Guest Blogger: Rachel Boatwright, Murray Avenue Library Media Specialist
I am always looking for opportunities to earn free Act 48 credits and ways to improve what I’m doing in the classroom. When I was hired for my .6 LTS Librarian position at Murray Avenue, I almost immediately went to mylearningplan to look for professional development opportunities. When our technology coach Mary Agnew told me about Edcamps as a source for free Act 48 hours, I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for Edcamp Lancaster. I started getting emails about using Twitter and #edcamplanc16 and getting ready to “unconference.” I am now a firm believer in teacher-driven professional development that encourages walking out of sessions, sharing ideas through social media, and quality discussions and networking called Ecamp. Here’s why everyone should check one out:
1. Edcamp is free. Free stuff? You have my attention. Free stuff I can use to make me a better teacher? Sign me up. Not only did I earn free Act 48 credits, but I got free breakfast and lunch from Panera and Turkey Hill, and there were opportunities to win gift cards to Starbucks, Panera, Target, Echo SmartPens from Livescribe, and classrooms resources and swag from Waggle, Brainpop, Class Compete, eSpark, and Acheive 3000. Of the 90 participating teachers, substitutes, and administrators, about half left with a prove earned simply by tweeting or being present for the day.
2. Teachers design the sessions. When you come in, teachers post session ideas on a wall, then organizers put like ideas together to come up with the day’s schedule and locations for each session. After the welcome from a member of the Lancaster/Lebanon IU team, the website was updated with the schedule and locations for the day. No one told us what we were learning about or where to go. The sessions were exactly what we asked for and led by us the participants. I attended three sessions: literacy, summer reading, and STEM/STEAM.
3. Anyone in the room can be a presenter: Anyone who attends an Edcamp is eligible to present. I heard ideas from substitutes, teachers, librarians, an assistant superintendent, and principals. I felt free to discuss my experience grading essays on Google classroom, and I learned ways other teachers are grading writing online and the free tools they use to do it better than I used to. We all had the opportunity to take notes, share, comment, and encourage each other on a topic we all cared deeply about, instead of what I was used to in my old district – someone lecturing at the front of the room, with a powerpoint and, God forbid, making me do a worksheet of some sort.
4. The law of two feet. Edcamp encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs: As anyone can host a session, it is critical that participants are encouraged to actively self-select the best content and sessions. Edcampers should leave sessions that do not meet their needs. If the conversation doesn’t provide you with something relevant to you, then you can go to another session that you were interested in. See two things happening at the same time that you want to participate in? Split the session is half – someone is in that room taking notes on a public Google doc anyway.
Edcamp was a great way to spend half a Saturday. I was having so much fun, I felt ready for two more sessions. By the time I left I was full of free food and had a ton of notes on resources I could use to be a better teacher and do great things for my students. I free flying pig from Waggle was pretty cool, too.
Learn more about EdCamps at http://www.edcamp.org/
Learn more & snag some resources/notes from the day about Edcamp Lancaster at http://edcamplanc.weebly.com/
Upcoming Edcamp Opportunities:
- Saturday April 30: Edcamp Garden State http://www.wherevent.com/detail/Dan-Whalen-EdCamp-Garden-State
- Saturday May 14th: Edcamp Philly http://www.edcampphilly.org/2016/04/01/edcamp-philly-2016/
- Thursday June 23rd: Edcamp Downingtown https://dtowntechchat.wordpress.com/edcamp-downingtown/
- Monday July 11th: Edcamp Leader at UPenn http://midcareer.gse.upenn.edu/edcamp-leadership
- Monday July 18th: Edcamp Hershey http://edcamphershey.weebly.com/
Saturday November 19th: Edcamp New Jersey http://www.edcampnewjersey.net/