I’m sitting on the plane right now, winging my way back to Boston after an excellent weekend in California, having had the fortunate chance to attend the first west coast Edcamp.
I can’t believe that I just got to write those words.
Besides the fact that I’m a self-confirmed Edcamp junkie, several factors made it almost a no-brainer for me to attend an event 3000 miles from where Edcamp was born.
- Of all the events that I’ve helped provide support for, I think this is the one I ended up having the most input into. I Skyped with Daniela Bolzmann, one of the organizers out there multiple times in preparation for the big day, providing advice and pep talks as needed.
- Long weekend.
- Virgin America offered an insanely cheap airfare direct from Boston to LAX. $250 roundtrip. Awesome. Then the flights also turned out to be great. I would choose to fly Virgin again over other airlines at similar pricing.
- My wife let me. She came with me, thanks to my brilliant sales pitch: “it’s going to be the middle of January in Massachusetts. Do you want to go to California?”
Edcamp itself was an absolute delight. The gorgeous weather didn’t hurt any, as we were able to have an excellent lunch sitting outside from a couple of great food trucks, DanDan BBQ (Korean cheeseteak and taco) and Longboards Ice Cream (cookies and cream bar dipped in milk chocolate and caramel, covered with pretzels and Reese’s Pieces).
I sat in some great sessions. Rob Grecco did something awesome: he brought his middle school students from his private, progressive school, and had them do a panel discussion on Student-led Urban Adventures. The students had to plan their itineraries and keep to a strict budget on a weeklong field trip to San Francisco. They were intelligent and insightful, doing a great job of representing their school. Afterwards one of the students, Taylor, came over and introduced himself to me. The students were a class act all the way.
The second session was run by two high school teachers, Reuben Hoffman and another teacher whom I sadly can’t find the name of, talking about how they use Facebook in their classrooms, but also using that as a lead-in to a discussion about the positives and negatives of using Facebook, good strategies for using it to make sure you maintain ethical boundaries with your students and parents, and tips for getting the most engagement out of it.
The third session I went to was run by Adina Sullivan. She led a discussion on how we can differentiate professional development for teachers, something that I have previously written about and struggle with as I do more professional development in my school and district. It was a good discussion, and I liked some of the ideas we worked out with helping provide teachers with small, starter PLNs based on subject area.
For the final session I ran another round of Things That Suck. Since this was an entirely new audience for TTS, I recycled the topics I felt had provided the best discussion at past events:
- Seniority-based contracts
- Students with cell phones
- School Disciplinary Practices
- District Professional Development
I felt there was some strong debate on the issues, and I liked it that all sides frequently found themselves agreeing with each other, sometimes it just was a matter of degrees of interpretation separating them. The standout moment of the whole session was when one of Rob’s students participated in our discussion on disciplinary practices. She described the way things are handled at her school and described traditional practices like having students sit in the corner as “ineffective.” Love it. Any faults with the session were entirely my own. I think I talked too much this time around.
The unique thing about this Edcamp for me was how it was an entirely different crowd than the people I’m used to seeing already at these events. Many spoke in hushed awe about the idea of attending EduCon. I described it at one point as like finally meeting the members of the lost tribe…people I’ve been speaking with for some time but never had the chance to meet before now. Lisa Dabbs is as delightful in person as you’d expect from reading her tweets, and the teachers on the organizing team are more impressive face to face than online, which is saying something. I was also heartened by the large presence of newbies to a lot of the ideas discussed. Edcamp is a great experience for those of us who need a chance to meet with others of like minds and interests, but it’s needed especially to share those ideas with new audiences.
Thanks as always to the organizers for putting on another great Edcamp, to the sponsors for helping make it happen, and especially to the participants for filling it with powerful discussion and ideas. It still blows me away that it’s only been eight months since we started this thing in Philly. We’re expanding to Canada this year with confirmations of events in Vancouver and Montréal (en francais). I’m probably not getting to another one until Boston in May. I already can’t wait.