Sunday, April 7, 2013

Edcamps Don't Have to be Techy

This weekend there was Edcamp Houston but I had to miss it even though it was right down the road (about a 4 hour drive but in Texas that's almost neighbors!).

As I was looking through the Twitter stream coming out of there I was envious of those in attendance but I was also hit by the fact that nearly every tweet coming out was about some app that was being shared or some software or hardware that teachers were using in their classrooms.

Now I've been to a few edcamps, I've presented at edcamps, and I've hosted an edcamp. I'm also going to be attending Edcamp Waller at the end of this month. So I feel like I know what I'm talking about when it comes to having an opinion on these things. And what I see is that there are too many presentations at edcamps based upon the use of technology.

Many of you reading this might disagree. And many of you who have hosted or are about to host an edcamp might feel that the only way to ensure large numbers of participants is to guarantee that there will be some fun tech experiences to be had by attending. But I'm not saying that there can't be a large number of presentations based upon technology. What I am saying is that hosts need to encourage more people to present on meaningful topics in education.

We need to have discussions and conversations about all things education. We need to have people with opinions and points of view about interesting topics that spur others, in attendance, to agree or argue or just think. Edcamps need to be more like Educon Philly or the upcoming NOVANOW in Michigan.  Those conferences are all about conversations. Presenters are not standing in front of their audience delivering a message for an hour. They are presenting ideas or concepts where the audience takes ownership of where the conversation heads from there.

It's time for educators to think outside of their classrooms. As I tweeted this weekend we need to have meat and not just dessert at these edcamps. Finding a cool new app to use in your classroom is fun. Sharing apps or links in a smackdown is fun. Discussing how to keep students engaged in the classroom is a bit more dry but, I would say, incredibly more important. Maybe using that new app will help with the engagement. But are there low-tech alternatives to bells and whistles?

Encourage your fellow teachers to attend edcamps.  Encourage your curriculum leaders in your district to provide professional development in an edcamp-style setting.  But also encourage teachers who are really good at what they do to present their secrets. Encourage teachers to discuss issues your school or district is facing. And encourage discussions on topics that are in the news about the education profession. Edcamps can, and should, be education camps first and barcamps second.