Has anyone reading this heard of an EdCamp before? Don’t worry if you haven’t – I hadn’t until a few weeks ago. Even after I heard about it, looked it up, researched a bit, I still didn’t fully understand. Sometimes I just need to do to understand. Recently I got to do and I participated in an EdCamp un-conference. I’ll try to explain what an EdCamp is enough for you to try one yourself. You can organize one with your co-workers, your department, your school, or you can join a more formal one in your area.
EdCamp is more like a discussion than anything else. It’s a free meeting of educators to discuss current issues/content/resources in a collaborative way. The “speaker” is usually a fellow EdCamp unconference goer that facilitates more than lectures.
Last week I was able to participate in one through my CEP 811 graduate course using Google Hangout. We were each asked to bring a topic to talk about that we were interested in and researched about. I even made a PowerPoint presentation to help me. Unfortunately I can’t share that with you because on Monday this week my computer completely died; something with a black screen of death and “hard drive issues”. I backup my work frequently, but just not quite weekly so it’s forever gone (or at least until I recreate it).
To summarize what I experienced participating in EdCamp I’ll first talk about the prep work that I did. I wanted to facilitate a conversation about 1-to-1 technology in schools. I first thought about my own experiences (what’s a better place to start?) with working in a brick-and-mortar school of over 1,000 with one computer lab, to working at a virtual school where we provide every student with a computer and headset. I then hit Google to look for reliable research, useful tools/resources, and news articles. I’m sad to say that I lost my specific references with my dead computer. L
I then took all the resources and compiled them into a PowerPoint. When you prepare for one, you could just reference the ideas, print articles, bring up things on your phone or laptop, or any other method that you are comfortable with. EdCamp is about coming together to discuss ideas – there aren’t rules about how you convey what you know. Built into my PowerPoint were questions to ask; open-ended questions to allow for conversation to flow between members of EdCamp. Remember that you aren’t a lecturer when you lead a part of an EdCamp experience, you are a facilitator. You share what you know, but then open it up to others. I got a lot of new references, resources, and ideas from my co-workers that I had never even heard of, and more clarification and personal stories about some that I had heard of. It was amazing!
Below are just a few of the resources that we discussed:
Khan Academy – Free site with many instructional videos; mainly math and science related at the moment
GoSoapBox – Mobile app that acts as a clicker to conduct live polls or question
Edu Creations – Make your own instructional videos
Web Assign – Instant grading tool and assessment tool with a built in email in the system
Lon-CAPA – Site where you assign problems for students to complete with instant feedback
Study Island – Site with problems you can assign to students that adapt to their learning, enrich or supplement your lessons, aligned to state standard / Common Core
Download Destination – Expensive, but amazing, program with over 33,000 electronic and audio books; the real narration reads the book so there’s not a robotic voice
Of course, I was not the only one sharing during EdCamp. We had people speak about many different topics in education. The one that I really inspired me was about augmented reality. I had heard the phrase before, but honestly couldn’t tell you one thing about what it meant. Augmented reality is when physical things are scanned by a phone/iPad/computer and then additional resources/videos/sounds are attached. If you’ve heard of QR codes – AR (augmented reality) is a similar idea taken even further and made more visually appealing. The person leading the discussion works at the Detroit Institute of Arts and help set up where you can go to their app on a phone, scan a piece of art work in the museum while you are there, and learn more about the artist and how the art piece was made. I thought about how I could set up an AR app like this to help my online students explore spaces near them. I can have pictures in books that link to extra material, posters or symbols around a room that lead to additional material, or symbols around a field trip location with supplemental resources. You can add layers and layers to a physical item, which is exciting!
I enjoyed the EdCamp experience greatly. While I was speaking people listening were talking and sharing in a chat pod to build on my material. This collaboration was great to see while I was sharing specific resources. This allowed for a multiple layer presentation. If you are presenting in a physical space you can use Todays Meet to allow people to type response and chat while you are speaking without interrupting you. Next time I would have verbally encouraged this more to ensure everyone realized that this was an option and one I would not be offended by.
I think that I could introduce this idea to my school and host short EdCamps periodically during staff/team/content meeting times. Each person could be asked to bring a topic to talk about and facilitate a conversation. This would help relieve the sometimes blank stares that happen when open-ended sharing time occurs. It would also be a great way for staff to work collaboratively to share strategies and ideas that work well in their environment.
If I were to bring EdCamp to my school I would first have a short meeting, recording, or detailed email to explain the idea of an EdCamp (maybe I could reference this blog post!). Once people felt comfortable with the general idea and had time to ask questions I would then determine a time and place to hold the EdCamp. Since it’s an interactive meeting about topics that educators are passionate about, I wouldn’t assign topics and would rather let teachers brainstorm topic ideas together and then choose one that they are excited about. I think it would also be acceptable to not “present” at EdCamp and just be a participant. Together with the participants I would come up with expectations of the experience and discuss having a time limit on each topic. I believe that everyone could value from an unconference like this! I encourage anyone reading this to go out and participate in one – even if you have to start a new one yourself!
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