Sunday, February 12, 2012

What I Learned at EdCamp

As a first time organizer of an EdCamp I very much enjoyed the experience. For a conference that pretty much ran itself the work really is only as difficult as you make it. If you would like to learn more about what happened at EdCampChicago 2012 the participants were asked to link their notes to the official schedule.

Outside of that I wanted to think about bringing EdCamp mainstream.
  • I created a proposal for ISTE2012 about organizing EdCamp. Sadly it was rejected (and with it my excuse to travel to San Diego).
  • I filled out the required paperwork to be a Professional Development Provider for the state of Illinois.
    • I am currently in the process of doing the paperwork to present my first CPDU credits.
  • I worked with a marketing friend to develop a campaign to present to businesses.
    • I had mixed feelings on this and was not too sad when this died as he got busy.


First, I don’t own a decent laptop or tablet device so I had to borrow a Chromebook from the school. I was very impressed. I’ve been doing almost everything on the cloud for years now so opening a chromebook and signing into my Google account gave me access to just about everything I could have wanted. It even included all of my passwords because I have a few apps set up in Chrome and everything is synced.

I like how EdCamps seem to start with an hour of just settling in. People got to know each other and drank some coffee prepared by the Culinary Club. As the buzz built in the library we stopped and explained what and how an EdCamp works to the participants. It was neat to watch the schedule start to fill in as we explained how to use it.

My first session was on being an introverted leader a topic that was a continuation from Educon last week and also synced well with an NPR story and book that just came out. In a room full of introverts we did talk, we just didn’t get loud. We also seemed to type as much as we talked. Are introverts more inclined to share?

Next was Standards Based Grading (SBG) for a half a session and on to eBooks in the library. I like the idea of SBG and as I understand it SBG will be required as part of common core in Illinois.

The big take away for me though was that SBG is individual for the school and even the class. It will be a long difficult journey to wean students, and parents off of the almighty grade, but in the end it will be worth it. Just don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you will.

The eBook on the other hand is a great addition to the library. While there are companies such as Overdrive that will help with the transition, purchase, and lending of eBooks it certainly seems to me that the librarian of the future (now) has an entire new way to find and present research and reading materials to students, but they will need to learn some new skills.

Lunch was great. Homemade, literally homemade down to the chips. These kids started work at 5:30AM to prepare for us and then served us with a smile. Leyden High school from superintendent to students were the best possible hosts.

I lead the two afternoon sessions I was in and I was pleased to do so. Since I started blogging in 2008 the idea that school as we know it can be re-envisioned has been growing inside me. During the past few years my role as a teacher has not been satisfying. Perhaps if I had been a regular classroom teacher where I could close the door and create the learning environment I liked things would be different. But the fact remains that I have for the most part been the second teacher in the classroom and I have not liked it very much.

As a result I have started putting down some of the characteristics of what my dream school might have. It turns out a lot of my thoughts are not that different from some other teachers. Then again they probably are very different from other educators who might not come to an EdCamp. At any rate I enjoyed the discussion and took some notes down as comments while we talked. Fell free to put your 2cents worth in as well or better yet start your own dream school document and share it in the comments.

My final session was on the gamification of education. Despite what the title might imply I don’t think this is a bad thing. Some of the characteristics of games can and should be integrated into education.
  • Immediate feed back was cited by many participants.
  • The value of watching and learning from better players. (Games are inherently social)
  • It doesn’t hurt to fail again and again, because you can always start over.
  • Cheating is ok
  • Experts come in all shapes and sizes
  • The player chooses the difficulty level

I think most tellingly what wasn’t mentioned once was the earning of badges or points to make the game more interesting.

We never did get to our TechSmackDown, we just ran out of time. Perhaps next year, or even in another six months.
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