If you have ever driven into Maine on the interstate, you know you are greeted by the phrase on the welcome sign, “Maine, the way life should be.” Well, the EdCampOOB folks brought that phrase to life in more than one way. They managed to gather over 100 teachers and administrators (most of whom are off contract over the summer!), organize three packed and lively sessions, feed us breakfast, send us away with ideas and door prizes and - ready for this?! - we spent three hours on the pier at Lindbergh’s Landing, eating a tasty lunch, enjoying the view of the beach and the boardwalk, and smacking down with the best of them in the app smackdown. And in EdCamp style, the day’s organizers, Billy Corcoran and Bob Stackpole, kept the day free of charge for all participants (um, except for drinks at the bar). Like I said, the way life should be.
We began the day at Old Orchard Beach High School. After a leisurely breakfast and some time for mingling, we collectively built the morning’s schedule. If you have never attended an EdCamp, you might not know that the spirit and structure of the day is just about as democratic as it can be. The sessions were gently facilitated by people who were willing to take on that role, but the conversations were focused on what the participants wanted to discuss, and the EdCamp motto of “vote with your feet,” to leave one session for another, was alive and well.
As I scan my session notes, it’s interesting to see that while Bob reminded us that technology was not the day’s focus, nearly every session included, at the very least, quite a few technological resources. Here’s a smattering of titles: Early Childhood, PK- 1; Student Engagement; Flipping the Classroom; Closing Achievement Gaps with iPads; Maker Spaces and Genius Hour. If you are curious about the conversations and notes generated from them, check this out.
The two sessions I attended reminded me how powerful it is to simply gather a group of thoughtful people who all want to talk about and listen to the same topic. The first was on proficiency-based learning, and we talked about how some teachers and schools are still using a dual reporting system, the importance of collaboratively defining what a 3 and a 4 should look like, helping parents and community members to understand as a key to the success of PBL, and some of the hallmarks of a PB system, such as distinguishing between habits of work and academic achievement.
The next session I joined, Professional Development Doesn’t Have to SUCK, was largely attended by building leaders. There seemed to be a lot of agreement that good PD involves providing for and modeling the differentiated situations we want to see in classrooms. It includes empowering teachers to lead PD and to know how they can best access the content of the day. It also works well when it is embedded in practice and extends over time, as opposed to the old school shot in the arm.
EdCampOOB was a day of learning; a day of sharing ideas; a day of meeting new people; a day of plugging into the vocation that fuels us - all in a place everyone should be lucky enough to visit some time.