Sunday, October 26, 2014

#EdcampUNY - Professional Learning at its Best


First a Bit of Gratitude

Just about a year ago I sat in this very spot and wrote a reflection on my experience at the Edscape conference in New Jersey. It was also about this time that Peter DeWitt, Lisa Meade, Vicki Day, Tim Dawkins, and I started to discuss bringing an Edcamp to Upstate New York. So much has happened in the past year, but certainly one of the highlights is seeing our dream, and our plan for an Edcamp, come to fruition.

It is hard to describe exactly what I'm feeling at this precise moment, so I hope you'll bear with me. Before I get into precisely what happened yesterday in Queensbury, I need to take a moment to express my gratitude.  First, and foremost, to our families for allowing us the opportunity to take time away from them to work on this project. To the Queensbury School District, particularly to Queensbury High School who opened their doors to us. To Mr. Matt Hladun for sharing his time, talents and technology expertise. Special thanks as well to the Edcampers that participated in our very first Edcamp.  Many of you traveled great distances, and made the Edcamp experience what it was, by sharing your ideas, passions, and knowledge with all of us. To Jon Harper and Douglas Manion who assisted the night before and the day of the event, your insight and support was truly appreciated. Last, but not least the EdcampUNY organizing committee - my colleagues and friends: Tim Dawkins, Vicki Day, Peter DeWitt, Lisa Meade and Patti Siano. Thank you for the laughs, camaraderie, and inspiration. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn from you and work with you.

The Power of an Edcamp

If I had to sum it up in one word, I guess it would be participation. I think the power of any individual Edcamp comes from the participation of the attendees. With an Edcamp there are no scripted sessions or pre-determined schedules. The conference is built by the participants. Their knowledge, experiences, passions, questions and challenges and their willingness to share them with others are what determine the experience. I have participated in a number of conferences, and I can say that you would be hard-pressed to find a conference experience that is more engaging, informative and thought-provoking than an Edcamp. Having the ability to follow your interests, and the collaborative nature of the event itself seems result in powerful professional learning.  

What Happens at EdcampUNY, Doesn't Stay at EdcampUNY...

We've all seen the ads that tell you, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." As I was driving home from Queensbury today, it struck me that the exact opposite of that was going to happen with those of us who attended EdcampUNY yesterday.  The amazing things that were shared, discussed, challenged and learned were not going to be confined to Queensbury, NY or to this singular event, the impact that the event had was not going to be limited to those who could physically be in attendance, the impact indeed is going to be felt across the nation. A pretty strong statement considering the actual size of the event, but this, "is the little Edcamp that could" and it did. Participants in this Edcamp shared their learning during the event as they tweeted with the hashtag #EdcampUNY, they sent emails and texts to their administrators and instructional coaches. They voxed their friends and colleagues with the things they were learning. They are blogging about the impact of the day, and how they are empowered to try something new. Some are even sharing how they are going to go back and work on an Edcamp for their own region or district. This is how I know, that the learning and sharing, the inspiring and empowering will not end just because our little event did.

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