Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the first edcamp held in Southeast Minnesota. This event began to come together this spring and when registration opened I quickly jumped on board. I have connected with many other educators all over the world through twitter, blogging, and TIES, but I felt that connections in the region I teach in were lacking outside of my building and district. I knew there had to be amazing teachers doing fantastic things, but I needed to find them.
The day kicked off bright and early with breakfast in the commons area as we planned our day. One thing that stood out to me, was the number of people who were offering input into the scheduling. As you you know or might not know edcamps are built by the attendees. There is no set topics or presentations. As we sat at our table, we came up with topics we could present on, topics we could facilitate discussions on, and topics we hoped to learn more about. Moderators circled the room reading the post-its listing the topics, gauging interest, and looking for support. If you didn't know before, anyone just walking into the room while this was going on could get the sense that there was a lot of knowledge and interest! It is not always easy to "present" on the fly, but there was never a time when a topic or block could not be filled.
Our day was broken into 4 blocks, with lunch in the middle. The first block I attended was on Twitter and Twitterchats. While I am a "tweeter" I was hoping to come across others in the area who were already tweeting and encourage others to jump on board. The majority of the class had either never signed up for Twitter or had signed up and never tweeted. The presenter, @tritonkory, is an avid tweeter in our area and did a fantastic job sharing her knowledge and making the "Twitterverse" not seem so scary. I am hoping to see more of the educators from this session becoming a part of my local PLN on Twitter.
The second session I went to was on Voxer. I had no idea what to expect, other than it was a walkie talkie type app. I had received a text a week earlier from a colleague about it, but I had not idea what impact it could have educationally. This session was lead by @jennywamsley , a super connected educator. I was excited to hear that Jenny was a PE/Health teacher, this is an area I will be working with as a digital learning coach this year and the role these teachers play is so different from mine. I am always looking for ideas and thoughts to share with them on innovation and technology. We quickly set up voxer accounts and moments later had a edcampSEMN chat going with the educators in the room. We also were introduced to the mneducators chat. This is a chat that daily poses a reflective question for teachers to respond to and learn from. I loved that voxer was like Twitter amplified. I enjoyed getting a response longer than 140 characters and actually hearing the voice behind the thoughts. How quick and easy it is to leave a 2 minute message as well! I am anxious to try this in my classroom this year! I see it as being an easy communication piece amongst my team and paras. I see paras being able to use it to quickly get messages back to me or contact me if there is a concern that needs my attention elsewhere in the building. I could also see using it with my students who have reading and writing difficulties. We could easily set up chat groups or use it one-on-one to ask questions, share concerns, or give reminders! I will have to come back and reflect how that goes at a later point.
At lunch I was able to connect with the attendees from my district. We all agreed that more Bears should come to the next one :-). After eating there was a block of time left that was not scheduled. What was cool about this time, though, was that organizers helped us to group into content area groups. I was extremely excited to find 4 other special ed/speech-language/ell teachers to collaborate with! It has been years since I have sat down with other special education teachers outside of my district! We all agreed it was a very positive experience. I am hoping we can make this time possible more often!
After lunch I headed to the standing room only "This rocks, this sucks," about education session lead by @MrBarnerWCMS . I was not sure what this was going to entail, but I knew I had many opinions on things happening in our schools today. This session gathered topics and then teachers were pitted against each other in a debate/discussion style activity. Sides of the room were labeled sucks, rocks, and Switzerland. A topic was read and then you went to the side that described your stance. We talked about the topic with our common thought peers, then shared with our counterparts. We tackled some very controversial topics such as merit pay, standardized testing, COMPLIANCE, lunch duty, and more. WOW, what a cool way to get people to take a stance and get talking. It was also great to hear the thoughts of others, who obviously find their passion in education and are knowledgeable in their craft. I hope I didn't talk too much in this session, but I get fired up about a few of these topics. It was great to have a receptive audience :-), my husband is not nearly as passionate about educational topics as I am.
The last session I attended was on iMovie it was lead by @Brumbaughcr . This is a teacher that works at the 45-15 school in Rochester. You could hear her passion for integrating meaningful technology! She did a fantastic job sharing ideas and resources when technology was not making this the easiest task :-). When finished, we had time to share amongst the group iPad apps we use to integrate technology. I came across with a new use for 30hands and a few ideas to explore this year. I also was able to share a few of my favorite apps Tellegami, Plickers, and Frontrow.
To wrap up the day we had a Smackdown where participants shared the resources they gained that day with the greater group. This information was collected by a script created by one of the core team members. What a wealth of information! Prizes were also given out and I was the lucky recipient of an upgraded Kidsblog account! I can't wait to dive into that with my kids.
I left the day feeling excited for the school year and more connected with educators in my region. I really hope the core team organizes this once again next year. I also hope to get more educators in my district there. The edcamp model is a proven success and is some of the best, if not the best PD I have experienced.
I look forward to connecting with the educators I met in the coming days and school year. I have often shared, but I will say it again, I would not be the teacher I am without my PLN.