Love Letter to EdCamp

*Record scratch*
*Freeze frame*

Yup, that’s me!  My first EdCamp, back when I didn’t know how to hashtag. If you’re wondering how I got into that situation:

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air
learned to stop worrying and love the bomb
addicted to EdCamp.

Four years ago, I was a computer teacher at Tomlinson Middle School in Lawton and thirsty for professional development. I found Wes Fryer‘s website Moving at the Speed of Creativity through a web search and didn’t even realize he was in Oklahoma (then Yukon, now of Casady) until I noticed the EdCampOKC banner.

I’m gonna mention a lot of people in this post. It’s not to name drop, it’s to illustrate the connections I’ve made through EdCamp and how they have shaped me professionally.

Anyway, back to my story. At the time, one of my main partners in crime was Jen Lamb, a fellow TMS teacher who went on to be Director of Elementary of Math for OSDE and is now an Instructional Coach at Santa Fe South. Jen and I traveled almost two hours to attend our first EdCampOKC. We had no idea what we were doing but were totally cool with that. I remember finding our way to a cafeteria, picking up some swag (I still have my Bloom’s DoK wheel in my office.), and waiting for the yellow-shirted people to start the show. People in matching outfits always know what’s going on, right?

Someone gave an inspirational opener, maybe stood on a table. We were introduced to the two tenets of EdCamp:

  1. Participants build the schedule there.
  2. Let your feet do the talking. If you find yourself in a session, you don’t like, get up, and find one that is better for you.

Then they pointed out a huge butcher block sheet of paper with a grid and told us to have at it. Jen took the pic below. When I saw it pop up on my Facebook memories a few days ago, I was stunned to realize it was a picture of Beth Richert, who I would later work with at Clinton Public Schools.

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I don’t remember if I wrote anything on the board. It didn’t really matter, though, because I still got what I needed.

Beth facilitated my first session on Google Apps for Education. At first, I was super distracted because of the room. I had never seen trapezoid desks before and I wanted them. I probably took twenty pictures of those desks and all the different arrangements before I realized what Beth was saying: People could type on the same file at the same time!  I was, as the kids say, shook. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it changed my life. My brain immediately went crazy with the classroom collaboration possibilities. I am told I walked into my librarian’s office (That’s Kris Burd. I like to think we mutually enable each other.) the next Monday with some kind of crazy fire in my eyes and said, “We’re doing this.” We did it and four years later, Tomlinson has taken G Suite for Education (new name, same awesomeness)  and run away with it. My EdCamp experience touched thousands of students from just one session.

(There’s this whole other story where I became a Google Certified Trainer and got networked with an international group of fellow nerds, but it’s boring. The important part takeaway is EdCamp -> International Personalized Learning Network.)

I remember learning how to make a QR code and how to attach it to an audio file (RIP Audioboo). I think that was also where I was introduced to Claudia Swisher and Jason Stephenson in “Reading for Pleasure” and used TodaysMeet, the backchannel tool, for the first time. I remember an intense discussion on how to retain our veteran teachers. Most importantly, I remember leaving  with a To-Do List and the determination to cross off every single thing on it. I was energized and refreshed in that way teachers need or they burn out.

It was MAGICAL, I tell you. Was every session a hit for me? No, but as I became comfortable enough to walk out of the misses, it didn’t matter. I got what I needed. Did every session have someone that influenced me so much we became besties? No, but there were people that now I feel comfortable reaching out to for advice and feedback when I need it. (Poor Jun Kim , Director of Technology for Moore Public Schools, was the recipient of several of desperate cries for help.) Eventually, when I learned about #oklaed after the second EdcampOKC (I was not in the room where it happened), my PLN did become part of my daily life. Not to be too sentimental, but I met educators who would become some of my favorite people, real friends I could call, text, or hold whole conversations with in Bitmoji. They not only provide insight because they know how schools work, but do so from a distance that keeps our discussions from degenerating into mere whine fests. (Although, sometimes, there is wine.)

I joined the organizer team for EdcampOKC 2015 and my PLN has only gotten better. The organizer team is a diverse group of educators from all over the state even though the event is in Oklahoma City. Seriously, I was in Lawton. Erin Barnes is in Sapulpa, Kevin Hime and Anne Beck represented Clinton, and Tammy Parks lives in Howe. I would probably not know them without EdCamp. Now, some of us only see each other at the actual camp but others, I see more times outside of the state of Oklahoma. Even when some of us move across the state, it doesn’t matter because we’re still connected.

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As an Oklahoma teacher, I deeply feel we need to be connected to other educators. We especially need to be around people who know the mission, who realize the kids are the mission, and do the work despite all the crap we are fighting (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma legislators). Whether it’s new ideas, a kick to the butt, or a morale boost, EdCamp gives me what I need. This is why I love EdCamp: it isn’t about the prizes, it’s about the connections and conversations* EdCamp makes possible.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

 


*riffing off Anne Beck here who said, “[Edcamp] is not about products, it’s about conversations.”

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