Edcamp: A conversation on learning

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of opening #edcampPSD at Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove. While those who know me, understand it is easy for me to talk in front of groups, it was a little intimidating speaking in the infamous George Couros territory and having Discover Education guru Dean Shareski, lurking on the Twitter feed! I’m hoping that I was at least good enough to ensure that some future presentation won’t be called, “Why Chris Smeaton sucks!” (Inside joke- Paige & George)

Since edcamps are structured for maximum conversation between participants on self selected topics, an opening should be relatively short with some key points. It should be more similar to a TED Talk than the often dreaded “death by PowerPoint.” So my opening focused on the importance of events like Edcamps and why as teachers, we need to be always learning.

Edcamps speak to our inherent desire to always improve or hone our skills. Since they are typically held on Saturdays, when teachers should be home with family or doing their own personal business, there is a high level of commitment attached. But that commitment is also shared with intense autonomy. Participants vote with their shoes which allows for self directed opportunities. You discuss what you want to discuss; you learn what you want to learn. The Edcamp model supports the shift toward educators taking more ownership of their own professional development with the overarching goal of improved pedagogy and ultimately enhance student learning. Even the best school divisions will never be able to offer ALL to EVERYONE and so Edcamps fill a much needed void in professional learning.

Another important aspect of edcamps is professional dialogue and the sharing of ideas, best practices and even failures and fears.  It is always amazing (but not surprising) at the wealth of knowledge shared when educators engage in professional dialogue. The depth of these conversations underpins the importance of collaboration in our schools. Education has become far too complex for any one individual and private practice should no longer be tolerated. The Edcamp mentality of sharing best practices, asking tough questions around pedagogy and mostly being engaged in continuous improvement should be commonplace in every staff room.

Finally, the Edcamp experience reminds all of us to be continual learners. Our education degree or the multitude of degrees achieved after, still do not allow ourselves as educators to be satisfied with simply being learned. Professionals seek to continually improve; for educators that means to constantly learn. Learning is not another initiative, it is something that we must always do. If not, then we will create a society so well defined by the following quote.

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists- Eric Hoffer



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