Sunday, March 8, 2015

Oklahoma Teachers were busy Saturday: Two Opportunities to Learn -- #EdcampOKC and ORA

I was the oldest person in the room. No surprise anymore, but I was struck by the energy of hundreds of teachers who got up on a Saturday, ready to spend the day working and talking with other professionals – about teaching and learning. On a Saturday. Away from their own families. Some driving over four hours to get there by 8:30.  This was MY first #EdcampOKC, and it was a smashing success.

And it wasn’t the only amazing learning opportunity yesterday. Donalyn Miller, of Book Whisperer fame, was just down the road, talking to the Oklahoma Reading Association. More teachers, taking time from families, from grading, from lesson planning…all to work and listen and learn. All to be better, stronger educators.

The Edcamp model pitches traditional professional development on its head, and forces a reassessment of what it means to be an educator-learner. No typical presentations. No powerpoints. No handouts (can I say I kind of missed handouts? My visual-learner mode kicks in when I have a handout). Most rooms when possible were arranged in a circle for authentic conversation. And that’s what I heard. Authentic. Conversation.

The schedule is built right in front of our faces, as educators sign  up to facilitate conversations…sometimes to gain knowledge about a subject they want to know more about, sometimes to assemble like-minded folks to plot and plan, sometimes to talk policy, sometimes to talk technology, sometimes to talk lessons. Participants were in charge of the schedule.

You don’t arrive with your schedule printed, and your choices already made (I can’t be the only one who does that!). You arrive with an open mind, looking for possibilities.

I intended to tweet more, but found I wanted to simply take notes and listen..piping in when I thought I had something to contribute. So, I did not uphold my part of that bargain.

We had ample evidence of the change in climate in our education community. Superintendent of Schools, Joy Hofmeister, was in attendance, not as a publicity stunt, not as a wave-and-out-the-door. As a participant. She has attended #Edcamps since before her election. She has forged relationships with the leadership, and with the teachers who attend. She was in one of the sessions I attended, doing active problem-solving to improve communication among educators, and with the OSDE. Her new Deputy Superintendent, Cindy Koss, attended, as did several of her curriculum directors. This enterprise has the total support of the elected leader, as well as her active participation.

For me the highlight of the day is meeting online and PLN friends. I recognized some from their tiny Twitter avatars, but name tags really helped. This old bird finds online communities interesting and exciting, but I still need face-to-face connections. And I need hugs. Kevin Hime jokingly singled me out for PDA in one meeting when I hugged a former student. I came for the information and the hugs. I left with bunches of both.

I learned that #oklaed and the Sunday chat was born at an #edcamp. In that tradition, four of us are working on a new idea, begun with Christie Paradise’s practice of tweeting #1coolthing about her classroom at least once a week. Read Scott Haselwood's blog describing #1coolthing. Barbie Jackson and Megan Cabe and I had lunch together, plotting a #1coolthing campaign to reach out to our Legislators. From other sessions, we learned that many policy makers are on Twitter, but not active after election season. We heard that good old-fashioned snail mail will reach the offices of our policy makers and be handled by a real person. We brainstormed. Letters? Postcards? Postcards with a catchy logo that would set our positive messages apart from other mail? We’ve created a possibility from snippets of all the sessions we attended. We will keep working, in the spirit of that first #Edcamp that inspired #oklaed.

Edcamp did not charge any registration, and fed us! Breakfast and lunch. That was made possible by the generous sponsors who knew there would be no 'exhibit hall' to pitch their products. They contributed and supported us for nothing but a hearty 'thank you.' So, here's mine.

The profession is in good hands. These educators, and the ones attending Donalyn Miller’s presentation, sacrificed a day off to learn, to network, to share.

Man, these lazy teachers…gotta do something about them. We need to thank them. Acknowledge their commitment to their profession and their students. Rewarding them with a pay raise would be nice. But, that ‘thank you’ goes a long way, too.

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