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Edcamp Malden

October 18, 2014

I suppose going to your first edcamp is like your first kiss.  While spending the morning talking pedagogy wasn’t nearly as exciting, it was no doubt memorable!

I drove into Boston this morning for the first Edcamp Malden.   Earlier in the week, I had doubts because the featured topic was ELL, but Abbey Dick (@abbeydick), the organizer, assured me that there would be plenty of topics to interest me.   I got there, registered, and grabbed a seat.  Almost immediately, I dove into a discussion with two ELL teachers about what teaching in the Malden School district was like.  Having to meet the needs of students speaking more than 50 languages was staggering, but the lively discussion showed just how much there was to learn.

After an introduction and explanation of how edcamps work, we went into the hallway and created our offerings for the day.  I am currently launching Genius Hour in my classroom, and I added that topic to the board hoping to learn something.  Other teachers posted a few topics having to do with English Language Instruction, but there were more than 20 topics including Google classroom, adult education, teaching science, how to make good calls home, an introduction to Twitter, and project based learning.

I made the decision to head to Genius Hour for the first session.  I walked in hoping to learn from a group of people who had done it before, and before I knew it, I was contributing a lot to the discussion. Right off the bat, I was impressed by the interest shown by the teachers in the room.  It was unlike other professional development sessions where people were checking their email or knitting; every educator was engaged in the discussion, and there was a lot of excitement in the air.  Speaking of excitement, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to discuss a passion of mine, and as a result, I learned a tremendous amount.  It was proof of the Genius Hour concept:  Let people learn about something they are interested in, and there are no limits.  At the end of the session, I shared my twitter and email address with several of the teachers either offering to share what was happening in my class or asking to contact them for advice.  On my way out the door, I got into an engrossing discussion about teaching with a kind woman named Susan and ended up being late for the second session because I was so enthralled with what we were talking about.

For the second session, I chose to go to the class on Standards Based Grading.  I walked into a room of about a dozen educators of various ages already involved in a discussion of the merits of doing away with typical grades and moving towards a program that focused on determining what the kids could do.  The discussion was like a twitter chat, but it was better because it was in person, and you could ask follow up questions.  I became so engrossed in the dialogue that I forgot all about taking notes and just got caught up in the learning.  At the end of the session, I went up to one of the participants, and we started a conversation.  It turned out that he had sent a few tweets to me about #edchatma, and I was blown away to actually meet someone from Twitter.  What a small world!

Lunch was a blur.  By this point in the day, my head was absolutely spinning.  I had gotten so excited by the scintillating conversation that I became overwhelmed with all the knowledge and ramifications of what I was learning.  It was incredible and almost too much at the same time, but there was something incredibly exciting and almost entrancing about being about to converse with people who are just as passionate about teaching, perhaps even more so, than you.  After grabbing a few slices of pizza, we sat around discussing topics from the power of positive calls home to the need to be able to connect with students in order to let them know we care.  It was incredibly empowering and enjoyable to share lunch with Rik (@WHSRowe), Lena (Dr_LMR), Susan, and David (@DavidHochheiser) because I felt they were even more passionate and knowledgeable than myself.

My final session was on the benefits of Google Classroom, and it was great to hear how Malden was using Classroom to support their new Chromebooks.  The leader of the session, Natalia (@NatsBrennan) had piloted the program and blew me away with her knowledge.  What she didn’t know (and it wasn’t much), others were able to fill in.  I was impressed by the fact that one of Malden High School’s principals came to the session, and it was great to hear an administrator’s point of view as well as his support for the program.  Again, I was delighted to be able to ask questions that helped me get a better understanding of how to use Google Classroom, and unlike other PD, everything said was in some way useful and relevant.

At the end of the day, we all gathered for a debrief.  They had a raffle, and I was amazed by the number of educators who were still there to claim their prizes.  If you think about normal PD, there are usually administrators guarding the doors.  Not here.  Not at a place where people choose to be.  These people were already drinking the kool aid when they walked in the door, and I got the feeling that many were like me, they were a little bummed about the fact that the day had come to an end.

At many of the schools where I have taught, I’ve tended to be an outlier, in that my passion for pedagogy, which had fueled this blog, was not something matched by the majority of the others (I’m not saying I’m better.  I just LOVE talking shop).  However, at Edcamp Malden, I was among friends, who were just as excited as I was to talk shop and to share what they knew.  I felt like a kid in a candy store, and while it wasn’t as exciting as my first kiss, it was similar in that I wished it had lasted longer.  Before leaving, I signed up for the next Edcamp in Boston, coming up in November.  I can’t wait.  Until then, I am looking forward to learning with the amazing educators I had the pleasure of meeting today.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    Wonderful post, DQ! So glad you enjoyed the day.

  2. So bummed I missed this EdCamp…especially since I would have seen you, DQ, there! Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you and the fam are doing well.

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