This past Saturday I attended EdcampKC. While Kansas City Edcamp was a first for me in that state, overall, the number of Edcamps I have attended has now reached into the double-digits. Edcamps fuel my soul and help me approach educational issues with a divergent mindset by providing room at the table for all voices.
Edcamps are well-organized, free, learning opportunities which sprung onto the education scene in 2010. Attending an edcamp is voluntary. There are no “presenters” or scheduled sessions, no topic is off-limits, and educators from all disciplines, levels and roles are in attendance. The rapid growth of the Edcamp movement over the years has provided educators around the globe a similar experience. While no two edcamps are identical, I believe there are definite components in place that are designed to foster this successful, unconference experience for all attendees.
- Independently organized by a group of volunteers. (shoutout to Brent Catlett, Laura Gilchrist, Kyle Pace, Michelle Nebel, Mimi Jones Lachi, and all of the other educators who helped to make EdcampKC a memorable experience).
- The schedule is crowd-sourced the morning of the event. There are no “presenters” or slides. Instead, conversations by all those who are interested in the topic as it is being suggested and slotted.
- With sessions ranging from Bitmoji to close reading in the primary grades, attendees decide the topics; and if you aren’t interested in the direction the conversation turns, you “vote with your feet”. Edcamps are individualized professional learning at it’s finest.
- Edcamps are free! Typically held on Saturdays, edcamps are not mandated by administration, have a hefty price-tag attached to tickets, or sign-in sheets at each sessions. Instead, what you will find is a passionate group of educators, ranging from teachers to principals, to college professors and pre-service educators, gathering together to share, learn, and grow for student-benefits!
(I am sure there are other components veteran edcampers would add to my list above, I chose 4)
One of my favorite sessions I attended at EdcampKC was facilitated by Hadley Ferguson, Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation. In both small and large groups, we discussed the evolving face of edcamps, ideas for the future, and benefits gained through this type of personalized professional learning. Hadley Ferguson, Kristina Peters, and I had a brief conversation that was connected to thoughts that have been swimming around in my head for the past few years. On the long drive home I had time to reflect and am now finally able to structure my thoughts into coherent, or somewhat coherent paragraphs.
When I hear a conversation about credit being tied to an edcamp, or credit offered to educators who attend, I cringe.
Please, Please, Please! Do NOT kill my passion!
Edcamps are FREE. Edcamps are Voluntary. And what you find at any edcamp you attend, are passionate educators who WANT to be there. Everyone may not have the same opinions, roles in the education system, or home state; but everyone has an unquenchable desire to learn, grow, and are motivated to be there by the same thing – the student!
Attaching credit, hours, or monies to attendance at edcamps taints the intent and motivation of those who attend. Some attendees may be forced by administration to be there, or are motivated extrinsically instead of intrinsically. It could also have the potential to alter the structure of edcamps. For instance, would there be a sign-in sheet at each session, a track designed for certain credits, follow-up homework to complete, or a signature required by an organizer to prove you were there? No longer would you be able to vote with your feet, attendance for each session would be tracked. When sanctions are added to edcamps, the once grass-roots movement shifts ownership of the learning from the educator to the credit-disperser.
“External rewards and punishments – both carrots and sticks – can work nicely for algorithmic tasks. But they can be devastating for heuristic ones.” (Daniel Pink, Drive).
Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, was one of my favorite reads last summer. I often refer back to his quotes and images when discussing motivation and reward systems. In one example, he describes an artist who finds it difficult to complete a contract, commissioned by a large business who wanted specific design elements, colors, and materials used in the piece. It was not because the artist lacked skill or time, in fact, her passion was squashed because of the money attached to it. It is the same reason I caution educators against grading genius hour projects or passion-based learning. I would hate to be the one that killed a student’s passion.
Edcamps are heuristic, not algorithmic, and just as Pink suggests in his book, rewarding or punishing an educator based on their attendance and learning at an Edcamp could lead to devastation, not only for the individual, but for the edcamp concept that drives 100s of educators each weekend to attend.
Please, don’t Kill my passion, I have EdcampIowa coming up and can’t wait to learn, share, and grow with passionate educators from around the state!