Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Power of Edcamp

In mid-October was the inaugural Edcamp Tuscaloosa. This edcamp was different for me because I joined Andrew Maxey and Laren Hammonds as a founder. I believe that this type of professional learning puts us, as educators, in touch with our most powerful another.

Although I could probably write an entire series of posts on why I believe that edcamps serve a vital role in today's educational landscape, I want to share with you the story that I saw unfold with one of our participants. In this post, we'll call her Miranda. Miranda is a veteran teacher who works incredibly hard with each of her students. Her students show tremendous growth in extremely short time periods because she is a master of individualized instruction. However, for all of her strengths and desire to grow professionally, she remains behind her classroom doors. She has so much to offer, but rarely connects with educators other than the few teachers on her same hallway. Miranda hears about professional learning events after-the-fact and wants the opportunity to ask questions, learn from others and grow in her practice. However, without support or encouragement from her administration (or from many of her peers) compounded by the intimidation she feels for embarking on something new on her own, Miranda remains somewhat isolated.

Enter Edcamp. Miranda hears about Edcamp Tuscaloosa and learns that it is an unconference. This format peaks her interest. She mentions it to some friends who are teachers in other schools and they all decided to try out this "new form of professional development." As time nears, she reads the emails being sent out from Edcamp Tuscaloosa, and she begins to reflect on her practice and what she truly wants to learn. She comes equipped with questions and a burning desire to find answers and get the most out of that experience.

Edcamp Tuscaloosa arrives and she approaches it with a gusto that was contagious. There was not one person in attendance that didn't know Miranda by the end of the day. She initiated conversations with every person that she met. When it came time to put a topic on the session board, Miranda was one of the first to add her topic of interest; she wanted both to share her ideas and learn from others who could offer her insights. She not only left with the validation that what she was doing with her students was valuable, but also with an assortment of new strategies and tools. Miranda created connections with other educators; they planned future collaborations. When Miranda left at the end of Edcamp Tuscaloosa, her last question was, "Can we do this again in the Spring?"

Miranda returned to school that following Monday a new teacher; one who was revitalized and highly motivated to improve not only her practice for the good of her students, but also impact the practice of the teachers in her building. Edcamp provided her the opportunity to do what she was hindered from doing previously. It removed the barriers and intimidation she had been struggling with previously. It gave her a voice and means to grow into an even better teacher. That's the power of an Edcamp. It empowers teachers and ultimately it positively impacts student learning.

There are Miranda's all around us. That's why edcamps are in demand. I can't wait for the next edcamp...and to find out how Miranda is doing. I'm confident it will be phenomenal.

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