Those of you who see my tweets know that I attended a new PD event today - one I was a little reluctant about. I mean, with a name like "EdCamp" I was picturing a bunch of teachers wearing birkenstocks and jumping into pools, etc. Matt Eddy will tell you that I usually wait to see if someone else (like him getting me started on CASE or my English teacher friend Erin who drug me into this one) likes something new - I'm not exactly the "Early Adopter" we talk about in technology classes...
But the whole thing blew me away. Ranks #2 in all-time awesome PD experiences (the first being a CASE institute). Check out EdCampIowa | Smore
The setting was a college campus - an events facility. At 8:30, an auditorium filled with over 100 teachers from all over (mainly) western Iowa. This is the first state-wide EdCamp - a sister camp was held in eastern Iowa and they had teachers from WI and IL on hand out there. The Twitter feed for both camps comingled, ran together and great conversations had by all. All day. Still going as I write this blog tonight. Check out #EdCampIowa and you'll see the broad array. Admins, guidance, Pre-K-12 instructors from ALL walks, disciplines, school systems and backgrounds. What a cool, diverse group. The only thing we all had in common? Sounded like we all want to get better at what we do and we see our PEERS as being one of the best resources out there!
From 8:45-9:05, teachers popped up, volunteered to facilitate discussion on topics near and dear to them.... This is a screenshot of the googledoc showing the schedule. None of these were premeditated or planned. No powerpoints were in sight after the 5-minute introduction. No muss, no fuss. In 15 minutes, we planned an entire day of workshops. Relevant topics? I think so!
Then the workshops. Every group was small - I think the biggest group I was in had about 20 part of the discussion. That one was my favorite breakout today. See "Things That Suck, Lance" (1:15-2:05, session #31). Seriously. (Book Club, I thought of y'all!!!!) For those of you who are familiar with "Vote With Your Feet" activities in the classroom, you travel to the side of the room corresponding to "Sucks" or "Doesn't Suck". Subjects:
Merit Pay Facebook in School Report Cards PD Iowa Common Core Standardized Tests Extra Credit
After "voting" (and you could abstain or remain on the "Fence" in the middle), each side got a chance to plead their case. And if you changed your mind, you could move. As you can imagine, discussion was spirited and engaging. And a lot of people moved. I think the main conclusion was that our opinions were mainly based on semantics and personal experiences. Each topic had a time limit and when the bell rang, you moved on to the next item. 45 minutes was not long enough!!! How would you have voted on each of the items above?
For most workshops, though, it's a simple format: you go to the workshop and the rule is that everyone participates in every discussion, sitting in as much of a circle as possible. No presentation. No prepared notes. Discussion flows freely. And if the discussion isn't what you want/need, you are WELCOME to leave and join another group. Like live chat rooms. Literally. I enjoyed a couple sessions on Standards-Based Grading (got some great resources to read up on implementation as it's something I really want to know more about, since I'm not smart enough to envision it in my own classroom), hosting a student teacher and differentiated instruction. And by 3:30 I was just getting warmed up.
You can go to the googledoc at https://docs.google.com/a/sioux-central.k12.ia.us/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnRphNkFHPvrdFIwaHRCYnZ0Mk5nc3lDUFpoTU5IWUE#gid=0 and find links to notes from almost every session. Could take weeks to digest them all, and it's going to be a virtual library for me!!!
Take-home lessons & quotes (highlights from my own 3 pages of notes, sorry for any plagiarism - all thoughts below are NOT my own and I cannot take credit for them!):
- 4.0 grading scales are NOT required for college admissions
- We have to salt the oats as we lead them to the water trough. Then they?ll WANT (have to!) to drink the water!
- I hate points...they make me angry.
- List of expectations by universities : --ABYSS-- : students? actual abilities (ok, most of us already knew that one!)
- Is grading really objective? Late grades, behavioral, etc
- Mechanic analogy: hard work vs. fixed car...
- ?zone of proximal development? must be met for every student, every day
- fair is not always equal...
- report cards are often too little, too late
- If critical thinking and problem-solving skills are like a Christmas tree (critical thinking skills) then ornaments are the facts students will WANT to learn (LOVE this analogy!)
- Peer Reviews are everything they're cracked up to be: but improve it by using a critical friends process on PBL: coach students to use ?I like....? AND ?I wonder...? statements verbally OR written, and allow time to re-work projects (etc) prior to teacher assessment
- permission to do something differently: even if you fail, at least you’re falling forward and changing!
This is an awesome format to follow up a CASE institute or for anyone who ENJOYS regularly going above and beyond the minimum requirements of teachers (and face it, most teachers on CoP fall into THAT category, I read your posts!). It's just enough structure to disallow for negativity, enough fun to lift spirits of anyone kinda frustrated with their job that day (because we all have those days) but anyone really negative about teaching would HATE the energy, spirit and vigor of an EdCamp. It's almost like shedding light on vampires - it's so positive and fun that eternal pessimists would probably avoid or flee. I needed that kind of crowd today and would guess that we would ALL benefit from it once or twice a year.
I'm looking forward to the next EdCamp Iowa and hoping more of our ag ed and CTE friends will join the discussion. Out-of-staters are welcome, too. The more the merrier!!!!