal with all the “sizzle” showing up in twitter columns followed by the edcamp hashtag?” The answer is rooted in the conversations happening at edcamps across the country. I don’t organize or attend edcamps because of the technology or to gain more attention on Twitter, I attend edcamps because of the people and the conversations they bring with them. edcamps get right what many big, vendor-driven conferences get wrong. They allow everyone to have a voice. For many educators, their first edcamp is the first time they have encountered professional development in which they have a voice.  A voice that is being heard, debated, and questioned.

edcamp Philly
So why do I camp, and why should you camp? The answer is in everyone who has ever stepped inside a classroom full of students. If we want to produce inquiry-driven, dynamic learners, then we must leave our comfort zone and become this type of learner as well. Not for just one day, but every day we wake up. Educators (This includes Administrators, Superintendents, etc.) should be eager to learn and comfortable with not knowing the answer. Educators should be ecstatic about trying something new and open to experimenting, not resistant. An edcamp may not be your cup of tea, but I implore you to at least try it before you dismiss the value.

I often wonder what the medical field would be like if Doctors didn’t take a risk and try something new. I imagine we would still have some awful diseases lingering around and maybe a plague or two. The simple point is that there is no downside to getting out to your local (this is now possible) edcamp and trying something outside of your comfort zone. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover something great. Or maybe it will suck. Either way, you made an attempt to get out there among your peers and place yourself in the role of
the learner. And that alone, is a step in the right direction.

Find a list of upcoming edcamps here and let's continue this conversation in a session at edcampCT