On Saturday, I attended EdCamp MetroDC‘s unconference at Bullis School. It was a day of firsts for me– first edcamp and first unconference. An unconference is a participant-driven meeting designed to stimulate and maximize innovative and creative thinking. At edcamp MetroDC , the session topics were developed while we enjoyed breakfast, and then lead by experienced educator participants.
I participated in three sessions: Chromebook Palooza, Five Minute Film School and Makerspaces. I selected these sessions because they directly connect to my work and interests as a school librarian, but also, because they explore the direction my school is heading in the not so distant future.
As my school contemplates adding chromebooks to our learning environment, I was particularly excited to hear how colleagues at other institutions and across grade levels are using them. A few months ago, I was given a chromebook by my tech department to begin exploring its functionality. I wasn’t impressed with it. As someone who is comfortable with technology and adapts pretty quickly, I didn’t find it intuitive enough for how I learn. My workflow wasn’t enhanced by the speed and cloud connection it boasts. However, after hearing colleagues in this session sing the chromebook’s praises and talk about the Sheridan School as a model of an all virtual environment, I’m willing to reconsider my position with greater use.
Five Minute Film School (activity)
The five minute video activity was a fun exercise in which we used iMovie to produce, WedCamp: A Romance. The entire experience was eye-opening, as my grade 4 students are currently using iMovie to produce book trailers. I envisioned them creating these trailers in three class sessions, but it has taken an inordinate amount of time for them to complete them. However, they are coming along. This session helped me to re-conceptualize this project, everything from how student partnering to the editing process. I’m super excited to introduce this project to next year’s class.
The maker movement is one I’ve long wanted to explore. Recently, my colleagues and I visited three awesome independent schools, each with a different take on makerspaces. One school was completely high tech with everything from a laser cutter to 3D printing capabilities. One school was no tech, focusing on more art-based creation. The final school was a hybrid of the two. The range for what makerspaces can be is both exciting and daunting. It’s hard to know which way to go when developing a makerspace in your school. Do you go all in with a high tech space; or do you start small with art-based supplies? The major takeaway from this session was that it’s important to first develop a culture of creation at your school before starting. It’s also important to have a team of thinkers across the school contributing to its development. A gathering of staff from art, science, math, technology and library seems like a natural starting place.
The afternoon ended with a Smackdown session where participants shared the favorite resources. This was definitely a highlight of the day. While I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and activity of the previous sessions, I also love recommendations for tools that promote creativity and enhance teachings and learning. I was familiar with several of the tools suggested such as Animoto and Zaption, but I added a few new ones to my toolbox, such as CueThink and Kahoot.
EdCamp was such a rewarding experience. At my previous school, a director once recounted feeling like her brain was on fire after a particularly good professional development session with teachers. I always thought that phrase was a brilliant way to describe the energy and feeling that arose from that session. I can definitely say that I left EdCamp feeling like my brain was on fire. The few hours I spent with an amazing group of devoted educators made me question everything I’ve done this year and everything I was planning to do next year. It was a major reset in my thinking, that has me focusing more on collaboration and the role I play as a teaching librarian.
I’m glad my colleague, Jonathan Fichter shared the EdCamp Metro DC information. As a newbie to DC and independent schools, settling into the education landscape here has been a bit of a challenge. So, spending a Saturday connecting with other educators who push the boundaries of technology and collaboration was a much needed experience. I look forward to reconnecting with those educators and meeting new ones at EdCamp Level Up on May 30. Register here.
Notes for all sessions, including the Smackdown can be found here.