EdCamp or Bust.. Educators on a Mission…

In the early days of “California of Bust”, on the back of wagons heading West, the message was clear: Bigger things awaited them, and they were determined to get there, one way or another. This message seems to me to be the perfect fit for the nature of EdCamps. If you have never been a part of one, you might not fully understand this analogy, so let me explain.

Educators have long since the beginning of time been required to take part in professional development opportunities in order to stay current on educational practices. Most often choices are limited, if at all, and one simply goes through the motions, not intentionally, but by circumstance. How much learning takes place in those inservice opportunities?  What percentage of take away is truly applied in the classroom in the days that follow?  As educators we know that engaging our audience is at the core of growth and learning, and so some pretty smart people in education sat down and redefined what PD should look like… And out of that ….EdCamp was born!

EdCamps are the “unconference” for a a reason… They have no agenda, no planned presenters, no real plan of action. It is simply educators coming together to network, share ,and decide WHAT they want to learn, and WHO in that room can lead the discussion. The agenda for the day is set as attendees come together and find they have something they can share. The best part of it all… EdCamps are planned by people like you and me…. Not districts or educational content developers.

Last spring I myself took on Co- Chairing #PadCampDallas with Venita Jones (@vcjtx). #PadCamp is simply a spin off of the EdCamp philosophy, focused specifically on using tablets and handheld devices in the classroom. I won’t lie, it was a lot of work planning such an event, but at 8 am on Saturday March 24th, I looked around, and found myself surrounded by a group of truly dedicated professionals. These educators gave up their Saturday to learn… willingly… with no PD prodding by their districts or administration. They came because they had a tablet, and they wanted to know the best ways to engage their students with it…  Amazing to say the least.

So where does that leave us in this EdCamp or Bust analogy? Well look around.. there is undoubtedly one happening in a city near you this year. EdCamptAtl is my next stop. On September 8th, I have a feeling I am going to look around Woodward Academy and have that same moment I had back in March. I am going to be proud I am part of a profession that gives their all for the betterment of our students, determined to find the best ways to engage these learners of the 21st century.  Hope to see you there… EdCamp or Bust!

Seriously? Homework Reform? No Way!

Well in the days past I have found myself processing a lot of what I learned through attending my first ever EdCamp! If you are unfamiliar- It is essentially the un- conference … no agenda- simply educators who meet, talk, establish things that they want to learn and an agenda arises with educators who are willing to share some expertise on particular novelties. You can sit through a whole session or literally walk in and out, trying each session on for size. They are particularly inclined to teach educational technology and how to apply that in the classroom, so as you can imagine, I was more than stoked to attend! I could go on an on about all the things I took away that day, but I will simply try to hit on a couple big ideas and how they will shape some much needed changes in my classroom this fall.

My superintendent, who will be entering his first full year in our district, spoke to the crowd of nearly 200 at lunch that day. He, unlike many in the upper echelons of education, gets it! He had so many poignant thoughts, but one in particular really just solidified my passion for encouraging other educators into educational technology. He stated that last year’s senior class would be the very last group of kiddos we would teach that had been born prior to the world wide web. That being said… every single child we teach today and into the future will have been alive during an alarmingly fast moving information age. That sparked something even bigger in me for sure. If the world we are teaching in is moving and changing every day, can we justify doing the exact same lessons the exact same way year after year? Can we use the same materials and methods, year after year? Well I suppose we CAN… but should we? My thoughts.. NO! We should be growing and changing how we teach weekly, if not daily. After all, isn’t there something new daily? Now by no means am I suggesting that I will do every single thing differently in the year to come. I am realistic and know that you have to take this one tech step at a time. However I have started making a list of the things I plan to change from the beginning. Homework is first…  But how will I change something like homework? Here are my thoughts…

Drill and practice… worksheets… worksheets.. worksheets….  We have administered homework this way forever, and honestly is there a single shred of evidence that this works? The reality… the kids who got it in class will get it at home… and it probably wasn’t necessary to make them do the extra 15 problems. The kids who either got it a little, or didn’t get it at all, now fall to the mercy of their family for help. If they get that help, wonderful… If not…  well they don’t do it, or do it poorly, and in most cases serve a penalty for not following through with a task. Does any of that sound logical when written down? Hey- I am not here to judge… I have been the person dishing this out for years… but I plan to do it no more…  I plan to make sure my students are accountable for tasks outside the classroom, YES… but how I do that will change.  As I have talked about in earlier posts, I will use Edmodo this year in my classroom. My homework questions will be posted there daily… as for any student who does not have access to a computer or a parent who is skeptical- I will also have a homework spiral where they can answer the questions as well. I will not be giving drill and practice- rather critical thinking, problem solving, analyzing, summarizing, etc., as a way to make them think- yet reduce the right and wrong, yes and no, and true or false type of activity.  We can pull up Edmodo at the end of the day- make sure that they understand the task and let them think on it before they do it…  Is this full proof? Don’t know…  Will there be issues… Sure… Tech fails- I know that for sure… but working out the kinks this year will make one more change that I feel is necessary for my students to move at the pace of the world they live in…  Food for thought…. That’s what I am here for! 🙂