This weekend, I attend Iowa’s first ever EdCamp. In fact, there were two simultaneous EdCamps, one in Storm Lake (West) and another in Bettendorf (East). Early Saturday morning, I made the drive to join the EdCamp in Bettendorf.
So what is an EdCamp? Is it a conference?
It’s not really a conference, in fact, it’s commonly labeled as the “unconference”. Although there are sessions – they aren’t presentations, they are discussions. No sessions are published or announced prior to the event. Instead, the participants create the agenda at the start of the day. An individual might stand up and say “Hey, I want to talk about this topic…” and they are added to the session list and assigned a time and a room. There’s no presentations to prepare – just time for individuals to discuss issues/topics. After the list of topics is turned into an agenda, with rooms/times assigned – then individuals choose which sessions/discussions they want to join.
So it’s a technology conference, right?
No. Although there are always sessions on technology is education, it is not a technology conference. At both this event and prior EdCamp’s, I’ve seen sessions ranging from formative assessment, parent communication, scheduling, leadership, student motivation, etc.
Here’s my quick notes of what sessions I attended and my take aways….
* About 8 or 9 folks who were interested in talking about iPad deployments, both 1:1 as well as classroom deployments (meaning that the iPads are deployed to the classroom, managed at the teacher/classroom level).
* Discussed Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program – and agreed that it isn’t all that friendly, but talked about how various schools and districts were taking advantage of it and how they were trying to make it work for their scenario.
* The three word combo of iPad, PTA & Equity is not just a local issue, many districts are facing this concern. Although we’re all thankful for parent involvement and financial assistance, we need to level the playing field.
* End point I took away: Although we’ve decided to hold off more iPad purchases until after the new reading curriculum is selected (http://wp.me/p1JF02-M0) – before we purchase more, we need to sit down to review and rethink how we’ve setup, deployed, and managed our classroom iPads. Our current strategy met our initial needs, but I’m not sure it’s the best option for us long term.
Professional Development Gamified………..
* Led by Chris Like from Bettendorf, @christopherlike focuses on the self-paced, individualized technology professional development plan that was rolled out with Bettendorf’s iPad initiative.
* Called Mission Possible (visit: https://sites.google.com/a/bettendorf.k12.ia.us/bhs-tech-pd/) the plan consists of individual missions, or modules, that staff typically complete on their own. It’s based on gaming attributes like points, levels, titles/badges, etc.
* Completing missions gives you “paw points” and a certain number of points moves you to a new level.
* Certain levels must be completed before iPads are made available to you.
* There is a leader board that displays how many points and what level each staff member is at. This is NOT evaluative at all, there is no requirement to reach the highest level.
* I loved this session – so many fantastic ideas… however, not enough space for all the details, but I’ll consider more this topic for a future blog post.
* About 15 people showed up just to talk about Chromebooks. Here’s what is great about EdCamp: a few minutes into the session, someone said “Oh, I suppose I should start things since I raised the topic”. This person wasn’t the expert in Chromebooks (no one was), but instead, it was a group of individuals who had various experiences with them and just wanted to talk, share ideas, and learn from one another.
* Several teachers had been using them with students and had expressed concerns about durability of the device, but were anxious to see the many newer models coming out soon.
* Many times, the discussion came back to “If it does 90% of what I need”. Of course, no device does 100% of what you need. I believe the Chromebook will have a place – but it won’t be used by everyone or replace everything (what devices does?)
* I was surprised that some schools were looking at Chromebooks for teacher devices – personally, I’m was only at the level of thinking it was a student device.
What do district administrators do all day long?……………..
* See, I told you this wasn’t a tech only conference. This discussion had 3 district admins, 1 school board member, and 1 building principal.
* Conversation focused on various efforts that we each do to remain visible and transparent to our districts.
* It was great to have a school board member in the group, that helped add a new perspective to the topic, as we are not only focused on remaining visible to our internal audience, but also the community at large.
* Only four districts represented, but the discussion was about facilitating and leading your district’s efforts towards 1:1. Two of the districts were already 1:1, the others were discussing.
* I enjoyed hearing the “story” of how 1:1 came about for each of the other districts and what they did to facilitate the discussion and eventual implementation.