A Reflection on the #MAET EdCamp Experience

Recently, some of my colleagues from Michigan State University’s Master of Arts in Educational Technology and I engaged in an EdCamp unconference.  This unconference brought together a group of experienced technology integrators with no expectations except to learn more about using instructional technologies to enhance curriculum.

To bring you up to speed, in the video below, Kristen Swanson explains the EdCamp Initiative–which she founded in May of 2010.  The talk that Kristen gives here really explains the values and purpose that EdCamps embody, and helped to remind me why we do these in the first place.  Please take a few minutes to view.

In this experience, I really enjoyed being able to learn from my colleagues in a manner that was different from what I was accustomed to.  I had the opportunity to learn about things relevant to their own curriculum and context (one of my colleagues presented on integrating technologies that enhance foreign language teaching).  One thing that bothered me about it was the technological difficulties that we encountered in the Google Hangout medium; however, there really is not much that can be done to change it.

The “unconference” style of presenting is ideal because expectations are not imposed.  Point blank, everyone comes to learn and never knows how they will be changed–but they always leave motivated to spread their learnings and their new-found positivity in their own contexts.  It has revolutionized professional learning as we know it, and will continue to contribute to the evolution of these crucial learning experiences.

The EdCamp movement is broad-based.  In a globalized age of connectivity, where ideas are no longer isolated or individual, but collaborative and novel, people can learn more and have better ideas when they are surrounded by people who do not share the same experiences.  I have been fortunate, in my time as an educator to this point, to be surrounded by a PLN that stretches the globe with a wealth of diversity and experience–my peers, colleagues and professors at Michigan State University are some of the most incredible educators whom I have ever met.

I am so thankful that I was gifted the opportunity in my career to learn from and with these incredibly people–especially in this context.  Most importantly, I am now able to take the unconference idea, and the professional learning experiences that I have been a part of, back to my own context to share with my colleagues to reshape professional learning in North Carolina as I know it.

This fall, a colleague and I are organizing an EdCamp.  While I hesitate to publicize it on this blog before all elements are set in stone to make it possible, this EdCamp will impact (hopefully) more than a thousand people.  The incredible thing about the EdCamp experience is that it can bring so many powerful minds together, and enlighten so many different people with a diversity of ideas and experiences, but requires minimal planning.

This experience has helped me to understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than myself.  Participating in an online EdCamp helped me to conceptualize the structure of a physical versus digital EdCamp.  As far as planning goes, first, location is key.  You have to have a location that can welcome a large group of people (and, in true unconference style, you may not know how many people to expect until they start showing up).  If the EdCamp is online, this issue is virtually non-existent–the only issue is creating a virtual space with links to “rooms” for everyone to join and leave as they please.  Another issue is making sure that the EdCamp is well-advertised.  With the EdCamp initiative growing exponentially across the globe, and the connectedness of educators expanding across boundaries through Digital PLNs, there are more opportunities than ever to advertise and get people hooked on a collaborative unconference, no matter what the context.

Finally: you can’t do it yourself.  As we planned and executed this online EdCamp, we all had to put in equal efforts to make the EdCamp successful–this goes from planning who would host the Google Hangout rooms, to planning and successfully presenting quality sessions on topics that we could all benefit from as technologically-proficient educators.  This experience got my blood pumping, and I cannot wait to see what impact this EdCamp will have on the planning and success of our EdCamp this fall!

References

Swanson, Kristen. (2011). TEDxPhiladelphiaED – Kristen Swanson – EdCamp. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from

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