I have been to several edcamps in the past year. My first edcamp was in November 2014. I was so re-energized when I left that I immediately signed up for others in my area. Edcamp is like Pringles; once I popped, I just couldn’t stop. Edcamps are like Lays; I couldn’t have just one… you get it. I love edcamp. After attending 8 edcamps in my state in just over a year, I have learned that all edcamps are the same, and all edcamps are different.
Here are 8 reasons I love edcamp and why I keep going back to edcamp after edcamp (Believe it or not, door prizes aren’t even listed! Although they are always an awesome bonus!)
1 – There is no hierarchy. When you attend an edcamp, you drop your title at the door. Whether you are a classroom teacher, a school level administrator, a director within a district, or a superintendent, you are equal at edcamp. The North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. June Atkinson, attended #edcampLDR in the summer and was just as much a participant there as I was. It doesn’t matter if you run a world of 20 students or 150 schools, you are there to share ideas and find ways to make education better for all of the stakeholders.
2 – The culture is positive and inspirational. Edcamp is not a place to complain, grumble, and vent. It is a place to seek answers, share information, and grow your PLN. This isn’t to say that we sit around singing kumbaya. Instead, we have a safe place to share our failures and make new friends who help us find real solutions to our problems. After every edcamp, I feel inspired, motivated, and ready to change my students’ lives.
3 – The ideas shared are realistic. I love that edcamp isn’t about what “could” happen and what we “might” can do on Monday, but it’s about what others have already done in their classrooms and how it impacted their students. Rather than just talking about change, edcampers are actually making the change.
4 – There are no “presenters”! No one will stand up in front of the room and dictate the conversation. It is truly about sharing ideas with others in a round-table discussion. Everyone present is valued. Everyone is encourage to participate. Conversations can start with a comment, question, or idea. Anyone can start the conversation. Every person has the opportunity to contribute to the topic at hand. In addition to face-to-face conversations in the session, there are also Twitter back-channels and collaborative notes via Google Documents which are available to everyone.
5 – Participants are not just from within your own district, but from various districts and various levels of education. Test scores have the ability to make us competitive, just like scores in sports. Edcamp takes away this competition and allows us to focus on what we all agree is the most important – giving our students a quality education. We can all learn from one another’s successes and failures. I love that all levels of education are present. It really gives a larger picture of scope and sequence. By talking with teachers from middle school, high school, and secondary education, I can see where my elementary students will be in a few years and how I can better prepare them for the future.
6 – No edcamp is the same. Every single edcamp I have attended (either in person or following virtually via Twitter) has been different. The participants are what make each edcamp special. I have walked away with something new after each edcamp that has been directly applicable to my students.
7 – Edcamp is for YOU! Edcamp is always about what YOU need. If you are in a session and it is not meeting your needs, it is perfectly acceptable to quietly leave the room. I will never forget the first time the culture of edcamp became a reality for me. I was in a session that started out being exactly what I needed. Then it veered to a discussion that was not directly beneficial to me and I went back and forth about whether I should move to another session. I checked Twitter and the collaborative notes. Finally I ended up leaving the session to exchange ideas with a member of my PLN in the hallway. We made our own “session” right then and there, and even had a few other people join our discussion before moving to the next session. It’s totally okay to be selfish in your learning at edcamp.
8 – Edcamp is about growing your PLN! Your PLN is your Professional Learning Network. Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts of any edcamp. I have met outstanding educators at edcamp and have formed bonds with many of them that now extends outside of Twitter and has evolved into true friendships. Whether we meet face-to-face first and then continue our sharing on Twitter, or we “follow each other” on Twitter and then meet at edcamp, it’s always great to meet new friends at edcamp!
So – how do you get to an edcamp?
1. Find an upcoming edcamp in your area. Check out the Complete Calendar.
2. Sign up – Edcamps are free! Have your friends sign up, too!
3. Get to edcamp in time to help create the session board! It’s the best part! This is where you decide what you want to learn about. I suggest having three topics in mind. When I suggest topics I always suggest one that I feel confident in and can share information with others, one that I have no idea what I’m doing & will ask questions and take in as much information as possible, and one that I have some experience, but still have questions.
4. Take it all in. Live in the moment and enjoy the culture of edcamp! Tweet, share, collaborate, participate! When you leave, tell your friends! Take back the enthusiasm you gained and repeat as needed! I will bet you search for the next local edcamp before you leave your first.