A bit late in posting this but as always, better late than never.
I’ve lost count of the number of educamps I’ve been to since @fionagrant gave me a lift up to Educamp Tai Tokerau 2 years ago. But suffice to say it’s been a few. The beauty of educamps is that each one is always different from the last and even old hats like me get something out of it.
The problem with educamp is that it has forever ruined the traditional ‘sit and get’ model of Professional Development. As a learner I have a very low tolerance for any PD I feel isn’t meeting my needs.
My takeaways from #educampakl:
I’m moving away from the technology. The more educamps I attend, the less I find myself less interested in what the technology does but more how technology is being used to transform learning. As I mentioned in the think slam something that has been bugging me of late is this idea of ‘oh hey we used to do something this way but now we do it on a computer.’ What’s your purpose? What’s the effect of this effect of this on student learning? How are you changing learning culture in your class or even your school by using this technology? I suppose this is a natural progression for me as a learner.
Innovators in schools can feel incredibly isolated. Outside the pockets of awesomeness, I suspect there’s a few educamp attendees that are likely viewed as one of the ‘crazy ones‘ in their school. Educamps are a way to connect with like-minded educators and pick the brains of others who share a similar passion. Innovators thrive on collaboration. This is why educamp participants will sometimes travel 100s of kilometers on their own coin to attend these events.
Wise school leaders support and encourage innovative teachers to do their thing.
Our faculties of education are not preparing their students to be 21st century teachers. Much as I loathe the term ’21st century learning’ it’s an ongoing issue and not one that there has been a great deal of change since I was student two years ago. The result being that our beginning teachers are falling back to how they were taught. This isn’t good enough.
Teachers need to stop assuming that our students are going to be the ones that will force our institutions to change. There’s a lot of racial and socio-economic privilege wrapped up in the idea that our students are going to be the ones that force a change in the status quo. It assumes that not only that all kids and their families are able to challenge our institutions to do better but more importantly feel they have the right to. Put simply the standard we teachers walk by, is the standard we accept.
Student-driven learning = lots of teacher scaffolds. Daily 5, 20% time/passion projects etc. Kids need scaffolds to channel their energy into the tasks at hand. Making links back to the NZC and making effective use of time is something I’m working on at the moment with my kids. I’ve been impressed with my students’ engagement but know we can do better.
Being an awesome teacher is a journey not a destination. As always I’m amazed at how many educators willingly give up a morning to come together to learn. It was fantastic to renew old connections and make new ones.
Onwards to EducampPalmy…
I always feel uncomfortable when people start talking about leadership. Especially if it happens to be in the context of events that have the tag ‘Emerging Leader’ ‘Young Leader’ or ‘Future Leader.’ Leaders have interesting things to say, leaders have responsibilities, leaders don’t forget to take the class roll after lunch.
I think opinionated geek is the most accurate description.
When I heard that #ignition2012 was happening during the April school holidays I couldn’t wait to book my flights vven though the dreaded ‘leader’ tag was attached to the event. The reason? Two days of un-conference .
Ever since I went to my first unconference back in July 2011 I’ve been hooked on the format. As a learner there’s nothing more engaging than being able to choose what to learn, when and from who. As an attendee I much prefer being an active participant at a conference than sitting as an audience member patiently waiting for the Q&A session to contribute to the conversation. Yes the person up the front might have something important to say but unconferences embrace the idea that the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.
Which is what made #ignition2012 so exciting.
All those hierarchies that our model of industrial system of schooling built up over the last century or so vanished. At #ignition2012 it if you were veteran teacher of scholarship level physics at a large-inner city high school or someone in their first year of teaching five year olds their ABCs at a rural country school. Everyone was there with a common purpose to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I love teachers from such a diverse range of contexts quite readily give up two days of their holidays to spend time at #ignition2012 learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there and yet we were there. Some teachers traveled great distances to participate and the result was a giant melting pot of professional learning. There were sessions on e-portfolios building apps for learning and looking at applying augmented reality into the classroom. We discussed the Ultra Fast Broadband inquiry and talked about the conditions that lead to success for Maori students. In short it this was teacher professional development on steroids.
#Ignition2012 undoubtedly highlighted that the greatest strength of the New Zealand schooling system, institutional autonomy, is also its Achilles Heel. New Zealand schools and the educators within them don’t talk to each other nearly as much as we should. I think this is particularly the case for Beginning Teachers who can easily become isolated in our classrooms/schools with very little contact with those beyond our own bubbles. #Ignition2012 gave teachers an opportunity to connect with other teachers we would normally not be in contact with and the result was a bazaar of ideas to improve teaching and learning in New Zealand.
Moreover for those teachers on twitter and other social media, it allowed us to reconnect and put faces with profile pictures. It provided that real-life human component that is not there in online conversations. Coming together in real life is to quote the amazing @annekenn MAGIC.
What was really inspiring for me is knowing that there are other teachers out there in our schooling system who are dissatisfied with our schools and think we can do better. When I read about the latest policy developments in New Zealand education like the introduction of Charter Schools and Teach First New Zealand I often get despondent that the only new ideas for schooling are coming from the business sector. Ultimately discussions over how we train teachers or school governance is going to make very little difference to the shape of education. It’s the teachers who are in there with our students each day who need to ‘be the change’ in our schools.
#Ignition2012 shows that there are passionate New Zealand teachers out there who have no interest in perserving status quo in New Zealand schools. We know we can do better and in the case of Maori and Pasifika students in particular we know that system must do better. There are more teachers out who want to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I hope next year you can come join us next year armed with your teaspoon.
“I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw, and at one end of this seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons…” Pete Seeger.
My profound thanks goes to the organizers of #ignition2012 in particular to @mosbourne and the crew at Albany Senior High School. A big shout out also goes to Russell Stanners, Tony Bacon and Abbie Reynolds from @vodafoneNZ for supporting my attendance.
I’ve gone to a few conferences in my time and have noticed that often the best learning takes place in the bar afterwards. Enter Educampakl. Based on the Barcamp conference, Educamps are conferences in which the participants generate the content for the day. I find it amazing that teachers will give up a Saturday to spend time learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there, and yet we were there.
Connections or content ?
Sure big conferences with key note speakers have their place, but there were plenty of high-level discussions from smack down to @taratj‘s awesome work on Minimally Invasive Education and google apps for teachers. However what I really valued was getting to meet people IRL that I had been interacting with online and playing with the technology. Going to educampakl also helped with operation job search insofar as the schools with teachers in attendance, in particular senior leaders, are now on my radar of schools I really want to work at.
What is awesome about #educamp is that content is user-generated which means someone who has yet to graduate can make just as meaningful contribution to the teaching as they do in the learning. I might not be a digital native but definitely consider myself one off the first of the boat in IT. There are also teachers at educamp with many years of experience and I get to pick their brains on how to incorporate technology into teaching because they understand the teaching business far better than me.
Educamp entrance is a gold coin donation ’nuff said.
Being able to walk out
Educamps come with the freedom to walk out if the session is not serving your needs. I was mucking around on the periphery of one session when I got tapped on the shoulder by (@sumich I think) and asked if I wanted to have a go at a DIY garage band with a couple of ipads, a router and a speakers. How cool is that? I could have spent hours playing around with that app but nice ipad user wanted their device back. Being able to walk out of sessions got me to thinking. What would happen if students had the freedom to go to another classroom if my teaching wasn’t suiting their learning needs, would they stay? Would yours?
Why don’t we do this sort of stuff more often?
Ask yourself how much time in staff meetings/PD is based on procedural stuff delivered by lecture-style sessions and how much time is spent generating new ideas and trying out new learning tools? What would be a more effective use of teachers’ time? Are flipped staff meetings the answer or do geeks just learn differently?