Monday, October 20, 2014

Edcamp Lake: Reflections from a Day of Learning

w/ Jerry Blumengarten
It was an early start for a Saturday morning. To make it to Eustis, FL - home of #EdcampLake - I had to leave the house at 5am. The minute that I walked into the cafeteria at Eustis High School, I knew that the four hour drive would be worth it.  Most of the teachers in the room were Edcamp first-timers, but the session idea board was already filling up. I scrambled to make sure I secured a spot to lead a discussion on transforming the classroom with cloud-based tools.

It doesn't matter how far from home an edcamp takes you, there always seems to be a familiar face in the crowd.  If that edcamp happens to be in Florida, one of those familiar faces will probably be @cybraryman1 himself, Jerry Blumengarten. Then there are the other connected educators that you know by their Twitter handles, but have never met face-to-face. It was great to connect with folks like Tammy Neil @mathneil and Shauna Liverotti @MsLivFL. Like with any workshop or conference, some of the most valuable takeaways come from the connections made outside of the scheduled sessions.

Tammy Neil talking Twitter
I decided, as I was driving south, that I would spend much of my time at #EdcampLake floating around so that I could get a sense of what was on the minds of teachers in attendance. After sitting in Tammy Neil's session on Twitter, two things became abundantly clear. First, we still have a long way to go to get teachers connected. Second, and perhaps more important, teachers are clamoring for ways to get connected. Tammy is doing a great job at spreading the message of the PLN. One of my big takeaways from her session was learning about #FledChat, that meets on Twitter every Wednesday at 8pm, and which Tammy co-moderates. I can't wait to sit in on my first #FledChat this week.

I also sat in on a couple of sessions led by Shauna Liverotti, one on Flat Classrooms and another on Effective Feedback. It was interesting to hear how teachers from all over the curriculum are trying to extend learning beyond the walls of their schools. I believe that we are just now scratching the surface of possibilities with regard to flat classrooms.  That's what makes events like edcamp so important. Teachers are not getting what they need through traditional district-run professional development. This is one of those discussions that reminds me that for authentic change to happen, it will have to come from teachers. Despite the efforts of people like Eric Sheninger and the work he and others are doing to connect principals, we have a long way to go before school administrators will start to lead in areas the really matter.

Shauna Liverotti & Flat Classrooms
The discussion that Shauna led on effective feedback was one that challenged me personally. Between the rush to cover ever-changing standards and trying to integrate meaningful learning experiences for my students, I struggle with providing feedback in a timely manner. I know that to be meaningful it has to be timely. We were fortunate to have a student in the room, and her insight was extremely valuable. How often do we consult with students about what it means to provide meaningful feedback. The issue of allowing student input on things like grading rubrics was discussed. An interesting idea, to be sure.

Finally, I can no longer say that I never win anything at the closing door-prize sessions. I walked away with a Livescribe Echo SmartPen. Now I just have to find time to play with it. Before closing I should offer my congratulations to Jim Curtis and the rest of the Edcamp Lake organization for a great event. This was their first year, and they are off to a grand start.

1 comment:

Tammy Neil said...

Stephen, it was great to connect face to face with you. Your reflection of the day was spot on. Thank you for mentioning #FLedChat. I am always trying to get teachers connected and sharing.

It was fun to see Jerry again, even if only for a few minutes. I can't wait to continue learning with you.