My EdCamp Experience
EdCamp exists to provide a method used by teachers and for teachers in order to share wisdom, research, best practices and classroom experiences in a more conversational, discussion-based version of a conference. For my current graduate class, I participated in an online EdCamp experience to discuss the following topics via Google+ Hangout: literacies and technologies, innovation technology integration in the arts, the flipped classroom and critical questions about technology integration in schools. This is referred to as an “unconference” experience because teachers are learning from each other and engaging in reflective discussion as opposed to simply being on the receiving end of information from a presenter.
I definitely enjoyed my EdCamp experience and found myself to learn quite a lot from my colleagues. I enjoyed being able to listen to and watch my colleagues discuss their topic while asking written questions and/or making comments in the chat option also included on Google+ Hangout. The chat option allowed me to actively listen and engage in discussion with my colleagues without interrupting a particular person’s presentation. I also found that I gained countless ideas for technology incorporation in my classroom from this experience. I was able to make a long list of apps, websites and other technological components that can better connect with my students and improve their ability to retain required content through the use of classroom (and at-home!) technology. I feel that we, as teachers, are not always provided with an open floor to share wisdom, ideas and successes with one another and that this concept can be very useful and worthwhile. On the down side, I do feel that Google+ Hangout seems to have some trouble accommodating more than four people in a hangout at one time. Because of this, I felt that I could not fully engage in my presentation because I was concerned that I was echoing, talking over myself, and/or not able to hear someone asking a question. I feared that the video would freeze, that I would continue presenting and be totally unaware of a potential mishap. Additionally, I would have preferred to share my video that corresponded my with my “literacies and technologies” topic as the opening to my presentation. However, this video could not be shared because of a lack of available bandwidth considering the number of people present in the conversation. A summary of my EdCamp presentation, including the video, can be found here.
For my particular presentation on literacies and technologies, I made a popplet. Next time, I would chose a different visualization that can be more easily presented to a group. Although I felt my popplet is an excellent way to explore the topic and components of literacies and technologies, a popplet seems to be more easily read when one is exploring on their own. Because the material is not in a specific order in a popplet and the viewer has a choice on what to view and when, the information seemed a little bit less organized when I began to share with the group. For presentation purposes, a different visual option that orders information for the sake of presenting may have been a better choice.
This type of unconference conversation can have a tremendous impact on teachers. Having this time to zero in on a topic and sharing knowledge and best practices with one another is an invaluable experience. As a teacher, I love to hear from other teachers who are teaching now, using these methods now and learning now about how to better reach their students. When a “right now” teacher tells me what is working for them, I am much more likely to immediately incorporate these same strategies and best practices in my classroom. Especially for teachers in my school, this type of uncoference could make a huge difference in how teachers interact and relate to one another. For example, if we approach each other, as colleagues, with the idea that each one of us is a resource and has invaluable knowledge to share, how much more likely we are to share knowledge, ask questions and participate in a dialogue even when not participating in an EdCamp experience.
Organizing an EdCamp “Unconference”
If I were to organize an EdCamp experience, I would first experiment with my own colleagues from my school face-to-face. Although this could be tricky with scheduling, it would allow for in-depth analysis of student work, display of student projects, sharing of materials, etc. that a remote video call could not provide. I would likely encourage my colleagues to choose topics that are relevant to our every day teaching specifically within our school. After determining the best way to visually and verbally present ideas and materials and providing teachers with options, I would then focus on organizing a smaller EdCamp (4-5 people) on Google+ Hangout to conserve bandwidth and allow for more options to be utilized in presentations and discussions. Conceptually, it would be best to take some kind of poll to determine what teachers are most interested in sharing, discussing and learning to ensure that teachers find their experience to be most beneficial. Logistically, I would likely take the responsibility of asking teachers to commit to sharing a topic and organizing the Google+ Hangout/call itself. In conclusion, I feel that unconferences seem to happen often in a school setting informally. However, if we are committed to sharing our best practices with one another, we can easily participate in more constructed unconferences allowing us to delve deeper into topics of interest to further develop teaching practices.
Hague, Simon. “The power of collaboration”. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_m9nReouVY