Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back from #EdCampSS

Travelling for business on a weekend trip is a rush.  It’s an odd combination of excitement and exhaustion.  Between waking up on Thursday morning and going to bed on Monday night, I totaled less than 18 hours of sleep on my journey to the City of Brotherly Love.  It really didn’t hurt me until late Saturday night when I couldn’t manage the late meeting of Social Studies tweeps from around the country at a local watering hole.  I was too spent.

The idea of EdCamp is that you have no prepared sessions at all when you arrive.  Then sessions go up a board that are directed by whoever is there; teachers, professors, ed tech professionals, software developers, any interested parties.  Then the unconference (as edcamps are named) visitors vote with their feet and attend a session for a little over an hour.  The difference with this edcamp was that it was entirely created by and mostly attended by Social Science teachers.  And I mean Social Science teachers from all over the place; different ages, backgrounds, teaching styles, beer drinking preferences.  But we all had these things in common:

-We were not satisfied with the current state of professional development.

-We felt that collaboration is the ultimate method of making our profession better.

-We want to prepare ourselves and our students for the next generation of learning.

-We are passionate about kids and learning and making a positive contribution to society.

Though not totally about technology, almost all the sessions are somehow geared towards engaging students through the use of all sorts of hardware, software, or Internet goodies.  Presentations are conducted using this technology so the whole presentation is not a lecture, it’s an engaging experience.  Everyone in the room has an iPad, laptop, or a netbook, and everyone is constantly on it.  Twitter backchannelling is active and strongly encouraged.  People share thoughts online while in the same room or in other rooms.  You get comments from other sessions while you are in your own.  Don’t like the current one?  Leave and go to another.  It’s encouraged.  I started one of my hours in a session about developing podcasts.  I wasn’t interested, announced on Twitter that I wanted to talk Gov/Econ in a separate room, and spent the rest of the hour talking curriculum ideas with an AP Comparative Government teacher.  It’s that kind of cool thing.

I can’t even begin to share what I gained because the amount of stuff; ideas, pedagogy, technology, is all overflowing in my brain, on Google Docs, and on my Instapaper account.  I have to take time to sort through and organize the information, then more time to get the information into my teaching schema.  Then I’ll share it with compadres and another collaboration sensation will begin. 

Even if I have to pay for it, I’m going to try and figure out how to make a yearly trek out for EdCamp Social Studies.  It not only provides me with new and interesting ideas, it shifts my paradigms of teaching to different realities that are shown to work.  Talking about teaching U.S. History thematically is one thing.  Having Diana Laufenberg show you how it works, then show you her support structure and the results brings it from someone’s thought cloud to my reality.  I want to go beyond trying it.  I want to make it work because it’s good.  I want to make it work because it’s good teaching. 

And that’s what Ed Camp Social Studies was really about.  Good teaching. 

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