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Yowza.  This was a fun day.

My first ‘unconference,’ and quite a successful one, I might add.  edcamp – this is where we get together with no specific agenda, no keynote speaker or presenter.  Just us, eager beavers, who are passionate about what we’re passionate about and we all come ready to talk. Here’s a little site that explains edcamp a bit better.  (Love the slogan, ‘professional development that is done with you not to you.’  I can hear a British man saying this.)

It was fun to see a lot of non-educators i.e. people who are not classroom teachers.  They were just as passionate about what was going on in schools as the classroom teachers.  Was reminded by this turn-out that education transcends profession and it affects and concerns everyone.

Run-down of our day:

  • introductions
  • ice breaker – what are you passionate about in education?
  • world cafe – a group of people at each station discussing key questions, rotating for different questions
  • Q#1 Where in the world are we?
  • Q#2 What can we do?
  • Q#3 Where are we headed?
  • how we answered each question was completely up to us.
  • harvesting – harvesting our discussed ideas on post-its for the afternoon discussions
  • lunch
  • open talk (??forgot the official name for session???)
  • brave people volunteered to come up with topics to discuss:#1 how can we make worksheets work?  #2 homework? yes or no? #3 technology in education – what do we discard, what do we keep? #4 information literacy
My takeaways –
  • The fact that the topic of homework was brought up was interesting to me and made me think intentionally about homework.  Homework has been an ongoing hot topic in schools since I started teaching 11 years ago! I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum.  I’ve been at a school that gives minimal homework and then there’s my current school where we have parents (disclaimer: not all!) who ask for more homework.
  • As a classroom teacher, I am required to follow the school policy on homework but there’s always room for creativity.  Homework should be purposeful.  I’ve decided that my own ‘homework policy’ would be – if I’m giving out homework, I should have a very, very good reason for it.
  • Cultural affect on education and the students’ schema has come up several times during the day – I’ve been passionately sharing my experience as I’ve recently transferred from a New Zealand public school to an international school where the majority of the students are Chinese.  One edcamper shared an interesting view about the Chinese students’ attitude in the classroom – many of them come from a culture where ‘grades’ matter.  So, if this activity/homework/discussion/whatever else isn’t going to affect my grade, what’s the point of trying?  There could be a whole discussion about how to motivate students but what I take away from this is, when I try to find ways to motivate my students, what I did with NZ kids may not necessarily work.
  • School – an open community.  One edcamper shared how she wanted to see schools have a more open-door attitude towards the community.  It was pointed out how uninviting signs like, ‘please report to the office,’ can be.  Granted there are safety issues and we do not want strange old men lurking around our students.  But for a non-creepy man, who genuinely wants to connect with a school for the good of the students, a patronizing attitude that insinuates a divide between school and community can contribute to discouraging visitors aka a potentially fantastic resource for the students.
  • The way I picture an open community in a school is an active environment where the community is another rich resource that the teachers and students can tap into.  And in turn, the students will be presented with greater options to contribute back to the community – which will birth a fantastic cycle between the school and the community.
  • The homework here is that creating a ‘culture’ of an open community is work and one that needs to grow and develop over several years.  But it is one that is worth every sweat of effort.
Again, today was definitely a stimulating day.  It was just fun being surrounded by people who share the same passion.
I hope people aren’t offended that I called them ‘eager beavers…’