Sunday, April 24, 2016

Terrific Learning and Collegiality at #EdcampWorcester

Worcester Academy was a beautiful, welcoming location for an edcamp.
Yesterday I attended EdcampWorcester. It's been a while since I've attended an edcamp, and after yesterday's terrific day, I've made a commitment to attend at least two edcamps a year as the learning and collegiality can't be beat. Attending an edcamp is a great way to inspire and bolster what you bring to the classroom each day.

EdcampWorcester had many terrific attributes. First of all the beautiful blend of old and new at the Worceser Academy campus made it a terrific location for an edcamp. While the buildings had the inspiring beauty and detail that a historic campus brings, the furniture, signs on the wall, edcamp model, and welcome from the edcamp leaders, Wendi Espinoza Cotta @edtech2innovat and Kevin Crowthers, were modern and timely for today's teaching and learning.

In addition, attending an edcamp is also a great way to meet members of your PLN in person. For example, Maureen Tumenas @bcdtech and I have been following each other for a long time, but we never had the chance to meet. Meeting Maureen made me realize that she's a true go-to person in the tech ed world as she has a wealth of knowledge with regard to teaching and terrific tech tools, many of which I capture in the tweets below. I also had the chance to talk with Rik Rowe who is the co-moderator of #edchatma, the Massachusetts Twitter chat that happens once a month. Recently Rik Rowe and his #edchatma co-moderator, David Hochhesier @davidhochheiser were kind enough to let me lead a chat about Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets. Jo Boaler joined us for the chat. Also, an edcamp is a good chance to get together with your education friends and relatives since it seems like there's never enough time to catch up. Yesterday my cousin, Christine Lucey, who is an educator and artist, also joined me at the event and that gave us some time to see each other and chare our interest in education and creativity.

Many notes from the day were tweeted out by me and others, and I made a Storify of those notes below to revist in the days to come.

Essentially, I had the following takeaways that I'll continue to consider and develop. A warm welcome and openness to new ideas is essential to learning well. Wendi, Kevin, and the Worcester Academy Academic Dean, Cindy Sabik, definitely translated that message early in the day with inspiring words, a wonderful breakfast, and an inviting location at the school for learning and share. That sense of community was further exemplified in the open, positive attitude displayed by the educators, students, and leaders who attended the event.

The first break out session I attended focused on math teaching and learning. In essence the notion that deeper, more engaging, collaborative, and hands-on math projects and practice is a good way to inspire terrific math learning and discussion. I learned about the professional math circles that meet regularly and may attend one of those events in the days to come. All the educators in the room want to deepen and make more relevant what they do with regard to math teaching and many tools, projects, structures, and routines were shared in this regard. I want to use this discussion as a catalyst for work I'll do this summer with regard to math learning design.

The next session centered on cultural competency. Several Worcester Academy students led the conversation. My big take away there was that we have to revisit how we begin the school year so that we make the time to truly welcome all students and families as well as to get to know them in purposeful, meaningful ways. Similar to the ideas at our recent faculty meeting, the idea of creating opportunity for more "casual conversation," sharing of favorite foods, and exchanging stories at the start of the year are ways that we can create a strong, respectful, and culturally competent community of teachers and learners.

As the day continued we discussed the many paths to teacher leadership including social media, professional events, the willingness to get involved in our schools and systems, blogging, and reaching out to the many, many opportunities that exist for collegiality and professional learning today. There was dismay during several discussions too about the challenges many teachers and students face today and the bureaucracies that sometimes distance us from what we need and can do for students. A call for greater teacher voice with regard to school wide decisions was also mentioned, and the question, "Do teachers have to be activists today?" discussed.

The inaugural EdcampWorcester was a generous event, one I'd like to return to next year, and one that the teaching community in and around Worcester should consider with regard to their professional learning to come. Thanks to Kevin and Wendi for all the time and care they put into this terrific event. I'll definitely pay it forward in the days to come.