Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Posts tagged ‘Social Media’

Dancing At The Edge of Edcamp

JedCamp Swag

JedCamp Swag

“Anyone can learn tech skills, but not everyone has the heart of a teacher,” a superb classroom teacher at my school recently shared with me.  And, I entirely agree. It was that sentiment that motivated us at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens alongside Jedcamp to sponsor an Edcamp inspired Educational Technology and Social Media Conference.

We weren’t “officially” an edcamp. Instead, we danced at the edge of edcamp style learning, striving to meet the needs of educators who are not yet comfortable in the world of professional learning networks and unconferences; educators for whom the thought of attending a conference, or rather an unconference, without knowing what sessions are being offered in advance still sounds foreign. Sensing that some of our teachers with great heart might be suspicious of coming out to a learning experience without knowing topics in advance and might feel tentative and insecure around the networked crowd to which our local unconferences have primarily appealed, our school’s educational technology coach Rebecca Penina Simon and I sought to bridge the gap.

As shared on the Edcamp Foundation wiki, Edcamps are:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

Our learning experience was free, non-commercial, interested in furthering the edcamp mision (to support free edcamp unconferences for educators to exchange ideas and learn together) as well as the edcamp vision (to promote organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide), and reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs. We broadly recruited presenters and welcomed all who volunteered to lead sessions. However, veering from the edcamp style unconference, we determined and advertised sessions in advance. In addition to sharing information about the conference via social media, we placed an ad in our local newspaper and asked regional schools to share information about the conference with their teachers. We sought to include topics connected to educational technology and social media that would appeal to educators in a wide range of roles and with diverse comfort levels and experience using educational technology and social media.

The registrations poured in. 106 educators signed up in advance and, on a cold Wednesday night in Queens, NY, close to 100 educators actually showed up; battling icy roads, traffic, and in many cases one if not two bridges. Some were teachers in our own school, energized by a style of participatory learning to which they had never before been exposed. Some were members of our own professional learning networks with whom we speak on twitter and Facebook and whose blogs we read. Yet, many were educators whose names we did not yet recognize. We networked, connected, collaborated, shared, and learned together.

Our conference was one of a series  annual events for #jedcampnjny, an effort among Jewish educators in the greater New York area to extend edcamps from one-shot learning experiences into a community of learners within our regional schools, connected via regular face to face activities as well as on-line engagement.

So, what was the biggest complaint of our teachers at the end of the conference? Too little time, too much to learn! What was their recommendation? Let’s have more such conferences in the future. Let’s hold them not on a week night, but rather on a Sunday when we can spend more time. Let’s continue the learning.

A Day With Angela Maiers

edJEWcon-hashtagSocial fluency, not technological fluency is the essence of learning in an age of social media. Or, in Angela Maiers’ poetic language, “twitter is not a tool; it is a community.” Privileged to participate in not one, but three learning sessions with Angela Maiers (@angelamaiers) at the EdJEWcon conference, my own learning journey of the past several years gained context, nuance, and meaning.  

I acknowledge; I was star struck. Yet, Angela quickly put me, and I sensed all of us, at ease. She did not seek to present the wisdom of one who has expertise, although she possesses incredible expertise. Instead, she crafted a collaborative learning environment in which we together explored topics that matter, not technology, but rather relationship and community.

Changing the Conversation: Using Technology R.I.G.H.T (in ways that are real, impactful, global, honoring passion, and talent amplifying), the title of Angela’s key note address, framed much of my essential learning not only for the day, but for the entire conference. I began the conference, as shared in my blog post, The Purpose of Ed Tech, acknowledging that we would not be learning about educational technology, as I had anticipated, but rather about creating communities of learning and character in a rapidly changing world. I continued the conference, as shared in my blog post, Comfort with Discomfort, respecting the challenges we face when we are changing communities; honoring our ability to address difficult realities not with stress and discomfort, but with a spirit of possibility, energy and fun. I ended the conference with Angela Maiers’ inspiration to enter learning with the mindset of an invitation to experiment, giving ourselves permission to play and to take play seriously.

Mike Fisher (@fisher1000) co-facilitated Angela Maiers’ first session on social media and personal branding for teachers and schools, and Andrea Hernandez (@edtechworkshop) co-facilitated Angela Maiers’ last session on creating a collaborative, reflective professional learning community with your faculty. Mike helped us recognize that there is no longer a clear division of personal and professional; we instead create, in Mike’s marvelous language, profersional identities. Andrea shared with us ways that social media can strengthen a school community by deepening relationships among those who work together in the same building, yet may not have sufficient time during the work day to connect, reflect and collaborate.

I came to EdJEWcon thinking about educational technology. I left thinking about ways of collaborating as profersionals, with playful energy, to support our students to develop the mindset and skills to enter, sustain, and contribute to their own communities of meaning. In the process, I gained perspective on my own learning journey of the past several years, recognizing that it has been a process of developing ever greater social fluency. There remains a long road to travel; yet a magnificent road, with some stress and challenge, but with much more playful experimentation and creative collaboration.

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