This past Saturday I attended EdCamp Boston. It was the first edcamp for me and I’ll confess, I was skeptical. I’ve been to other teacher-centric events before and they’ve often felt like what I always imagined cheerleader camp would feel like: lots of “rah rah,” but not much substance. I’d heard a lot of hype about how great edcamps are, so I was anxious to see for myself.
I got to the event in Cambridge and my concerns weren’t immediately assuaged. There were lots of handwritten signs hanging on the walls. There was a big play on the “May the 4th be with you” that seemed a little too clever, if you know what I mean. What was I in for?
I went to my first session, led by an extremely exuberant guy talking about game-based learning. He was excited; the teachers in the room were excited. Was it a little corny? Yes. But I started to feel myself getting excited about their excitement. These teachers were super excited about using games to teach! They were there to swap tips and ideas with each other on how to improve what they were doing using games with their students. And they were there on a Saturday to do it!
Hmmm, I thought as I left the first session, this is turning out to be interesting.
I’ll just tell you about one other session I attended, because it took the cake. It was a session that focused on the 1:1 implementation going on in the Burlington (MA) school district. Burlington isn’t too far from where I live and they have been in the spotlight for a while as one of the first (they might have been the first) high school to implement a 1:1 iPad program. They are now expanding to middle school and upper elementary with the iPads. So the folks from Burlington, including Dan Callahan, brought a group of 5th graders to edcamp to share their experiences using iPads this year.
Well. I almost don’t know what to say about this experience. Those kids were incredible. They each got up and showed a project they completed on the iPad. No nerves, just pride, as they shared with us, the adults. We had lots of questions for them about how they’d created their projects. Their answers typically had 6 or 8 steps referring to 4 or 5 apps. They were blasé about it. As if it was nothing. Some of the apps I hadn’t heard of. Others I’ve tried to use with varying degrees of success. (I told a friend later that I’d like to have one of those kids come over one day to help me get better with iMovie!)
As I sat listening to the grownups ask questions and the kids explain what they had done, I found that I had a huge grin on my face. The grownups weren’t being polite or placating those kids with their questions. We really didn’t know the answers. And the kids were really trying to help us understand. It was awesome. And moreover, it was real.
I don’t have anything really profound to say about that day. But being there and experiencing that session with those kids and teachers just reminded me of why I’m in education in the first place. Yeah, that’s what it’s about. Those kids. Ahhhh.
Okay, back to work.
Oh, but before I go…on June 1 there is a special EdCamp in Burlington, MA, called EdCampxEDU. It’s the first edcamp organized entirely by students. I just registered. Meet me there?
If you haven’t attended an EdCamp yet, you might want to check out the schedule to find one in your area: http://edcamp.wikispaces.com. EdCamps are now being held throughout the US and in many international locations as well. You might not have an experience like mine. But then again, you just might.
Also, huge shout out to Dan Callahan and his crew who organized EdCamp Boston. Dan is also one of the founding members of the EdCamp Foundation, that started this whole thing. You can follow Dan on twitter @dancallahan.