I can still remember my first educational “conference”. It was an ELA “conference” 3 members of our grade level was informed we were going to. No choice. No ownership.
- It would count towards our Professional Development....
- It was a full day listening to 1 individual speak at us regarding how to improve classroom practice….
- It went on for around 6 hours….
- There was a 45 minute break for lunch, and we spent two stints of 15 minutes “turn and talking” with the attendees around us….
- I got out of my chair once…
- It was dreadfully boring, to be perfectly honest.
Regardless of the terminology, it is days like this that begin to cloud the perspective of educators when referencing professional development. When talking to colleagues, as well as teachers from other school districts, the scenario above is what a great deal of them picture when the phrase educational conference or PD is used. Speaking from my own experience, it wasn’t until five years ago, when I was encouraged to seek out and put-in to attend the Long Island Technology Summit that I really came to understand what a real conference looked like. The choices in session, the discussion, the sharing of great ideas, the high level of engagement….it was something I didn’t realize existed, and I was sure that many others had no idea as well.
This brings me to this past September. I was discussing the first annual EdCamp Long Island with a colleague, Marianne Pendlebury(@Ms_Pendlebury), and encouraging her to give it a shot. The only “conferences” she had ever attended were much like the rough experience described above, and she was somewhat hesitant to “waste” a Saturday being tortured. Being the open-minded teacher she is, and with the idea that she could leave at lunch if she needed freedom, she signed up. I didn’t see her much that day, but I remember running into her at the culmination of the Smackdown (the very last activity of the day) and she had a big smile on her face.
Now, many months later, we were discussing how EdCampLI(@EdCampLI) has impacted her and her teaching practice.
- After attending a session with the one and only, Tom Whitby (@TomWhitby), who she referenced as “the guy with the mustache”, she joined the Twittersphere and has been leveraging the tool since. Sharing student successes, interacting and connecting with colleagues, telling the story of her amazing classroom, and finding great ideas and resources to utilize with her students.
- Wonderopolis(@Wonderopolis) has become a morning routine in her room thanks to another session. How do you get student brains cranking as soon as they arrive in the morning? How do you build inquiry-based thinking? Have a daily “Wonder”! Accompanied by a quick video, and a short text. Then follow with a discussion. Talk about an engaging start to the day.
- Genius Hour was another gem inspired by an EdCampLI session. Bringing such a level of student autonomy, ownership, and passion to their own learning has helped inspire her students, as well as people such as myself. We discussed how to shape the Genius Hour project, and what it would look like in our classrooms, and she sold me on the idea before we even brought it to the kids.
Register here for EdCamp Long Island on October 3rd, 2015
List of 2015 Regional EdCamps