After only a few years being an educator I’ve realized that one of the things that drew me to teaching was not only a love of learning but of sharing. To be honest, I am not very fond of delivering information beyond, “Hey, look! Isn’t that cool?” The traditional top down model of instruction just doesn’t feel right. There is something powerful about discovery and going deeper, about making those new connections but in a collaborative manner. This isn’t really new. Educators have been saying for decades that the “sage on a stage” model is ineffective. So why is it then that most professional development is structured in this way?
Now I can honestly say that my experiences with PD have not been that bad. But from what I gather after speaking with many other teachers, it’s a scary scary world out there. I mean, are all-day PD workshops on how to use a textbook series really the best use of everyone’s time? And, who wants to sit all day and listen to someone speak anyway? Let’s discuss, debate, and learn together.
After months of planning by local educators, of which I was one, and community leaders the first EdCamp in California was a success. It’s difficult to describe adequately how invigorating EdCampOC was. But before I make an attempt it’s a good idea to explain what an EdCamp is.
An EdCamp is not a traditional education conference. An EdCamp is an opportunity for teachers from diverse backgrounds to meet up, break out into self selected sessions and learn together. Someone thinks of a topic they are interested in learning about, a note card is thrown up on the board to select a room and time and voila! Instant discussion. No pre-selected agenda. Just organic conversation about education.
Now, I can spend time describing the day but that can be found elsewhere. Check out Dan Callahan’s post for a great account or see The Orange County Register’s piece on EdCampOC. One thing that cannot go unmentioned was the excellent staff members from The Children’s School in La Jolla, CA and their ingenious idea to bring some of their students to EdCampOC. The TCSLJ students were an articulate bunch of great kids who shared their various learning projects, school experiences, and their Urban Adventures study trips.
There are two primary observations I think are really worth sharing about EdCampOC. First, once the other organizers and I finished the basic setup of the day the event basically took care of itself. In other words, it took little effort to get the attending teachers into rooms to discuss and share. They were clearly hungry for collaboration. Attendees were quick to get to the rooms and often went over the allotted time.
Secondly, I noticed during the day that there was little talk of where everyone taught. I can’t help but think that this is indicative of a shift in education. We’re all educators and we’re an increasingly connected bunch. The traditional model of the self-contained, top-down classroom is on its way out. It doesn’t matter that I teach here and you teach there. We have the same goals and are therefore an enormous asset to each other.
So if you were at EdCampOC, or any other EdCamp, don’t forget the energy of that day. Hold on to it.