Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ed Camp Baltimore-- September 27, 2014

Yesterday, I went to Ed Camp Baltimore.  This was my first officially Ed Camp experience, and I LOVED it!  Have you heard of this type of professional development?  It is an "unconference."  You can read about it directly on the Ed Camp Baltimore website, but I'll also give you my version of the day's events.

Here's my take on the event-

The technology coordinator at my school informed the staff about the Ed Camp Baltimore conference.  I knew that she had gone since its inception, and at her recommendation, I wanted to check it out.  I was planning on registering a couple weeks prior to the event, but at that point, I wasn't ready to commit to attending.  A few days ago, I decided I wanted to attend.  The event was FREE, so unfortunately they were out of tickets.  Luckily, I joined the waitlist and a spot opened up!  

The Schedule is Created
When you arrive at an Ed Camp conference, all the participants are gathered in a common area and that is when the schedule is set for the day.  I know that sounds weird, right.  The schedule is not set prior to the day of the event, nor are the presenters.  Anyone who has an idea can put a sign up with their idea, and it might become a session for the day.  I put up a topic for discussing writing instruction and assessment with a connection to Google Docs.  Initially, my session was combined with another session on discussing everything Google Apps for Education (GAFE), but some more shifting occurred, and I got to have my session too.   Once the schedule was set, it was all compiled on a Google Doc.  Here was our final schedule for the day.  Check out the photo gallery from Ed Camp 2012 for a better idea of how this scheduling works.  

The Sessions Begin 
Everyone chooses a session that sounds good to them.  You head to the room of your chosen session and the person that suggested the topic presents.  Often times, the floor is opened so other teachers that have expertise on the subject can share their ideas.  The GAFE session was the first session I attended.  Then I led a discussion about writing during session 2.  There was so much of value at the sessions that I attended that I am going to dedicate full blog posts to new apps and websites that will revolutionize your teaching.

After the first two sessions, everyone joined in the auditorium for a smackdown of resources that they find helpful.  This was so informative!  Anyone could go up to the front and share something with the group.  A recorder was also taking notes for the group.  I would definitely recommend you look at the list of resources from the smackdown.

Back for More
After lunch on your own, it is back for two more afternoon sessions.  This followed the same format as the sessions above.  One thing that is stressed at an "unconference" is that you are free to switch sessions at any time.  The motto goes something like this- If you aren't learning or contributing, use your two feet to take you somewhere else.  This means that you can get the most out of your day.  Another great aspect of this conference is that all the notes were online.  There was a shared Google Doc for each session (again use the links on the schedule page).  That way, if there were multiple sessions you wanted to attend, you could easily benefit from them by looking at the notes later.

After all the sessions, we congregated in the auditorium for a raffle.  The event had no advertisers, but there were sponsors who offered numerous prizes.

Key Takeaways
I think one of my main takeaways is that there is a rich community of educators that stay connected through technology.  For example, there many who stay connected on Twitter, and I want to be part of that community of educators, both to learn from them and to add to the conversation.

I also want to blog more regularly.  It is something that I have been doing more for myself, but I want my voice to be part of this online community of educators.  Yesterday I read a really great post by Jenna Shaw, a member of this year's Ed Camp Baltimore Organizing Committee.  She talked about this exact concept in her post "Connected Responsibility."   She says, "If I am to truly be connected to others, it must be a consistent effort that rises above some of the individual difficulties I experience with inspiration, time, and effort, in order to ensure that the community I am helping to connect is able to share their voice."  I wholeheartedly agree with this.  Blogging, like so many other aspects of education, is time consuming.  It is something that I want to schedule into my week just like I schedule in planning and grading.

Looking Ahead
Are you looking for an Ed Camp experience?
MSDE is hosting an Ed Camp in Baltimore on February 7.   Not from Baltimore? Look up Ed Camps in your area.  They are happening all over the world!