Teachers in our district have the option of attending a district Institute Day (PD Day) over the summer or during the school year. I was asked to lead a session with my fellow Technology Facilitator and our middle school Instructional Coach. We wanted to spice things up and provide an authentic learning environment for our teachers, so we decided to implement an Edcamp style PD. We utilized the first half of the day for our Edcamp and during the second half of the day, teachers worked with in their PLCs to put their new knowledge into action and develop plans and assessments for the year. We had about 70 middle school teachers participate in our day of learning and all content areas were included.
If you don’t know about the Edcamp craze, check it out here. We started the day with a bit of a keynote that the three of us prepared, which reviewed TPACK and SAMR. After a brief discussion, we prompted our staff to participate in a Quickfire Challenge to demonstrate their understanding of the framework and model. Quickfire Challenges are a concept which can be attributed to Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf of Michigan State University (see her post here about them). Having been a student in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program at MSU, I have lived through so many Quickfires and love how they sparked my interest and brought energy to learning (I even used them with students when I was a classroom teacher!). Below you’ll see the guidelines for our Quickfire and if you click on the image, it will take you to the Thinglink with live links.
Teachers then had to share their creation on a Schoology discussion board. Note that they were only given 10 minutes to complete this task. Here are three examples of what they created and shared. When you take a step back to think about it, it’s actually pretty cool. We gave them NO instruction on how to do any of this, from the technology they picked to uploading to a Schoology discussion board. They had to play with it and they were immersed in creation with a looming deadline. Was it stressful? Yes. Was it meaningful? Yes. Did they enjoy it? After it was done :). We had everything from videos to Haikus. They also got to see how allowing for choice with a choice board was simple and meaningful to the learner, because they experienced it as their students would.
After this recap, we then discussed how Edcamps work and how you “vote with your feet”. We then asked the teachers what they wanted to learn that day. Now, we did do some pre-planning when it came to this and planted some seeds because we weren’t sure what teachers would do in the face of being given total choice. We knew we wanted to have at least 6 sessions going at one time. We thought of 3 sessions which we knew teachers would be looking for and created a “Playlist” of resources that they could explore as a part of their breakout discussion for a bit of scaffolding into the open world of Edcamps. We also planted some seeds in terms of talking to a few teachers ahead of time and asking them to share their learning interests if the crowd got quiet- luckily we did that because teachers were at a loss initially when posed with the challenge of getting to voice what they wanted to learn. Once a few of our seeds spoke up, it got the ball rolling and we were able to find teacher facilitators for each session. We purposefully did not facilitate any sessions. While breakouts were occurring, we rotated through rooms to offer conversation or answer any questions of difficulty. We made sure to have an “App Playground” during all breakout sessions to assist teachers who simply needed to focus the day on growing their technological knowledge in terms of the functions of the iPads and apps.
When we returned from the breakout sessions, we had a “Show what you know SLAM”, which is a derivative of an App Slam or Demo Slam that you see at Edcamps. We asked teachers to share something that they learned in a breakout session, which prompted lots of “Ooohhs and Ahhhhs” from the audience. Of course, each teacher only had 1 minute to share what they learned, so it was a rapid fire race to talk about their big takeaways.
Overall, we had a lot of great feedback about the day. What would we change? We would notify all staff to come with ideas for conversation topics that they were interested in. I believe that if we do this again, now that all of our teachers will have 1:1 experience under their belts, the conversations will spark more readily and their comfort with guiding their own learning will also increase now that they have exposure to this style of PD.