What’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done at 1am? 1 Not too many people are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get better at their job while in their pajamas, but thanks to the awesomeness of #edcampHOME, I was blessed to have a remarkable learning experience from the privacy of my own home just this morning.
First, some background—what is an EdCamp? Edcamps are “unconferences”, run by real teachers, all around the world, especially in the US. As opposed to a regular educational conference 2, where invited speakers will stand up in front and preach about ways to better serve students, Edcamps go by a wholly democratic, horizontal structure of topic suggestion, moderation, and discussion. There is no set agenda before the day of the Edcamp—people just show up with a list of things they’d like to talk about, then cluster together with those of similar interests. The only big rule in Edcamp is that if you aren’t “getting” anything from a breakout group, you are free, welcomed, and encouraged to move to another group that better suits you. Got it? No? Well look at this:
Now, this works really well for places with lots of innovative educators with lots of connections (like small communities in the States), but what about for teachers like me, off alone in a far-away place, with limited others to explore with? This is where the magic of the internet kicks in—there have been (to my count) three attempts to duplicate the experience online, utilizing Google Hangouts to have group conversations with others around the world. I was fortunate enough to attend my first back in October, and from that moment, I was hooked. I knew that, as long as I was stationed out here in Taiwan, there would be no way I was going to miss the next one. Turns out, that next would be held a few months later, just before I was heading back to school for second semester.
As someone who understood the basics to setting up a Google Hangout On Air, I volunteered myself to moderate any sessions needing someone to “get the ball rolling.” Mind you, I never fancied myself an expert in any of the proposed subjects—just a “lead learner”, willing to be the first one to ask the questions. Once the party began (at 1am here in Taiwan), I settled in, got my setting-up-a-breakout-group instructions from the incredible #edcampHOME organizers 3, and settled in to learn a lot about two really fascinating subjects:
So what did I learn? Wow… where to begin? If you don’t know anything about Augmented Reality… well, frankly, you should be checking out the Two Guys and Some iPads blog, where Drew Minock (@techMinock) and Brad Waid (@techBradWaid) have literally forgotten more about AR than I’ll ever even learn.
Check out the video posted above (or here) for our whole 30ish minute discussion, where you’ll learn about how different teachers are finding ways to incorporate AR into their classrooms. REALLY neat stuff! Special shoutout to the participants of the chat @karenblumberg, @brenda_bjones, @ddteaches, @mstavi3, @techmonious and champion lurkers (with some AMAZING insights and links!) @terrieichholz & @Mitchlehan.
The second topic I moderated, Standards-based Grading (watch the video above or click here), is something I will be exploring more on this blogg 4 in the future, but it essentially works out to, instead of grading assignments, rating students on how well they understand set standards. It’s an unbelievable idea that I’ve been pondering for a couple of months, and I was lucky to be tutored in it by one of the godmothers of SBG, Garnet Hillman (@garnet_hillman). Special thanks to her and my fellow breakout group members @LovePhyEd, @mrPiercey, @apannie7, and @chuckmaddoxjr. And thanks to @RickWormeli for his contributions via Twitter!
Suffice to say, though, there’s some REALLY cool stuff that some REALLY great teachers are doing out there!
In conclusion, my only
complaint 7 wish re: #edcampHOME is that it could somehow happen more often! If these were monthly or even weekly meetings, I’d gladly pay money to join in with some amazing educators talking about some great stuff! While I definitely feel like the dumbest person in the room listening to the great stuff that my colleagues are doing, it’s a really amazing room that fascinates and inspires me! I can’t wait for my next Edcamp experience, and I hope that many more will join in!
- Ok, don’t answer that. ↩
- Still have never really been to one—online Edcamps have been my only foray into professional development! ↩
- How fortunate am I, really? I’ve written before about the isolation I’ve struggled with as a teacher, far away from my colleagues, friends, family, etc, and about how much I’ve benefitted from the professional relationships I’ve made this last year, thanks to Twitter, Google Teacher Academy, and more. Here I am, in the middle of the night, miles and miles away from some of the most amazing educators in the world—the people I revere—and I get to have video chats and exchange tweets with the likes of David Theriault (@davidtedu) & Kelly Kermode (@coachk), people I was privileged to learn alongside at Google in Chicago. It’s the edu-version of some weak high school bench player ballin’ up alongside NBA greats. As Wayne as Garth would put it:
- Fingers crossed! ↩
- Morning? ↩
- This simple little post has taken 2 hours to write… and that’s why I don’t blog more :( ↩
- Too harsh… not complaining, as the work that the #edcampHOME organizers have done shouldn’t be taken for granted! ↩