This weekend there was Edcamp Houston but I had to miss it even though it was right down the road (about a 4 hour drive but in Texas that’s almost neighbors!).

As I was looking through the Twitter stream coming out of there I was envious of those in attendance but I was also hit by the fact that nearly every tweet coming out was about some app that was being shared or some software or hardware that teachers were using in their classrooms.

Now I’ve been to a few edcamps, I’ve presented at edcamps, and I’ve hosted an edcamp. I’m also going to be attending Edcamp Waller at the end of this month. So I feel like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to having an opinion on these things. And what I see is that there are too many presentations at edcamps based upon the use of technology.

Many of you reading this might disagree. And many of you who have hosted or are about to host an edcamp might feel that the only way to ensure large numbers of participants is to guarantee that there will be some fun tech experiences to be had by attending. But I’m not saying that there can’t be a large number of presentations based upon technology. What I am saying is that hosts need to encourage more people to present on meaningful topics in education.

We need to have discussions and conversations about all things education. We need to have people with opinions and points of view about interesting topics that spur others, in attendance, to agree or argue or just think. Edcamps need to be more like Educon Philly or the upcoming NOVANOW in Michigan.  Those conferences are all about conversations. Presenters are not standing in front of their audience delivering a message for an hour. They are presenting ideas or concepts where the audience takes ownership of where the conversation heads from there.

It’s time for educators to think outside of their classrooms. As I tweeted this weekend we need to have meat and not just dessert at these edcamps. Finding a cool new app to use in your classroom is fun. Sharing apps or links in a smackdown is fun. Discussing how to keep students engaged in the classroom is a bit more dry but, I would say, incredibly more important. Maybe using that new app will help with the engagement. But are there low-tech alternatives to bells and whistles?

Encourage your fellow teachers to attend edcamps.  Encourage your curriculum leaders in your district to provide professional development in an edcamp-style setting.  But also encourage teachers who are really good at what they do to present their secrets. Encourage teachers to discuss issues your school or district is facing. And encourage discussions on topics that are in the news about the education profession. Edcamps can, and should, be education camps first and barcamps second.

8 Responses

  1. Hi Chris, What was tweeted was only a smidgen of what was learned…I sat in 3 sessions not about apps or technology and they were great: 1. Project based learning 2. Personalized learning 3. Self-directed learning. If you look at our schedule, there were many more sessions like this and not just about technology. Here is the schedule: Ideas are little harder to tweet than apps and I think that sometimes they don't get as much voice in the twitter feed. Although, there are some there in the hashtag. I agree with what you said generally, except for generalizing that the #edcampHouston did not discuss education. I hope you will get a chance to look at the topics and tweets again and see what I mean. =) See you at #EdcampWaller.

  2. Thank you for the comment and, as a blogger, I often don't know what people will take away when they read what I write. I definitely was NOT trying to say that there was anything wrong with the way this edcamp was handled. I was just saying that, with every edcamp, we see all of the stuff being presented that is tech related and we don't always know what else there is at the camp. I know that I've always presented on PBL at edcamps and I know there are great things being presented but if you were thinking about going to your first edcamp you might think it's all about the tech and not education. Thank you, again, for your comment and I hope others who read the post the way you did get to see our exchange here in the comments.

  3. Hey Chris, thanks for your thoughts. I too, agree that Edcamps should be about best practice. If technology is a part of those best practices, great. If not, that's great too! We need the conversations to focus on learning. Every year, we see more and more deep conversations popping up at Edcamp Philly. I'm always amazed by the expertise in the room. It's about LEARNING, not tools. 😉

    1. It really is neat to see where things have gone since the first Edcamp Philly. I love the fact that school districts are having PD's in an edcamp style and that more and more small towns are hosting these. Now to emphasize the learning more. Thank you for the comment.

  4. Hi Chris,

    You make some important points in this post and in your follow up comments. We were concerned about this as we started planning EdCamp Houston and we specifically tried to market it as an unconference open to everyone (educators AND parents and students — and we did have some parents and students in attendance) and an unconference where the focus would be on learning about learning. We emphasized that the conference was NOT exclusively about technology. In fact, more than once I had one-on-one discussions with people to explain that any topic was "on the table" to be included in the sessions and that edcamp was NOT an edtech conference.

    We were very happy to see that people did propose sessions on non-technology topics. Perhaps the issue is really about what gets tweeted out vs. what really gets discussed. As Dorie stated, it is much easier to tweet links to apps and online resources than it is to summarize a deeper discussion around big or complex ideas into 140 characters. Not everyone who was in attendance was using Twitter and during those deeper conversations around non-technology topics I don't think many of us were all too concerned with posting sound bites on Twitter. Again, that's more of an issue of the use of a medium rather than the quality of the conversations or session topics. I will readily admit that I found it easier to tweet and RT about apps or online resources and did not send out nearly enough tweets in the sessions where I was more engaged with deeper conversations. That was perhaps selfish on my part — I was engaged in the moment and not as concerned with sharing via Twitter.

    I don't think any of us think that you are criticizing our event or how we handled it, but you do bring up an important issue that all edcamp organizers and edcamp attendees should consider regarding the perspective of "virtual attendees" who are only getting a small "bite" of everything that was discussed and shared during the day.

  5. Thanks for the insight and perspective in your comment Stephanie. As always you present your thoughts well. See you in Waller?

  6. At edcamp Philly we try very much to have education oriented sessions and each year we get more new faces. The tech might be what attracts folks, but it is the meat (meaningful conversations) that keeps them coming. Lots of cool things happen at edcamps that just fly under the radar. At edcampNYC, @meenoorami and I skipped the first session and sat and planned a unit together. We don't teach at the same school, but we had a great time sharing ideas and planning together. Edcamps allow the freedom and space for just about anything to happen. Hopefully edcamp will continue to grow and the technology will be just a sidebar…

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