I’ve started and stopped writing this post several times. I’m stuck on an introduction because I have a feeling many educators might not know what an Edcamp is. So I should start by defining it, right? That’s where the problem begins. It’s an indefinable experience. Every Edcamp is different. I’ve tried to describe it to friends and family, but words do not do it justice. Perhaps the best way to explain it is with this clip from Seinfeld.
Seinfeld has been named the greatest television program of all time by TV Guide and the second best written television series of all time by the Writer’s Guild of America. (Wikipedia) As you can see from this clip, the premise behind Seinfeld was that it would be a show about nothing. However, the show was a huge hit and so popular that it ran from 1989-1998. That’s right. A show about nothing ran for 9 seasons!
That’s what I feel like saying about Edcamp. Essentially, it’s a conference about nothing (planned, that is). But it results in some of the best professional learning I’ve had in my seventeen years as an educator. After attending Edcamp Baltimore for 2 years, I joined the planning team for Edcamp Maryland, the first state run Edcamp in the US.
My colleagues from FCPS and I arrived early and had the pleasure of greeting those who came in to register. We met educators from across the state of Maryland who had all given up their Saturday to attend a conference about nothing. Jared Wastler kicked off the morning with a live #mdedchat while the session board was coming together. You can tell from the session board below that there were 4 presentation slots throughout the day and 5 choices for each time period. The board was built in real time by participants at the EdCamp. Related topics were grouped together. Those suggesting the sessions put their Twitter handles on the board, but in an EdCamp, that does not necessarily mean that you are a presenter. The idea is to gather people together who want to have a conversation and learn more from each other about a topic of interest.
That being said, I do have a little secret to share. When I attend conferences, of any type, I rarely pick my sessions based on the topics. I choose based on the presenters or people involved. I want to be around people who stretch my thinking. People whose educational philosophies are in line with mine. People I admire and respect. This brings me back to Seinfeld. I used www.tubechop.com (something new I learned about during the Smackdown, by the way) to reduce the length of the following video, so you’ll have to use the hyperlink for this clip.
In the video, Jerry asks, “Who are the characters?” George names himself, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer as the major players in the show. And let’s face it, if any of those 4 were in attendance at Edcamp, I’d join their session! I know who they are, what they stand for, and, most importantly, their body of work. So when I go to Edcamp and see a name on the session board that I know I will learn from, I’m the first in the room.
Yesterday, I learned a great deal from Jon Harper, a valued member of my PLN that I hadn’t yet met face to face. I enjoy reading Jon’s blog, as it makes me think about the purpose of education and how the little things in life can be viewed through a different, more important lens. Jon inspired us to be reflective and to share our thinking with others. But I didn’t just learn from Jon in that session. There was a rich discussion of adult blogging, student blogging, Edmodo, and even ebooks.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I learned at EdcampMD. There are several things you can do to reap the full benefits of the experience:
- Search the hashtag #edcampmd or #edcampfeb7
- Read the notes taken by participants. A shared Google Doc was created for each session.
- Learn more from The Edcamp Foundation.
- Read the blogs written by participants (linked below)
- Join the conversation- Grow your PLN on Twitter
- Find an edcamp near you.
Can you imagine what we would have missed out on if Seinfeld hadn’t pitched his idea for a “show about nothing?” It turns out that what started as a little conference about nothing in Philadelphia in 2010 has paved the way for personalized learning. Don’t miss the opportunity to write your professional learning script.
Did you attend #edcampmd and blog about it? Please link up below!