Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Look Back into the #EdcampUSA Reflection Pool

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A few of weeks have passed since I attended EdcampDoEd. Many schools in our area have sent their students and teachers onto summer adventures, and now comes the opportunity for me to really soak in the enormity of my experience.

Being one of the 100 selected educators to attend EdcampDoEd out of some 800 lottery entries, was not only one of the highlights of my professional career, but it also afforded me the priceless opportunity to explore our nation’s capitol. Having "met" several attendees in the Twitterverse and other digital spaces, I eagerly anticipated the face-to-face, sit-down connections, conversations and collaborations that awaited me.

The event itself, hosted at the Department of Education building, was monumental. Here we were, in a federal building, warmly greeted by a welcoming DoEd staff and Edcamp Founder, Kristen Swanson (@kristenswanson), convening to discuss, brainstorm, share and learn about issues affecting us all in education nationwide. Sandwiched between a sincere welcome from DoEd staffers like Richard Culatta (@rec54) and Emily Davis (@emilydavis4edu) and a final heartfelt thank you from Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) himself were far too many sessions (all attendee-created, mind you) from which to choose. Luckily, for digital tools like Twitter (#EdcampUSA), Periscope (Twitter’s live-streaming app) and Google Docs, collaborative notes were shared so learning could take place far beyond the one-day time frame of May 29th. Likewise, though each session I attended was so rich with conversation, ideas and “what works” that I simply could not pry myself away to “vote with my two feet” to check out others, some of the most value-laden connections took place in the hotel lobby, during lunch, and social gatherings outside of the day itself. It was during those “extra innings” of EdcampDoEd that I encountered my most impactful connections.
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An educator of over 25 years, my biggest takeaways from EdcampDoEd are numerous and far-reaching; however, one that still has me thinking (and acting) include the compelling connections I made. I arrived to a room full of strangers, and I departed with influential additions to my PLN, some of whom I would now consider friends. Secondly, as an Edcamp attendee (as opposed to Edcamp planner), I witnessed firsthand the power of learner voice. As my fellow Wisconsinite attendee Tammy Lind (@taml17) tweeted, “It’s incredible what happens when we take time to listen to each other.” That resonates with me still. 
What if we took time to truly listen to our teachers? 
What if we took time to truly listen to our students?  
Lastly, the takeaway that will likely impact me the most was the mind-numbing potential of leveraging the Edcamp model of professional learning on students, when you put 100 (or whatever number) educators in a room for a day of focused, intentional and purposeful learning. Boom!

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No telling what can happen when we intentionally and purposefully unite for one basic thing ~ Doing Better. For Kids ~ but I know it has potential to be staggering! I eagerly await this ripple effect as I continue my look back into the EdcampDoEd reflection pool.