Sunday, January 25, 2015

Edcamp Model Flourishing in Saskatchewan

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Over the past few years, the Edcamp model has become a popular way for educators around the world to take control of their own professional development.

The model's vision is simple:
We are all self-directed learners, developing and sharing our expertise with the world.
Essentially, this model empowers professionals to share their expertise with each other.  Unlike structured conferences, edcamps do not have official schedules for sessions.  Participants come, free of charge, and ask questions about what they would like to learn or about problems they would like to solve.  Others offer up their expertise and share in an informal setting where dialogue and sharing creates a rich learning experience for all involved.

Image Source: @mmatp
Although this model lends itself to sharing best practice in educational technology, I find that there is more being shared then just how people are using the newest online tool, app or gadget in their classroom. Typically, even if the session starts out by sharing the best new tool that someone has discovered, the conversation quickly evolves into a discussion about best practice and how students can learn or work in a new way using the tool.  This makes me happy because one of the main messages I try to communicate is that technology is just a tool and we should be focused on the teaching, not the tool.  We wouldn't give a session on "Hey, check out this great pencil and how I use it in my classroom!" so why would we do the same with an app? The purpose behind why we are using the tool to enhance student learning should be the reason for sharing the latest tool or app, not the cool factor of the tool itself.

My first experience with the "unconference" model was when I was attending the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Seattle in 2011.  Even though I had spent two days of structured learning from Google and YouTube, my third day of GTA was much more informal and followed the Edcamp model of asking questions, sharing experiences and solving problems in small groups.  This experience really enriched my learning that had taken place while at GTA because I was able to reflect, question and discuss many of the ideas, concepts and tools that I had heard about during the more formal part of the experience.  I hoped to be able to see this informal learning model take place in my home province one day.

A couple of years later, I was thrilled to hear that a group of educators in Regina were organizing an Edcamp in Regina. It was called EdcampYQR.  This learning opportunity was very successful and a group of hard-working volunteers from Regina Public School have since organized a couple more.

What impresses me most about this model is that the Edcamps in Regina typically take place when teachers have other things to do. To participate, they have to give up their own Saturday morning or contracted planning time to attend.  This to me demonstrates the wonderful commitment many educators in our province have to sharing and learning from each other in order to become better at their profession.

This model has caught on in our province and now there are a number of upcoming Edcamps being organized over the coming weeks.  If you have never attended one of these learning opportunities before, I encourage you to try one out.

To date, I have heard of three upcoming Edcamps being organized in the Regina area:
I have also heard that there may be one organized in Saskatoon in April, but I haven't seen any details online to share at this time.  If the readers of this post know of others being organized, please let me know and I would be happy to add them to my list.  Thank you to everyone volunteering their time to organize these wonderful learning experiences.

I am hoping to attend all of the upcoming Edcamps in the province that I can fit into my schedule. Don't be shy, come out to share and learn with your fellow teachers. It may be the best professional development you get all year!

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