In order to reflect on the great experience and share with others, I thought I'd write about what I experienced at Edcamp Detroit from an Edcamp newbie's eyes.
What is an Edcamp?
- Edcamps are not your typical educational conferences
There was no keynote speaker, no lengthy program describing who would be speaking and what their credentials were, no session guide to view online the night ahead of time, and no vendors there to promote their products. In fact, it very purposefully lacked these things.
Although, there still was some pretty great swag-I'm looking at you bright orange Edutopia bottle.
- At Edcamp, the attendees are the experts
It lacked all of the previously mentioned typical components of an educational conference because at Edcamp, it is all about learning from each other. The attendees share what they know, what they've done, and how it has impacted their classroom. You are actually hearing from other educators about their experiences in the classroom or school. A giant grid with room numbers and times was written on a white board and the attendees who wanted to present filled it up with topics that they were interested in. While many came prepared with presentations or slideshows, it was clear that others just had something great to share and this was the perfect platform.
|Photo courtesy of Ben Rimes|
- You have a voice (and others want to hear it!)
When I attend educational conferences, I typically expect a sit and get experience. However, at Edcamp, your voice is encouraged. Not only to present, but to participate in sessions, ask questions, and even share your own experiences. Plus the sessions were in classrooms, not huge conference halls, which certainly added a level of comfort and familiarity that encouraged active participation. I was happily surprised to find myself asking questions and sharing my own experiences at different sessions, when all I thought I would be doing was listening to others. It made it so that the sessions truly became applicable to what I am doing and helped me to build connections with other educators who have similar interests.
- You decide where to go and for how long
We were told right from the start, by Edcamp leader Nick Provenzano, to vote with our feet in the sessions. If we decided we weren't interested or wanted to hear someone else speak too, it was totally encouraged to get up during the session and leave. That was a foreign concept to me. Yet, plenty of people came and left throughout the sessions that I attended and nobody batted an eye. I actually had planned to leave one of the sessions I was at halfway through to catch another one, but I was so engaged in what the speakers were sharing, that I forgot all about it. While that option does exist at all conferences (you know, free will and all), it certainly isn't always encouraged. I thought that really gave people the freedom to make sure the conference met their needs and to make every minute count.
Lessons from the Sessions
- Re-designing learning spaces can create opportunities for more collaborative learning and more engaged students
|Furniture photos courtesy of Ann Smart|
- The Maker Movement is making its way to classrooms and Media Centers everywhere!
I also had the opportunity to listen to Jennifer Bond and Michael Medvinsky talk about their experiences with Makerspaces within their classrooms.They kicked off the session with an activity to remind us that we are all Makers. They shared great Maker projects that their students had done and really discussed with the group what it means to be a Maker and the collaborative nature of Making. When talking about assessing what students create within Makerspaces, they said that their rubric is asking if you solved the problem. They talked about Making as looking at problems or challenges and finding ways to solve them. With Jennifer’s group, the students were tasked with creating Rube Goldberg machines that required them to analyze the situation to create a functioning machine. Listening to students discuss the elements involved in making the machine function as they hoped it would, emphasized just how important the process of creating and collaborating really is.
The various Maker sessions that I attended reaffirmed to me how important it is that our students are given the opportunities to design, explore, create, solve problems, collaborate, tinker, and make mistakes. Whether it take place in a dedicated school Makerspace, a mobile Makerspace, or through classroom projects and activities, the opportunity to be a Maker allows our students the chance to drive their own learning and collaborate in an authentic manner.
And if the conference weren't enough...
The food trucks were pretty great too!
Obviously I had a great time at EdCamp Detroit and I really recommend it to all educators who are looking to expand their knowledge and inspire their learning!
|Photo from EdCamp Detroit|