This Saturday I was lucky enough to be a part of an amazing idea called EdcampNJ Encore. The idea or the why behind the Encore is that the first time we talk or learn about something we are just scratching the surface. We need time and space to bring the idea to life. Using that as our why, we planned a follow-up to the original EdcampNJ that would occur three months later and named it EdcampNJ Encore.
One change that was made under the direction of Stacey Lindes (who stole it from somewhere) was to change the terminology from sessions to conversations. This subtle difference helps keep with the why of the day. We did not want “experts” monopolizing the time. EdCamps should really be about conversations and that the sum of the room is much better than its’ individual parts.
As far as we knew this was the first event of its kind. That means that there was bound to be mistakes and we were basically shooting in the dark. With that being said, here are the highlights and lowlights of the day!
The highlight of the day for me was going to the library and holding a Book EDU. We all sat on couches and discussed our favorite books that have helped shaped our thoughts. One of the books mentioned was the #EduMatch Snapshot in Education. There are many reasons that this book is fantastic. The number one reason for me was that the book is available on an E-reader for FREE and it was creator by people in education for people in education. The book takes little “snapshots” of what educators are doing in their buildings and shares with the reader how this will improve their educational practices.
Another book that received a lot of love from the crowd was the Hacking Literacy book from the Hack Learning series. This book was touted as having resources that the teacher can implement the very next day. That is the type of material I like to read. Lavonna Roth was given some love with her whole child approach to teaching book titled Brain Powered Strategies to Engage All Learners. A couple of other titles that were mentioned was the book Thanks for the Feedback as well as Start With the Why. Here is the link to all the notes and books discussed during that conversation.
I was slightly disappointed in the turnout of the day. We had over 150 people sign up and only 75 show up. I know that this was a normal showing for some Edcamps and that in general people blow off things they don’t have to pay for when something comes up, but it was surprising that the people who already had taken time away from their busy lives to come to the original EdcampNJ didn’t make it back. The upside to that was that everyone was truly able to get their voice heard during the discussions. In the end, it is not about the number of people who show up but the quality of the conversation that really matters.
The second conversation I attended was facilitated by Mike Ritzius. Mike is an Associate Director of Professional Development and Instructional Issues the New Jersey Education Association. His conversation is one that was highly attended and really got my wheels turning. The basic premise I took away from his session is that the system (school) should be changed. Once the school is changed, which is driven by the students’ needs than teachers can be trained in whatever they need to be trained in. The training leads to professional learning which in turn leads to professional development. The professional development is done in order to change the system which starts the cycle all over again. If you would like to learn more about this I would contact @mritzius directly because there is still a lot that I need to learn myself.
The final conversation of the day was a forced reflection. We always talk about being purposeful and keeping the why in the front and center of our decisions. Why should educators, students, parents, administrators, or board members show up to Edcamps? Where is the value of them? How is going to EdcampNJ going to benefit students? All the attendees were asked to sit at a table with other random people. The table had chocolates, mint lifesavers, Swedish fish, anchor charts, and magic markers. The participants were given a prompt and then directed to write their responses down on the chart paper. They were instructed to move every twelve minutes to a new table.
This served a couple of purposes. The people were forced to get up and move as well as interact with people they didn’t know. I know I hate when this happens to me in the beginning but I always end up connecting with new people. The second purpose of this was to document how EdCampNJ had directly benefited students. In the immortal words of Doug Timm, “Connect globally; change locally.” This activity showed the how and what of EdCampNJ. Click this link to see some of the responses.
The final couple of minutes we had other EdCamp organizers stand up and give a quick 30-second speech about their EdCamp and when it was occurring. I was so surprised at how many organizers had shown up to the Encore!!
I am going to wait until the feedback rolls in from the survey in order to declare the day a success. There are going to be things that need to change as well as things that we will keep in the future. I am going to declare that I am proud of the day that the EdCampNJ team planned and executed. Next time I hope to see you there!