Educational Leaders Need to Embrace EdCamps

The EdCamp experience began in 2010 thanks to a thoughtful group of educators from Philadelphia who decided to lead an “‘unconference” for educators called EdCamp Philly. I’m not sure they imagined when they first gathered that hundreds of these eventswould be held across the globe within five years. However, given the fact that the majority of educators feel the district professional development provided for them lacks relevance, we shouldn’t be surprised that groups of educators gathered and created meaningful learning experiences on the fly that far surpassed the quality of most other professional development. 
In fact, this now-global phenomenon has evolved to the point where the EdCamp Foundation was established to support this important movement that allows educators to lead their own learning. Fast forward to 2015 and we can officially say the EdCamp movement is making an impact on educational leaders. The people who create most of the professional development experiences in schools are getting first-hand experiences with the unconference model. Thanks to some great work from Joe Mazza and his highly successful EdCamp Leadership event last summer at the University of Pennsylvania, this year’s EdCamp Leaderdhip event went global. This past Monday, EdCamp Leadership sessions were held in 17 locations in 15 states, including events in Chile and China.  
I was fortunate to participate in EdCamp Leadership Boston at Bedford High School. A quick look at the schedule gives you an idea of the variety of relevant topics that a group of thoughtful educators can develop when give the chance. In addition, the conversations and resources from EdCamps can be utilized for those who can’t physically attend by clicking on links to the sessions which connect to GoogleDocs with names and contact information for attendees as well as useful links on the topics discussed. For those who are adept at utilizing Twitter, conversations and sharing of resources continue during and after the sessions by following the #EdcampLdr hashtag.
For a great summary of why the EdCamp experience is so powerful, I will borrow a few words from the EdCamp Leadership website:
Most people say that the best part of “traditional” conferences is the conversation that occurs with fellow participants between sessions, or perhaps over lunch.
Now, imagine an entire CONFERENCE built around conversations—informal, small-group gatherings with honest, earnest discourse where the expertise is fully acknowledged to be IN THE ROOM—not just at the front of it.
The ultimate success of EdCamp Leadership will be the development of EdCamp model professional development experiences back in the districts where the attendees work. School leaders need to loosen the reigns on the top-down approach to developing professional learning schedules for their teachers and ensure that educators within their schools and districts can have opportunities to led their own learning. Isn’t this the ultimate goal for all learners in our schools? 
In closing, I will leave you with the ultimate assessment of the EdCamp model. Check out the look on the faces of the learners at the end of the day from three of the EdCamp Leadership locations below!  
EdCampLdr.jpg
 EdCamp Leadership Boston
edcamp baltimore.jpgEdCamp Leadership Baltimore
edcamp chicago.jpgEdCamp Leadership Chicago

Top Posts #3 – 5 Ways For Teachers To Get Quality PD This Summer

This post first appeared on Edudemic and is post #3 in my reposting of my top five posts from the past school year – Enjoy!

1. Attend (or start) a summer Edcamp

For the third consecutive summer, our district will host an Edcamp each Tuesday morning in Burlington, MA. These informal sessions are open to educators from Burlington and beyond who feel like gathering to lead their own learning. Attendees assemble each week and decide what topics will be the focal point for their learning. We provide members of our Instructional Technology staff (including our high school students) to support those looking to expand their skills with technology integration. In addition, teachers from Burlington can earn in-service credits or Professional Development Points for their attendance.
This model could be replicated anywhere! All you need to do is pick some dates, provide a space, and invite local educators. Trust me – if you plan it, they will come.

2. Attend A Multiple-Day Workshop

Most of the teachers whom I know hate taking one day off from their classroom during the school year, and they would never consider missing consecutive days for a workshop of any kind. The amount of additional advanced planning, combined with the time away from their students, is just too much for these folks to bear! Well, there is no time better than the summer months to escape the guilt of missing a day of school and treat yourself to a quality learning opportunity with educators and taught by other educators. Check out the summer-long list of workshops offered by EdTech Teacher’s staff of classroom practitioners.

3. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

The beauty of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is that most of the learning opportunities can be done regardless of time and place. You can choose what you learn, when you learn, and where you learn. If you are anywhere with a wireless signal, and you want to try the MOOC experience, then your only dilemma is choosing from the extensive list of options out there.  A great place to begin your search is at www.mooc.ca, a comprehensive list of MOOC’s maintained by Stephen Downes.
If you are looking for a less intimidating option, you could also enlist a group of colleagues and run through the some of the topics from the educational-technology focused #ETMOOC which ran between January and March of this year. The important part here is to find a space where passionate educators can find a topic of common interest and share their learning journey regardless of space or time.

4. Participate in a Weekly Twitter Chat

If you are an educator, then there is a Twitter chat for you. Check out this awesome Google Spreadsheet of Twitter chats broken down by nights of the week that was created by@thomascmurray and @cevans5095.  There are literally chats for every grade level and discipline that you could imagine. My suggestion would be to speak to your district or building administrator about earning credits towards recertification for your participation (in MA we call these credits Professional Development Points). You could use storify to archive your participation in the chats and incorporate your tweets into a reflective blog post to provide documentation of your learning.
If you need help getting started with Twitter, check out Erin Klein’s great video that appeared on Edudemic last week.

5. Just Hang Out

If you haven’t experienced the capabilities in a Google+ Hangout, you are missing out! Check out the schedule of Education On Air sessions that is available to educators for free learning opportunities. Educators could also create their own hangouts for colleagues to discuss a pertinent topic, collaborate on curriculum work, or even do a book discussion. The possibilities are literally endless, and the hangouts allow you to record the sessions to have for future reference. At the very least, I encourage you to try a hangout with one or two friends to see how easy it is to set up and utilize the numerous built-in functions.
Given all of the avenues available for professional development, 2013 could be the best summer ever! What a great time to take advantage of these opportunities to advance your own learning!

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