October 2018

Edcamp Tampa Bay

5 Ways to Be Intentional in the Design of Your Edcamp

By Dr. Jennifer Williams, Edcamp Tampa Bay Organizer, @JenWilliamsEdu

“How might we create an Edcamp experience that best meets the needs of all of our attendees?”  With a goal of providing an equitable, accessible, and enjoyable experience for our Edcampers, this is a question we start our planning meetings with each year in the design of Edcamp Tampa Bay! And, as we went into our 4th annual Edcamp Tampa Bay event, we knew we wanted this year to be a great one! Here are five ways we set out to be intentional in our Edcamp design:

1. Intentional in the design of the space. For each Edcamper, the Edcamp experience begins the moment he or she first walks into event. With this in mind, we always look at the entire Edcamper journey from start to finish. Here is how we do that:

  • Email over maps of school and detailed description of parking recommendations
  • Have a happy greeter (wearing Edcamp shirt) at each of the entrances to welcome Edcampers as they arrive and to describe the plans for the first hour
  • Move the registration table to the center of the room (registration tables at the front door cause lines and long wait times; see idea #4 for more on our registration table set-up)
  • Use a mix of rows of chairs, gathered and grouped chairs, tables and chairs, and standing tables to allow for flexibility in seating and socializing
  • Aim to have chairs in the individual session rooms organized in circles to avoid having a “front of the room” that would possibly invite a presentation-style format.

2. Intentional in the design of the schedule. Recognizing that teacher self-care is just as important and as valuable as teacher-PD, we at Edcamp Tampa Bay always seek out ways we can make best use of educators’ days and also be respectful of their time. Last year, we moved from a full day (8-4) to an abbreviated day schedule (8-1). By removing lunch, the app smackdown, and the whole-group announcements of raffle prizes, we were able to place focus directly on the learning, sharing, and networking:

  • Build sessions to be 45 minutes in length to keep conversations moving and focused on action
  • Design day to have a RECHARGE! time in the middle of the session blocks
  • RECHARGE! with popcorn bar (all flavor--yum!), infused water, KIND bars, and fruit (food to POWER ideas)
  • Stay to the schedule!
  • End the event with an outdoor groupie to get everyone together and leaving on an energized high note.

3. Intentional in organization of the session board. With 100s of attendees each year at Edcamp Tampa Bay, we always try to be mindful of the different backgrounds, roles, and professional goals of each of the educators joining us for the day. And, really if an Edcamp has five attendees or 500, it seems as if the same would apply! In aiming for diversity, equity, and accessibility above all else with and for our attendees, we look to do the same with our session board:

  • Use two colors of sticky notes to represent what attendees want to learn and want to share
  • Aim to keep session topics learner-centric (more about students, teachers, learning; less about tools, companies, products)
  • Ensure all groups are represented in topics (e.g. if Literacy Practices in the Elementary Classroom topic is added, put up Literacy Practices in Middle and Upper Grades during same time block
  • Create only the morning session topics and then invite Edcampers to come back midday to create the afternoon session topics
  • Carefully consider your “board-builders” and have thoughtful conversations prior to the Edcamp on the hows, whats, and whys of board building (remember: the conversations and the learning that will occur will be heavily based on the schedule board)
  • Add session titles to the (1) digital schedule, (2) collaborative online notes documents, and (3) posted room signs (this helps encourage Rule of Two Feet and with movement between sessions)
  • Add up sessions to the board that could serve as get-to-know-you (e.g. Twitter, PLN, and social networking) in the early part of the day, and save sessions that may require more intense focus and dialogue (e.g. social justice and diversity, restorative practices, teacher self-care) for the afternoon when attendees may be more comfortable with the format and with each other.

4. Intentional in use (and, “NON-use”) of technology. Early on with Edcamp Tampa Bay, we recognized that for as many people we had joining that were interested and comfortable with technology, we had just as many that were not as interested and/or not as comfortable. Each year we have worked to ensure that all feel at ease and are able to access and share information in a way that works for them. Here are some ways we intentionally incorporate tech and non-tech practices:

  • “Hashtag”--a lot! In order to curate the experience for attendees and for those joining in virtually (again, thinking on access), we use our #EdcampTB hashtag anywhere and everywhere we can: Twitter, Instagram, Selfies!
  • Analog registration! Year 1, we used iPads for registration at the door. We soon realized that this caused undo stress for some right from the start. Now, we print off the list of registered Edcampers from Eventbrite, place papers in alphabetical order on a ROUND table (round table is key) in the center of the gym. Then, we leave highlighters and pens with a sign: “Find and highlight your name or add your name to the list.”
  • Use Remind (1) to share announcements and reminders leading up to the Edcamp day, (2) to message during the day that sessions are ending (3 minute warning--everyone starts dinging), and (3) to announce individuals that have had names drawn to win a prize (we list names in the Remind message, share during morning session, and then have the prizes with sticky notes on the stage to pick up during RECHARGE! time)
  • Analog + digital session board, collaborative notes and tiny URL printed and posted everywhere!

5. Intentional in including other Edcamps (local and global!). In Florida, we now have LOTS of great Edcamps all across our state! We make sure to showcase and celebrate them often and intentionally. Here are some special moments on how we aimed to make our Edcamp about more than just our Edcamp:

  • Give other Edcamp organizers an opportunity to speak and share on locations and dates of their Edcamps (we do this during the RECHARGE! time)
  • Add an editable calendar to the shared document and invite organizers to share the dates, locations, websites, hashtags, and registration links to their Edcamps
  • Go global! We loved videoconferencing in the lead organizer of Edcamp Nigeria (1st Edcamp in Nigeria coming this December) to give a view into an Edcamp in action since there is not one there locally
  • Package up remaining swag and unclaimed raffle prizes for the next state Edcamp team to take (Edcamp Flagler whoop whoop!).
  • Head out after for a post-Edcamp organizers meetup!

For more information on Edcamp Tampa Bay, please follow us on Twitter or visit our website! We’d love to have you join in in-person or virtually next for our 5th annual #EdcampTB on October 5, 2019!

EdcampOES

Professional Learning should be an experience and a meeting of the minds. My role as Professional Learning Facilitator (PLF) at Oakley Elementary School, in Fulton County, GA is one that allows me to design and implement innovative ways to deliver high quality professional learning. In my quest to look for something different, a unique way to offer teachers input on self-identified professional learning and needs led me to the Edcamp format. I’ve heard of Edcamps and have even been invited to a few, but had never thought about how this experience could be impactful on a smaller scale at my school. After further research and approval, #EdcampOES was designed with teachers in mind, to deliver professional learning with a purpose!

The field of education is ever changing and finding new and exciting ways for teachers to stay current on trends and best practices is and can be a daunting task. This is even more evident when teachers don’t get to have a say in what they want or need. Students are often given choice and voice in the classroom, but this best practice is not often transferred outside of the classroom with professional learning. Why is this? Why can’t professional learning be differentiated, purposeful, and personalized as well? Well at Oakley, we are daring to do things differently in hopes to get better buy-in and to create opportunities for colleagues to have a safe space to learn and lead each other.

Our first mini Edcamp was kicked off on October 9, 2018. During grade level meetings, I met with teachers to introduce the concept and virtual session board (www.bit.ly/EdcampOES) to gather their interests and expertise. The virtual session board serves as a central hub for resources that will continue to build as sessions are presented. Once input was added to the session board, I started the vetting process to see which sessions could be created. I also searched for teacher-facilitators in the building that would not mind sharing with their fellow colleagues. Four sessions were created, two workshop sessions (Google Classroom and Tech Integration in the Classroom) and two collaborative conversation sessions (Differentiated Instruction & Classroom Management). During the workshop sessions, teachers came ready to dive in with the implementation of a learning management system and tech tools that they could easily access to introduce, deliver, or assess content. During the collaborative conversation sessions, teachers from various grade levels shared best practices in their classrooms along with a few common misconceptions and pitfalls to be mindful of during implementation.

At the end of the sessions, teachers completed a survey to give feedback, glows, and grows that will be used to tailor future Edcamps. Our mini Edcamps are offered monthly and serve as an opportunity for vertical teaming, planning, and implementation of what matters most to the people on the front line because WE ARE ON THE RISE! We are looking forward to growing and sharing as we use this platform to deliver professional learning with a purpose!

Nefertiti Singleton, Ed.S. is a Project Based Learning Lab Teacher (K-5) and Professional Learning Facilitator in the Fulton County School District in Union City, Georgia. 
PLCs: Good for kids?

As educators, we must ask ourselves, “Is this good for kids?”

Envision two scenarios:

1. Teachers work in isolation. Team members value a variety of pedagogical beliefs, resulting in varied instructional practices yielding different levels of student achievement. Defensive mentalities prevail, and ownership over their students takes precedence over the 100% of the student body in the grade level.

2. Teachers work as a team. Team members decide what pedagogical practices and methods of instruction are most pertinent for reaching all learners in the grade, yielding higher levels of student achievement. A supportive team culture exists, each teacher taking pride in accelerating student growth across the grade level.

The latter is referred to as a professional learning community, or PLC. Teachers in highly achieving schools would agree that their success could be attributed to their collaborative work environment. The PLC is not a new educational trend, but an effective academic practice that now has a name. PLCs are simple in theory, but difficult in application. One cannot simply “Do” a PLC. It must be a living, breathing culture that permeates through every decision of a teaching team. It is an educator’s way of life that must be embraced.

In today’s educational arena, there is certainly no shortage of data. How educators USE that data, however, is key. An integral component of a PLC is using common assessments. As a 6th grade team at Shaw Avenue School in Valley Stream, NY, we create common assessments to track student growth and reteach whatever concepts – whenever intervention is necessary– for whoever is in need.

With this supportive, flexible, collaborative and focused team mentality, we’ve transformed our approach and practices to better meet the needs of our diverse community of learners, as evidenced through the manifestation of very tangible and engaging learning experiences. An example of this is our implementation of STEAM Challenge Wednesday, an interdisciplinary event that highlights the areas of interests and needs of our collective student body.

The goal of a PLC is to increase student achievement and our STEAM Challenge Wednesday is no different. Identifying areas of student need and recognizing team member strengths by analyzing common assessment data, we adapt our instruction to create tailored learning pathways to reach every student with the ultimate goal to provide them with a better understanding of science, technology, engineering, art, and math disciplines. This is achieved through the means of rigorous and collaborative cross-disciplinary challenges that warrant a high degree of critical thinking and problem solving.

Ask yourself: Does my team backwards plan together by asking, “What do we want our learners to know by the end of this instruction?” If yes, you may be operating in a PLC. Through collaboration and communication, PLCs can increase student achievement as evidenced by comparative common assessment data, like at Shaw Avenue.

It’s one thing to learn about PLCs, but an entirely different entity when you LIVE in a PLC. Remember, if its good for kids, you’re doing something right!

 

Andrew J. Canle is a 6th Grade General Education Classroom Teacher and AIS Academy Instructional Coach at District 30’s Shaw Avenue School in Valley Stream, N.Y. Andrew’s Shaw Avenue Mathletes are the current two-time defending New York City NBA Math Hoops Champions, and he is a Learn Fresh All-Star Educator currently serving on the Learn Fresh Organization’s Advisory Board. Andrew graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Elementary Education for grades 1 through 6. Currently, Andrew is completing a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from the College of St. Rose. Twitter handle: @AJCanle
No More Silent Hero: How to Find Your Voice to Affect Educational Change

Many educators chose this profession to impact the future through children. Teachers learn early on that they are expected to do much more than teach curriculum; they are expected to go above and beyond to affect positive change in the lives of parents, students and the surrounding community. However, sometimes it is difficult for educators to know how to affect change outside of the classroom and develop their voice as professionals. Here are four tips to help you get started finding your voice as an educational leader.

  • Join social media and grow your PLN. Social media is no longer only used for sharing pictures. It is now one of the hottest ways to stay current in education. Even if you do not use them socially, you can use them professionally. It opens you up to information and people you never had access to before. Those connections you make on social media can add to your professional learning network. Start collaborating with these people to build your super pack of educators that will always be in your corner. You will quickly see the value of learning through social media.

 

  • Question yourself. Start the process by asking yourself what is really important to you and where you want to be in 5 years. As educators, of course we care about every aspect of our careers; however, what is your passion? Find it and concentrate your energy towards it. Also, ask yourself where you want to be in 5 years. This will give your career some focus and yourself a goal to attain. Even if you love what you currently do and want to be in the same position in 5 years, how do you want to grow in that position in 5 years?

 

  • Start sharing. Remember, you are doing these steps to find YOUR voice. So start sharing all of the awesome things you do and all of the amazing ideas you have! You may think everyone does what you do and everyone knows what you know, but you are wrong! Only you think of things the way you do and we need your perspective! You never know who you can help and inspire by simply sharing with others.

 

  • Start creating. Eventually, you will feel the itch to start creating things yourself. Whether it be a Twitter chat, a Facebook group, an after school program, a parent mentoring program, offering training, starting a blog, sharing your resources and materials or anything else, you will want to start creating opportunities for yourself while you are participating in opportunities created by others.

So, think big and start small. Once you begin to find your voice, you will notice more and more opportunities to use it to affect positive change in education. You will feel empowered toadvocate on behalf of yourself and for those who have yet to find their voice. You will then be an educational leader. We need you. We want you. So get started finding your voice!

Desiree Alexander, Ed.S. is an award-winning, multi-degreed educator who has been in the educational field since 2002. She is currently the Founder CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC, the Regional Director of North Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, and the host of EdCamp nLA. She consults with members of several schools/businesses and presents at conferences nationwide. Learn more at www.educatoralexander.com.
The Unexpected Leader

A second-grade girl at a new school is pulled out weekly from her class to work on learning to read. She’s mostly friendless with little confidence from countless years of being bullied on the bus and the playground; she hides from the spotlight and anything that will make her appear different from her peers.

A few years later, the same little girl is diagnosed with a learning disability. She tells her mother, “I thought I was stupid.” Though no formal plans are put in place, this little girl starts to emerge from her shell as she learns how to adapt to her learning style. Despite being told she could never play an instrument due to her disability, she joins the marching band as she starts to expand her horizons while growing her confidence.

Great leaders usually do not start off with a plan to become great. Like a piece of coal, a leader is put under pressure and either crumbles or rises from the ashes as a diamond.

In both my personal and professional journeys, I have been this once shy and little girl.

I never intended to rise as a leader, however, I did. The pressures I have endured have molded me into the leader I am today. During the last four years, my administrative leaders, as well as other teacher leaders and my Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN), have grown and challenged me to become the best version of myself as a person and as an educator. I have been encouraged and have been afforded many extensive learning experiences to be able to bring those concepts and practices back to my own classroom. Though I may not have a leadership title, I have faced the pressure and arisen as a leader. I may not be a department or committee chair or have an administrative title, but I still lead from my classroom.

As a leader, practicing what you preach is vital. If I say something is a worthwhile endeavor, you can be sure I am going to back that up with my practices with my own students. I’ve also learned that sometimes the loudest voice is the one that does not speak. Refraining from gossip and negative, unproductive discussions is a daily challenge, but staying positive to lift others up is what keeps me motivated. Showing appreciation to those on your team shows that you care which then builds trust.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, becoming a great leader involves networking with other educators to advocate for educators and our profession. Growing my Twitter PLN has been a key component for me in this aspect since I do not live in a largely populated area. Getting involved with local, state, or national teacher association, contacting government officials, or connecting with educators at conferences can all be ways to discuss current events and hot topics in the education world.. Then, it is taking those conversations and turning them into action.

These are all traits and habits I have learned from other fellow educational leaders. These leaders inspire me and challenge me so that I continue to grow as an educator and person. Though there are sure to be many high pressured situations I will face, this little girl has her heart set on shining bright like a diamond.

Whitney Choate is currently in her eighth year as a secondary special education teacher and is also an instructional technology specialist at Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Learning and Behavioral Disorders and a Master’s degree in Autism. Whitney hopes one day to be a full-time instructional coach and earn her doctorate in education. Twitter: @ChoateNotes

 

Gates Foundation Continues to Fund Edcamp

We are grateful to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding our mission to build and support communities of empowered educators. 

The Edcamp Foundation was founded in 2013 and established an office in 2014 to create a central hub and organizational platform for this grassroots movement of independently-organized Edcamps. Funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2015 enabled us to build internal capacity and increase the reach of our programs. We have grown from a staff of one to a team of five full-time employees. We have created a scalable model by establishing best practices for our volunteers, automating our internal workflows, and investing in new tools for tracking, supporting, and promoting Edcamps. We have built a support system for our community and expanded the movement into new areas. We provide resources to organizers and participants around the country (including our signature Edcamp-in-a-Box resource kit and our Impact Grants program); establish best practices to ensure the quality and impact of events; strengthen the community of participating teachers beyond events; and work strategically to bring Edcamps to teachers who could benefit most through programs like our District Initiative.

As the movement continues to grow, we struggle to meet the exanding needs of the community. We are at a critical moment in our development; we need additional funding. 

If you support the movement and want the Edcamp Foundation to continue to provide resources to educators, you can help by doing the following:

  • Donate Now.
  • Spread the word! Ask your friends to support the Edcamp Foundation. 
  • Forward potential sponsor and corporate donor information to hadley@edcamp.org.
  • Contact us to become a sponsor.