Billed as an event that would involve “talking, sharing, and innovating about changing the way the world learns,” NASSP’s first-ever Edcamp preceded its annual national conference, Ignite ’15, in San Diego.
Free and open to anyone, this “unconference” on February 19 brought together more than 100 educators to create their own agenda on the spot, and then meet. Attendees did not need to be registered for the NASSP conference in order to attend Edcamp, according to one of its organizers, Jimmy Casas, principal of Betterndorf High School in Bettendorf, IA.
The Edcamp concept is a phenomenon that is gaining traction nationwide. As described on the Edcamp Foundation’s website: “Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions.”
Casas joined with one of the Edcamp Foundation’s founders, Kristen Swanson, to pilot NASSP’s venture into this bold new world of educator collaboration. NASSP’s sessions covered such topics as Standards-Based Grading Practices, Blended Learning, Best Bell Schedules for Flex Time, and Digital Curriculum and e-Text. Notes from the sessions can be found at http://bit.ly/edcampnassp.
Participants see Edcamp as “an opportunity to come together with educators who are very passionate about what they’re doing and surround themselves with other educators who are just as passionate as they are,” according to Casas.
He added, “I think what people really like about it is when you enter a session, everybody feels like they have a voice. It’s interactive, so anybody can share ideas. They can ask questions and share resources.”
The Edcamp endeavor certainly saw its share of Twitter traffic. NASSP 2014 Digital Principal Derek McCoy tweeted, “Edcamp is a great example of a collab effort differentiated learning, growing principals and building skills.” TJ Dunphy, principal, Griswold Community School District, Griswold, IA, tweeted, “My network just grew by a few thousand miles.” Dan McCabe, assistant principal at Accompsett Middle School, Smithtown, NY, summed it up by tweeting: “1 user-generated 2 conversational 3 enthusiastic 4 no experts 5 share 6 authentic.”
“The Edcamp model is build on a simple principle—the smartest person in the room is the room itself. Taking part in Edcamp at Ignite allowed me to interact, engage, and learn informally from administrators who are building better schools. Their work and sharing helps to better the school I serve on a daily basis.” Jared Wastler, Edcamp attendee and assistant principal, Liberty High School, Eldersburg, MD
Casas concluded, “People walked away not just feeling validated, but energized. They left feeling very inspired and that this was very meaningful to them. … It’s just another way for us to build community.”