edcamp calendar

EdcampNoVA: Officially Hooked

This past weekend, I had the chance to attend EdcampNoVA in Arlington, VA. It was a longer drive, and the weary was as dreary as it could possibly be, but inside was warm, dry, and full of conversations and learning. From what I’d been told by veteran campers, every edcamp will vary in the way it is setup and run, as long as it follows the basic rules of edcamp. I knew to expect this.

Upon walking in, I was met by some familiar faces from VSTE. I grabbed some breakfast and sat down, mentally preparing myself for the day and looking around me. This particular camp was set up in the common space, and there were a few bits of swag on the tables. Off to one side was the schedule board, as well as the photo area. Lined up in another spot were the prizes to be given out at the end of edcamp.

I knew what I wanted to discuss this time around. For EdcampNoVA, there would be 3 total sessions. I put my post-its up for Minecraft, School Branding/Social Media, and Professional Development. When the schedule was put together, I decided to attend the School Branding session, the Minecraft session, and Issues in PD session. I was eager to get started, as were the others around me. This particular space had all of the room immediately off from the center, and would also utilize the common space once we started. Each room was given a city name to make it easy to locate.

I went off to my first session, but was disappointed to see that no one else showed up. There were many sessions running at once, so I’m sure they had to pick and choose between them. So I did what any good edcamper would do: I looked at the schedule and picked another session to head off to attend.

I ended up in a session on professional development, as I’m still developing my FlucoTECH plan for next year and am always curious to see what other districts are doing. Many of the districts represented in this session were large school districts. In some cases, the largest high school encompassed almost all of our student population! I spent a lot of time listening here until I could speak up in the conversation. I did take away a new idea for my FlucoTECH plan, and I was also able to share the ideas behind it with the group. I have learned that we have a very long way to go and that if I plan to make any kind of impact, I need to start finding ways to convince those admin at the very top that a mindset switch and culture switch are ways to begin heading down that path.

The first session flew by, and before I knew it I was heading off to the second session. This one was on Minecraft. A lot of people in this session were unaware of the program, or seeking ways to utilize it. I was able to talk about the after school program, and resources they could look into later on. I am a proponent of the game sure, but it does take teacher dedication. One of the attendees after the session said that the after school scene and Minecraft is where I need to be because I have so many ideas. I talked about building challenges as well, and I was encouraged to keep designing more, which I will. I want to do something for teachers, kind of like a Let’s Play thing, but I’ve not hashed out the finer details on that yet.

Before I knew it, it was time for the third session. This time I headed off to Issues in PD. We got to talking about time and ways to provide time for professional development. That became a big proponent. There was also talk of what other districts do. It was very helpful to have these conversations. I feel like I am heading on the right track with FlucoTECH now, and will need to get back to it to jot down my new ideas.

To wrap up EdcampNoVA, there was a demoslam after all of the sessions, where attendees had a minute and a half to talk about a tool or program. Ten people were able to present. Then there was the prize giveaway. This took awhile, but there were actually enough prizes for everyone, so everyone got something. I ended up with a yearlong subscription to InsertLearning. I have since passed this on to one of the ELA teachers I work with at the middle school because I want to see it utilized.

Instead of providing lunch, this edcamp had an after party instead. Anyone interested headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant for food and conversation. I can’t remember how many people were there, but we had a packed table, that’s for sure. I ended up staying over 2 hours more, and am glad I did.

EdcampNoVA will be running again this fall, but I’m not sure I will be able to attend. If I can though, I will certainly be back! Edcamps give me a way to recharge my batteries and find other passionate educators who want to learn and discuss from each other. This is always nice after being exposed to those who are less than passionate about growing and learning.

Want to attend an edcamp? Check out the official calendar here. It’s always being updated, so check back often for new camps!

My First Edcamp Experience

Early this morning I made the short trek to Yorktown, VA for EdcampEVA (Eastern Virginia). I had been looking forward to this event since early February. Edcamps are something I had been told to attend, that I would love them, and find them a great place to be. My buddy Derek Oldfield is an experienced veteran, so he always kept encouraging me to attend. EdcampEVA was the first edcamp that wasn’t too far from me and it was on a date that I was available. I signed up and bought the t-shirt, too. (Because, really, what better way to commemorate my first edcamp?)

Having heard such great things about edcamps, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. Since edcamps are organized by different groups, I figured that every edcamp had its own unique flavor infused into the model that all edcamps used. After today, I’m pretty sure that is a sound theory.

If you haven’t heard of edcamps, imagine this: a place where passionate educators join together on a weekend to learn from each other. Upon arrival and check-in, the schedule is still blank; as an attendee you’ll help make the schedule for the day. There are no set presenters for each session that does end up on the final board; instead, groups of people get together to talk and discuss and ask questions. Once you’re in a session, if you don’t like it, or are trying hit multiple sessions in one time slot, you’re encouraged to use the Two Feet Rule- don’t like it or feel like you’re not getting something out of the session, then use your feet and go somewhere else.

After I checked in this morning, I chose a random open table, and settled in to complete my tasks. Well, wait. First I needed a bathroom break and had to change into the new edcamp shirt I’d received. Then I began filling out my post-it note ideas for the session board and putting my name on my tickets to enter drawings for great prizes from edcampEVA’s sponsors. There was some pretty cool sticker swag on the table, and in my folder I’d received I found a 60 gold trial for Nearpod and a license for Chromville. I added some sticker swag to my folder. During that time I gained 3 new tablemates and we got to know each other and ate breakfast.

During this time, announcements were made, and the schedule was created for the day. After all of the sessions were posted, I knew I wanted to go to the following sessions: social media, technology integration, professional development, and Minecraft/Sphero. We were dismissed and off our two feet took us to Session 1.

Session 1 was Social Media for me, so it was a chance to see what other schools were doing with social media, and share things my schools had been doing as well. Not only did we talk about becoming connected educators, but we also talked about school social media- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Edmodo. Someone also brought up social media releases for students, so we focused on that for a bit as well. Before I knew it, an announcement was being made that session 1 was over, and that it was time for session 2.

Session 2 was Technology Integration. We were seated within a circle, and folks took turns sharing some tools that they had found helpful in their classrooms. We had some folks that didn’t have very much technology in their classrooms, and I realized that Fluvanna County is very lucky to have the Chromebook carts that we do, even though most teachers share a cart between 2 or 3 teachers… the teachers that I learned from today were lucky to have a few carts to share in their entire school. Most of the tools I was already familiar with, but a new one I learned about was Dotsmashing. I plan to explore this more and do a write up on it in the future because it seems like a great addition to the tools I already use. I was honestly surprised I had never heard of it before today.

In no time at all session 2 was over and it was time for lunch. I ended up returning to my same table as in the morning, and my tablemates also joined us. Lunch for us was from Texas Roadhouse and Domino’s. They gave away some prizes as well and reminded us about the afternoon sessions, and the Smackdown/Prize giveaway. Then it was off to the races once again!

Session 3 was professional development. We had a mix of people in our session from teachers to those who give PD to teachers. I did learn that there are districts that don’t seem to require their ITRTs, or whatever they label them. Other districts also have trouble getting PD opportunities approved, or they use systems to receive their certification points, and the system rejects it. Some were interested in what I did in my district to give PD, but we all seemed to agree that outside of technology giving PD, there often were very little opportunities provided in district for PD in specific areas. It was definitely thought provoking to hear input from the other side.

Finally session 4 was up. This one was a combined session on Sphero and Minecraft. Some teachers had brought their Sphero and talked about ways that they used it in their classroom, and some others chimed in. Then we moved on to Minecraft. I ended up speaking more than I wanted to because most people were there because they didn’t know how to use it in the classroom, or much about it beyond what they’ve seen of their kids playing it. I ended up being the one to take the notes for the session so I tried to add in some helpful pointers to at least help teachers get pointed in the right direction.

The last event of the afternoon was the Smackdown, where participants shared some of the best things they learned. After that, there was the prize giveaway. Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything, but that’s all right! Two of my tablemates did though and they both won things they had really wanted.

Overall, I enjoyed my first edcamp immensely, and I would definitely go again. There are 2 in VA that are over a 2 hour drive away coming up next month, and I’m not sure if I want to do a drive that far for a 1 day event. I may or may not choose to attend one of them. If not, I’ll keep an eye out for future camps nearby. If you’re interested in seeing if there’s an edcamp coming up near you, check out this link. It lists all of the official edcamps and links to their webpages.