Last Saturday I attended the first Edcamp Okanagan at Dr. Knox Middle School in Kelowna. I want to start by thanking the organizing committee – Naryn Searcy and Carolyn Durley for the inspiration and Claire Thompson for all of her work leading up to the event. It was a great team and I know we were really pleased with how things went.
EdcampOk was my third Edcamp experience and it was very different from the others. While Carolyn, Naryn, Claire and myself came together through Social Media, many attendees only had a passing interest in it. Many are not (or were not) connected at all, so as a result the back-channel may not have been as rich as other Edcamps. That said, the conversations were amazing. In fact, since I was tweeting less and listening more I think the conversations were richer. There is space for both types of communication, but perhaps I have not been able to strike the balance before.
The first session I attended was facilitated by Paul Kelly. He is a principal in Kelowna and his school has gone 1:1 with Chromebrooks. I really appreciated Paul’s candor. They are seeing some great success with the program. Overall, they are working more efficiently and saving money – both great things! Paul has chronicled his journey on his blog. Check it out here. I always walk away inspired when people are out there taking risks and doing things differently. When people like Paul dive in head first with a Growth Mindset great things can happen.
The second session I attended was Graham Johnson’s session on Genius Hour. Graham talked about his experience with his AP calculus kids and recently presented to the entire OK Mission staff – the idea really seems to be taking hold there. Ian Landy talked about how it is sacred time in his Grade 5 class. He takes an hour every week and works on projects and when they miss a day due to holiday, his kids always negotiate it somewhere during the week. Ultimately, the discussion came around to assessment. People agreed how difficult it was to assess, and I posed the question if it really needs to be assessed at all. We threw the idea around it and it created quite a discussion on Twitter. Ultimately many felt that any evaluative statements from adults defeated the purpose. Genius hour is about the process of learning about something you are passionate about. The process should trump any need for summative assessment.
Finally, I facilitated a discussion about Dr. Ross Greeene’s work on Collaborative Problem Solving. I shared some of the work we have done and was really thankful for the insight from Pat Porbuda and Nicky Skinner. Pat has e been working on CPS at her school in Enderby for a couple of years and having some real success. While everyone agreed with the philosophy and believed in the CPS process, we all struggled with the implementation. Like anything, time and resources are always at a premium, so thinking how we can creatively use the resources we have is critical. One of the participants, whose name I didn’t get, noted that our system is geared towards late intervention. Most counselors and support teachers are at the High (and to a lesser degree Middle) school levels. She wondered why resources were not being re-allocated for early intervention when research shows the impact is larger – a worthy question indeed. After much discussion, the general thought was that allocation is the way it is because that is the way we have always done it. Nobody has really challenged it before. That coupled with the fact funding is based on a deficit mode in BC make it difficult to implement change. Definitely food for thought.
We finished with fun session called “What Sucks?” facilitated by Graham and Carolyn. It was a fun way to end the day where the moderators would pose a question and we had to put ourselves on the sucks to doesn’t suck continuum and justify our responses.
I walked away from the day reminded why the Edcamp experience is so valuable. It’s the epitome of differentiated Pro D. It is learning that meets you right where you are. It’s like Genius Hour for educators.
Thanks to all those who came out and/or contributed to the conversation via social media.