Saturday, April 26, 2014

Professional Development, #edcamp Style

Meetings can leave us exhausted and overwhelmed.  Sometimes professional development opportunities feel more like something being placed upon us instead of something we can own.  That's not meant with any disrespect, the job of keeping large groups moving forward is daunting.  With time constraints, sometimes we have to take the fastest route forward as there isn't time to let learning unfold.    

Honestly, I believe the best professional development comes from creating our own learning journeys.  I'm a bit of a professional development junkie.  The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?  I switched to the district I currently teach, because I knew I would have many opportunities for professional development.  Working as a literacy coach for a few years, and sometimes in consulting, I have tried to figure out the characteristics of strong professional development.  Most of my experience, however, is as an educator seeking to know more and to make thoughtful changes to improve the work I do with young learners.  These days I find many opportunities for professional learning through Twitter, blogs, and online learning communities.

A few year ago I attended my first #edcamp.  Since then I have been fortunate to join conversations at #edcampCbus and #nerdcampbc (the literacy version of #edcamp).  There's something powerful in collaborative learning conversations.  The learning seems to grow exponentially.  So when our principal, Cindy Teske, said we were having #edcamp for our late start day, I was beyond excited.  I'm fortunate to teach in learning community in which I am continually supported, challenged, and inspired by my colleagues.  I knew I could learn a lot from them.

On Thursday morning, we all shuffled into the media center and our principal began to put things on the board.  She may have twisted an arm or two, but our board filled quickly with possibilities and the only complaints were that there wouldn't be enough time to go everywhere.  Here's what I loved about our day:

  1. Tapping Expertise:  Opportunities to learn from the expertise of others in our building.
  2. Timely:  Creating the board in the moment allowed us to create timely learning opportunities and discuss what we need to know now.
  3. Collaborative:  A chance to collaborate across grade levels which is sometimes hard within the time constraints of a school day.
  4. Supportive:  Conversations continued beyond the morning as teachers found one another to seek more information or support in next steps.  (to action)   
  5. Empowering:  Educators maintained ownership of the learning.   
  6. Energizing:  I left energized not overwhelmed.  


  1. Collaborative conversation - this is what I am missing in my building right now. But I am happy for my PLN through blogs and recently through Twitter. Your PD #edcamp style sounds wonderful.

  2. Totally tweeting and sharing this in our district. Congrats to all of you for allowing a shift in your professional development and huge thanks for sharing it for the rest of us to jump on the bandwagon.

  3. Love this idea Cathy! I have not yet attended an #edcamp ... I would love to hear more about your principal's planning and the behind the scenes. I shared your post with my team at school and we would love to try this! I know we'd need willing participants and teachers to want to lead and share their genius! Also, when you had a group arrive at your door for your session, what did that look like? You didn't have time to "plan" or create a slide share ... brief background, sharing, and discussing??? Trying to wrap my head around it. I'm sure someone has written a post about the organizing. My next goal. Thanks for sharing!! And always getting me thinking of what's next!

  4. Teachers for TeachersJune 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Love this Cathy --thanks for sharing. Administrators will really benefit from this post.
    Clare and Tammy