Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Edcamp Experience from Matthew Warren

Edcamp Garden State is this Saturday, April 30th!

It will be a full-day, unconference where educators choose the topics, choose the format, and spend the day learning with and from other educators. You can click this link for more information about the event and this link to register.

Never been to an Edcamp before? Take a look at the post below to learn a little bit more about what you can expect at an Edcamp.

The post below is from Matthew Warren, social studies teacher at High School South. 
The post first appeared on Matt's blog, WWP Historians

My Experience @EdCampNJ 2015

On Saturday, November 21, I spent the day at an EdCampNJ "un-conference." It was awesome!

What's an un-conference? Let me explain.
  • The first thing that makes and un-conference an un-conference is that almost nothing is planned. Sounds strange for a conference, I know, even disorienting. But my experience was organic and dynamic, fluid and free (even the conference price was free!). During the first hour (or so), participants who wanted to share something with their peers added their names, topics, and twitter handles to a shared Google Sheet. Before I knew it, there were dozens of sessions that I could choose to attend. (This sheet was blank at the start of the conference; within the first hour, it was full.) Subjects ranged from incorporating technology in the classroom to formative assessment strategies, from new PD opportunities to helping students cope with stress. Conference attendees viewed this sheet and selected the session(s) that they want to attend, and then headed to their first session.
  • The second thing that makes an un-conference an un-conference is a rule that governs the entire event: "the rule of two feet." At any moment, if you want to head to another session, you are free to leave your current session and enter one of your choosing. Attendees freely moved in and out of sessions, and because everyone was on the same page, including presenters, somehow, the process worked. Through this emergent process, a combination of small, individual, and freely made choices developed into an amazing conference that meet my needs and did not bore (cf. your usual conference experience).
Sessions I Attended
  • Session I - Student Stress: My first session addressed the topic of student stress at the district level. My district superintendent, Dr. David Aderhold, led this session. This topic has been an important one in my district recently, but I was interested by the fact that so many teachers and administrators from other districts echoed similar concerns. It made me think about my own classroom (AP US History) and how to balance academic rigor and student stress. I do not have the answer, but this session confirmed for me the necessity and seriousness of this conversation.
  • Session II - Standards-Based/Referenced Assessment & Grading: It appears that my district may be moving in the direction of Standards-Based/Referenced Grading. Tovi Spero, one of my co-workers led this session. He has been using this system for the past couple years, so shoot him a line (or tweet) if you are interested; the talk was really helpful.
  • Lunch - Free pizza & I won a raffle - 1st time ever! I won access to a great strength assessment resource from Thrively.
  • Session III - Digital Portfolio: This was My Biggest Takeaway; the conference was worth this one session. Sean Hackbarth of Westwood Regional Middle School led a session on the creation and uses of digital portfolios (see his website here). I learned that with Google tools, I can help my students to create portfolios of their best work. I hope to incorporate such portfolios into my courses next year, and will begin experimenting with them this year. If experimenting with portfolio creation in my own classes is successful, I can imagine moving toward the development of digital portfolios that travel with students across grade-levels. Not only would this help students and teachers to track progress across grades, but students could present such portfolios as part of their college applications, showcasing their best work across their academic careers.
  • I highly recommend this un-conference. I left it feeling empowered, equipped, and eager to engage my students with the resources and techniques that I learned. I especially enjoyed the emergent structure, the freedom of choice, and the collaboration I experienced with my peers. The price tag was nice too ($0.00). I hope to see you at the next one!
~Matthew Warren

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