Monday, August 11, 2014

#EdCamp: What's The Point?

I recently had the pleasure of attending my third #EdCamp experience - #EdCampLdr, which took place at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philly (thanks to my friend and mentor Joe Mazza for organizing this awesome learning event). All in all, it was an awesome day because I had the opportunity to reconnect with friends, connect in person for the first time with a bunch of awesome educators from my PLN and be actively involved in the whole #EdCamp experience from the morning set up to the SMACKDOWN at the end of the day that I co-facilitated with my friend (and co-author) Joe. 

I also had the chance to lead three different sessions during the day - one on #StudentVoice with Jimmy Casas, Brad Gustafson and Joe Sanfelippo; another on Branding with Joe; and a final "panel discussion" with Joe, Tom Whitby, Spike Cook and Brad Currie, who are all authors from the Corwin Connected Educators Series (Joe and I co-authored the book on branding in the series) focused on the topics covered in our books. 

Yes, it was a wonderful day and at the end of the day, I was left thinking about how it could be better, how it could be different and an overall question about the point of #EdCamps. I was fortunate enough to attend this event with a friend who is not very connected (yes, he knows where to find "The Twitter" but doesn't really use it) and was experiencing his first ever #EdCamp. It was awesome to hear his take on the whole experience at the end of the day... 

 - WOW there were so many passionate educators taking time out of their summer vacations to travel from thousands of miles away to be here...    

- This whole experience seems to be one of the best examples I have ever seen about the power and importance of self-directed learning...

- The organic way this whole day unfolded blew me away - although a lot went into organizing the event there was no certainty about how it would unfold and yet it was a success...

- There were so many passionate educators in the room who were willing to share anything and everything without question or hesitation...

- Every PD experience should contain features of the #EdCamp model - we need this in our schools and districts now...

- I learned a lot and I am hoping to be able to implement some stuff at school when the year starts...

- The only thing I am wondering about is the heavy emphasis on technology and sometimes I think the technology tool or tip became the focus as opposed to the conversation or overarching topic... is that always the way?

There it was... the pin that popped my balloon! He put into words exactly what I was thinking about when the whole event was over - are #EdCamps just about sharing tech tips and tools? Has the experience become about technology? If so, I am concerned because we are doing exactly the opposite of what many members of my PLN tweet about... "It is not about the device or tech tool - it is about what we do with it to enhance learning for everyone in the community!" But wait because we might have been doing that exact thing - focusing on the newest and coolest tech tools instead of thinking about the learning and teaching unfolding in our schools and how those could be enhanced. I was left thinking... what's the point of #EdCamp?

After a few days of reflection and discussion during which I also reached out to Kristen Swanson, one of the founders of the whole #EdCamp movement, I was able to consider the #EdCamp experience from multiple lenses and came to some decisions about the point of #EdCamp. Although there was a relatively "heavy" tech focus at #EdCampLdr that wasn't what most people will remember from that day - it is definitely not what I will remember that day. What I remember is that I was in a room with hundreds of like-minded, passionate and enthusiastic educators who excitedly self-organized to share, connect and enhance their craft. I remember the exchanges, discussions and conversations. The conversations generally revolved around learning and teaching; around thinking and inquiry; around innovation and a different way of doing things; around passions and interests. 

You see, a week later I can better understand the point. The point of #EdCamp, in my humble and limited opinion, is an important one - it is an opportunity to take control of our professional and personal development and dive deeper into the ideas and topics that interest us and support our passion for all things education. #EdCamp is ours - those of us who embrace self-directed learning opportunities control the #EdCamp experience. The point of #EdCamp is to be in a space with other passionate educators who are in the business of enhancing their skills in the hopes of impacting students and the entire learning community in a positive way. 

#EdCamp is about learning and as educators isn't that always the point?  


  1. This is a great reflection Tony. You know, I did a session at EdCamp Philly that was totally low-tech... I facilitated a session on using checklists to be an effective school leader. I thought it went very well. Looking forward to EdCamp Long Island September 13! I hope lots of people read your blog and come to this great event prepared to facilitate sessions on learning.

  2. Tony, what a great post! It's to neat to hear the impressions of your friend (the twitter, crack me up). Sometimes we are so involved in an idea, we see it differently. His positive thoughts about the day are energizing. PS...nothing limited about you in anyway (last paragraph). Limitless is more like it. :)

  3. Tony thank for sharing this! I am excited to attend my first edcamp in upstate New York in October and I'm not really sure what to expect. But then you summed it up nicely. The key is that you get to spend time with other passionate educators who just want to get better. Thank you for inspiring and leading the way!

  4. Tony. Excellent post. I attended my first EdCamp - #EdCampChicago this past May and I walked away absolutely mind blown. Like your friend, I was in awe at not only the sharing, collaboration, connecting, and the incredible willingness of educators of all levels to not only take time out of their personal lives to organize and make this event possible as well as the educators attending. I had the wonderful opportunity to witness educators share their strengths as well as their weaknesses and come together for a bigger cause. As you know, I'm a parent and not an educator but I felt compelled to attend for a number of reasons and I'm so happy I did. This event undoubtedly left an impression on me and only deepened my sincere appreciation and gratitude to all of you. You are an incredibly inspiring group of professionals and lovely people and I'm so thankful for all of you.