Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My EdCamp Chicago Experience Finally a Reflection

Granted it's been almost a month since EdCamp Chicago.  I'm not going to make excuses for the lateness of my reflection post. Instead, I'm going to try and give you a different perspective than the average EdCamper.  
First, when I first saw Chad Lehman post that he was working with Steve Dembo to put the event together, I was excited.  Here was an opportunity to connect with a number of people that I have been talking with on social networking platforms for years most notably Josh StumpenhorstTammy Lind and Jena Sherry.  

Being a "District Technology Coordinator", I wasn't sure what I was actually going to gain from my first EdCamp experience.  Since EdCamps are not necessarily based in technology, but rather all things related to education, I was nervous about what I could contribute.  Although I have a strong background in the field of education it has been 15 years since I stood in front of a class of students. So I compensated by letting the organizers of the event know that I was willing to help in any way possible during he months leading to the camp.  Honestly, I probably over committed myself by volunteering to stream from different sessions on the day of the event, trying to organize an "after camp" event (which eventually took care of itself), developing a QR Code challenge and attempting to garner door prizes from many of the local businesses.  All this in addition to my regular job, family obligations, working on conference sessions, writing a book and my 365 blog project? By the morning of the event, I was exhausted.   But, this fit the plan, since it was simply to sit back and listen.

Now, if you've never attended an EdCamp the idea is to come up with what will be discussed during the day on the morning of the event.  The rules were simple. First, have fun.  Second, if you came up with a session idea it was your responsibility to kick the session off and let the conversation flow. And finally, learn from each other. At least I think those were the rules. I was amazed at how quickly the board filled up during the opening ceremony and how easily it all came together.  In all there were at least 20 sessions that came together in a matter of minutes.

The first session I sat in on was about the concept of the flipped classroom that was lead by one of the founding father's of the movement, Jonathan Bergmann.  This concept is a really hot topic right now and so the session for the most part was a Q&A with Johnathan.  Of course, my mind was racing through the technical aspects of how I could assist teachers in my district with the implementation of the idea.  I stuck to my plan and sat back and listened and learned.

Next up for me was a session about QR Codes in the classroom.  I am fascinated with the possibilities that QR Codes present both in and outside the classroom.  Although, I had not suggested the session, I think because I had developed the QR Code challenge for the event (basically a web quest done with QR Codes) I felt the responsibility to facilitate the conversation.  And some amazing ideas came out of that discussion.  Including from participants like Jerry Blumengarten on Twitter and by chat room participants in the Ustream feed.  

An amazing informational session was led by Anne Truger all about Google Apps in Education.  Working for one of the first school districts in the country to have "gone Google" I felt this session was also one to which I could contribute information.  But half way through the session, a Twitter conversation suddenly broke out in . the atrium - completely unscheduled.  This is the beauty of an unstructured day - you go where it leads you.  Since Twitter is "my thing", I snuck down there to join the conversation.

Finally, there was a session about Delicious vs Diigo vs Pearltrees vs Sqowrl.  And the message that came out of that session is what I have been preaching for years: "find the tool that works for you."  This was the most structured of the sessions but after the first ten minutes or so the discussion simply started to flow.

Throughout the day, I was conducting short video interviews with the participants about why these events are important. I had the compilation complete that weekend but my computer decided to dump it.  Luckily, I had the files backed up but I need to recompile it this weekend.  I promise it's coming!

Lessons learned?
  • Participate but don't over commit
  • Don't be afraid to speak up when you feel your input will be valuable
  • Everyone involved in the education process matters.
  • Expand your PLN and continue the conversation
I left the day with my head spinning and full of fresh ideas and looking forward to my next EdCamp (which may be SpedCamp in Witchita, KS in October).

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