How is it that EdCamp Cleveland is already over? Having never been to an EdCamp, I was impressed that it was just as awesome as what I thought it would be and very much worth all the Twitter hype I see about edcamps. Wonderful experience.
It was incredible to be around like-minded people, people who will chat education, curriculum, technology, students, teachers, professional development, and not complain about “work talk.” I am, obviously, an opinionated person who literally cannot stay quiet in a conversation about topics of interest to me, so each session was an opportunity to bounce around thoughts, be challenged, challenge back. These weren’t “I’m right, you’re wrong” kinds of discussions, these were “let’s figure this thing out” discussions where egos were left at the door. People were fun, everyone was kind and genuine, and the whole setup was open, honest, non-contentious. I loved it.
It was also awesome to meet so many of the people I’ve been following forever on Twitter. It was like a little bit of celebrity shyness (I still didn’t introduce myself to Jeremy Brueck!), mixed with a little bit of “is it going to be awkward to talk to him/her in real life?” You know what’s crazy?? It wasn’t awkward at all; there are all these studies saying that we are losing our ability to connect in real life because of our social media presence online, but I find the complete opposite to be true–when I’ve met someone in real life after having developed an online understanding of that person through Twitter, my real life interaction with them is completely normal.
Kudos to the Brecksville-Broadview Heights crew for pulling the whole thing off.
Session #1: Schools of the Future
My major takeaway from this session, hosted by Scott Kinkoph, was the future open nature of schools. In order to accommodate real individualized learning and the world as the arena for learning, we will have to reimagine everything about our schools–from the physical nature of what we consider a school building (classrooms of four walls) to the lingering factory model of operations (bell schedules, grade levels). In an ideal world, schools would be more open with students coming as needed and going as needed. An ideal curriculum would include authentic tasks that teach the whole child in real-world contexts. We talked about technology and how it isn’t the be-all, end-all of future schools; it is a tool to learning, but not the answer to school reform. We talked about professional development and using a one-to-one coaching model instead of the traditional sit-and-get (and mean nothing) top-down PD, but we also talked about the importance of teaching teachers to be lifelong, self-starting learners if that is what we are expecting them to teach students.
Session #2: Who Leads the Revolution
So, I’ll be the first to admit I was a little fired up in this session. I 100% agreed with what one participant said, “It’s the job of administration to clear the way for teachers to do their jobs,” but I found myself at 100% odds with another participant who said, “All that policy stuff (SLOs, linkage, etc.) is just noise. We have to deal with it as noise and focus on our students’ learning.” My argument to this participant was that that stuff is not noise when it becomes a distraction and redirects teachers and administrators away from their most important responsibility: students.
We talked about what is the revolution, and honestly, we couldn’t even pinpoint it. What I know is there are a lot of educators who are unhappy about a lot of things, and while taking to social networking, Twitter, and blogging is wonderful, it isn’t enough. I posed the question: When do we get to just say no, we’re not doing it? and when do we get to say, “This is not good for us/our kids/our community”? Unfortunately, I think our lack of direction in education in America stems from our lack of a common purpose for the system. We all say from all sides of the political spectrum that we want to do what’s best for kids, but unfortunately, not many of us can agree on what that is or how to get there.
Session #3: Eeek! I hosted a session on “Teaching Beyond the Standards”
First, I have to say that if you want to host a session, you should DO IT. I was nervous because I thought no one would want to sit around and talk about standards, but guess what?? People came!!!
I started the session just with a few questions, things I wanted to take away. There were a few minutes of trying to get people to talk and not really knowing how to do so, but soon, we were into topics about project-based learning, rubrics, challenging students of all levels, how to get teachers to think beyond what we’ve done in the past.
I threw out my Will Richardson rubber band analogy (that teachers get stretched like a rubber band through their own personal learning experiences, but if we don’t find ways to hold them there, they will snap back to their comfort zone), and we focused a lot on the deeper learning that is embedded in all the New Learning Standards. I don’t know how one could possibly teach those new standards without incorporating authentic project-based learning.
Session #4: Project-Based Learning
Several participants in this session took to Twitter to talk about how to assess PBL. I like the idea of checkpoints throughout the project (whether established by the students or teacher) and a rubric that sets the ultimate learning goals (both standards-based and otherwise). At each checkpoint, students could self-reflect and conference with the teacher to see how they are progressing toward the learning goals.
To take it a step further, students in a PBL experience should keep a journal of some sort (blog, paper, video) and each day they should detail what they’ve done, their successes and failures, what they learned, and how they are progressing. These journals put the onus back on students to prove their learning. Teachers could use these to guide the conversation during checkpoint conferences. I LOVE it. Having not had a very clear vision of what assessment in PBL looks like before this session, I appreciated all the backchannel conversation (viewable through a twitter search of #edcampcle) that helped me shape my thinking.
Session #5: Teach Like a Pirate
Hosted by one of Medina’s own middle school teachers, Kelly Kriner, this session really focused on Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate (join Kelly and some Medina/Ohio folk in the #iread Twitter chat about TLAP on 8/8, I believe!) and Utica MS principal Ryan McLane’s Teach Like a Pirate Day. I haven’t yet read the book, but just from the conversation yesterday, I understand it is all about reigniting passion for teaching–and don’t we all need a little bit of that? We didn’t go into education to drill and kill, grade hundreds of papers a month, or to become curmudgeons; we did it because we loved something and we wanted to teach kids to love it too! In the session, we facetimed in Ryan to talk about how his building arranged its TLAP day with teachers creating “learning opportunities” for kids and kids getting to choose what they got to do. Ryan’s been in EdWeek for his TLAP day, and I’m sure we’ll see the concept spreading next year.
Best non-conference experience ever.