Edcamps are great…but I want more.

First of all if you have never been to an #Edcamp it is an absolute must. Passionate educators from all levels, tech directors, administrators, ISD folks, and of course awesome raffle prizes and food…all for free. I believe the popular saying goes something like “Edcamp-the way professional development should be done.”

Here is a typical edcamp success story from this weekend. Middle school teacher Tara Maynard (@tmaynard5) invites a colleague Ben Hondorp to attend. Ben shows up and in the first 15 minutes creates a twitter account (@benhondorp). Ben starts tweeting, following, reading others posts and links, his PLN doors have just been blown wide open- success #1. Ben attends sections and hears about flipped learning, web 2.0 tools, and projects that he can get involved in to better his teaching and learning environment- success #2. Amongst his colleagues sits his tech coach (me) who is right there to catch his quotes like “I want to try flipping my class” or “I want to start using Flubaroo and Google forms to administer quizzes.” Now I can follow up with Ben in the coming weeks and say “Hey, I remember you wanted to start working on integrating Google forms, how about I come over to your classroom this week and help you get started?” -success #3.

I think this third success is so important because so often we hear about great apps and integration techniques but when Monday roles around Saturday seems like a distant memory that holds very little attainable classroom reality unless there is someone to follow up on it with you. Again, this is how professional development should be done.

Undoubtedly this is great and truly the purpose of edcamp. However, I also looked around the room and wondered to myself at what point do we need to switch gears from the learning side of edcamp to the collaborating and creating side of #Edhackcamp?  What if our time together wasn’t just allocated to learning about new digital technologies but rather was aimed at creating shareable digital content that would mutually benefit the people in the room?  What if, instead of offering to teach others about LMS’s or online assessments we instead spent time helping teachers establish their current classrooms for the use of these things?  What if, instead of trying to gulp down the ocean of information being offered at edcamp every hour, teachers could elect to work for the morning to understand and implement just one integration tool or strategy?

The way I see it, it’s kind of like PBL for teachers. In project based learning we set our students loose to learn and create the end product (this is not the formal definition of pbl but you get what I mean?) Of course there is going to be learning along the way, they will need to ask questions, research techniques, Youtube a few tutorials etc. But the point is that there is a very purposeful direction of this time.

For example, what if on the board it read something like this: Morning: Build a class website, Build a class Moodle, Build a Class Wiki, etc. These sessions could be facilitated by people with experience in creating in these different platforms and the goal would be to have a product usable on Monday. Afternoon sessions could read: Create a Project Based Learning Unit, Create Online Assessment questions, Create System for Digital Portfolios, Create a digital textbook.  Again, here the focus would be on walking away with a product or project that is immediately usable.

Obviously there are huge gains for novice and expert tech users in taking this approach. Again it is learner centered- focusing on the direct needs/desires of the person. It is collaborative in nature and to me that is the best part. When teachers get together and share, not only knowledge, but the creation of digital content this can be a very powerful transforming agent in classrooms today.

Next year- EDHACKCAMP!

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