Four years ago, a group of Philadelphia educators brought the “unconference” movement to education with a new model for professional development called EdCamp. Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) provides a more thorough overview for Edutopia.
Today I attended my first #edcamp meetup in Philadelphia. At first I was overwhelmed. I had only talked to many of these individuals on Twitter; what if they didn’t like the real-life me. Or worse, in real life, you are more accountable for your ideas. Would I be as bold to share my thoughts on education?
Experienced edcamp-er Lisa Butler (@srtalisa) welcomed me to the process, and I was captivated. I attended sessions and shared ideas with many awesome individuals. If you are bold, check out the #edcampPhilly hashtag and see our stream-of-conscious ideas from the day. I walked away with a gigantic take-away though.
Modern education is NOT about a sage dispensing information. Education has not really been about this since the widespread use of the printing press and increasing literacy rates. Rather, education is about the lowering of barriers; barriers to information, barriers to service, barriers to success, etc.
Angela Maiers (@angelamaiers) spoke about students connecting with real opportunities to help others in their communities and around the world with Quest2Matter. Let’s lower the barriers and allow students to follow their human desire to help one another. Teachers can then embed learning within these projects and promote inquiry-based, problem-based learning that is completely authentic and creates a closer global community.
Sean Junkins (@sjunkins) and Christine DiPaulo (@ckdipaulo) inspired educators to allow students to innovate using free materials on iTunesU to learn in subjects of their interest. iTunesU provides free content from top universities worldwide. Such access lowers barriers to learning. Students now have access universities of content online. As educators, we need to allow them this opportunity.
Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) and Kristen Swanson (@kristenswanson) led teachers to think about what a model professional development program might look like for educators. In short, professional development must model good teaching. Good teaching, using digital tools, allows students and teachers to connect to content and learning in unfathomable ways.
My day, the various sessions I attended, and the MANY conversations I shared helped me realize we live in a world with lowered barriers to knowledge. With these new connections followed by group action, change will happen more quickly than ever. I am excited about my profession, though teachers face many challenges. We stand on the precipice of fundamental change to the educational system. Learning and knowledge are no longer locked in institutions. These fundamentals of society are everywhere.
Let us, as teachers, lower the barriers to accessing this information. Let us lower the barriers to student success. Let us leverage our connectedness and technology to move the world.