This past weekend I was able to participate in my second official Edcamp experience back home in Kansas City. The event took place at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which was a beautiful venue and the perfect place for the creative and innovative education minds to get together.

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Fellow teacher and I took a selfie, cuz why not

The first session I took part in was called “Wheel Decide” and we spent five minutes discussing various topics about differentiation in the classroom. I got a lot of good ideas for tools and websites that facilitate learning through student voice, student choice, tiered instruction, descriptive feedback, and formative assessments. It was nice that I had other language teachers in the room to give specific examples of how these tools apply in the classroom. Yet it was only good to hear ideas from other teachers on what they have tried and how it’s worked for them. Here are my notes from the session.

A cool idea that I have heard about before but really want to start using is Genius Hour, also known as 20% time. It means giving students time to research a topic of their choosing in class. It motivates students to connect with your connect in whatever way they choose with the requirement that at the end of the research there is some sort of presentation that informs the other students. It means students can demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways: some choose writing a paper, some make a drawing or visual, and some might create something. It sounds like an awesome idea and hearing from other teachers who have had success with it interested me in finding a use in my classroom. Here are some resources for getting started with Genius Hour.

The second session I attended was on best practices in the blended learning classroom. There are a lot of platforms that teachers can use, but utilizing them effectively has been tricky. It’s important for teachers and schools to cohesively integrate these platforms and design them with the student learning in mind. So we discussed some pros and cons of each of the platforms and some tips for improving their implementation in the classroom. I hopped around sessions at this point and also stepped in on a session about using Google Classroom and all the Google Apps.

The third session involved an interesting activity. The session, aptly titled “Rocks or Sucks”, asked the participants to think about educational issues and choose to stand on one side of the room or the other indicating they believed the topic rocked or sucked. You could also be a “mugwump” and stand in the middle. I got a lot out of hearing other teachers’ opinions about educational issues and it made me rethink some of my own beliefs. We talked about things such as homework, flipped classroom, teacher dress code, firewalls in school, and 1:1/BYOD. The cool part was just how engaged everyone was and how interesting the opinions were. I think it would function as a good PD activity during department meetings or other small group meetings back at my school.

For the final session, I again hopped around a few different rooms. The first was on making changes in schools, the second was about reforming grading practices, and the third was fixing teacher PD. I couldn’t make up my mind so I wanted to hear a little bit from every room. They all revolved around the topic of reform and looking at these archaic school practices in a new light. It’s always good to hear that there are innovative teachers out there who are pushing the boundaries of education and trying new things. It gives me ideas for how I want to change my own practices in the future.

In general, this is what Edcamp is all about. I had been to one such “unconference” before but I find these to be way better forms of professional development than the required ones I attend. All the teachers who come are passionate and engaged so the discussions are meaningful and there is a lot to takeaway. It’s so awesome to hear about new ideas, tools, and tips for becoming a better teacher. It’s definitely the best way to network and better yourself as a professional. So, I’m happy I gave up a Saturday to travel back home. And the best part: I enjoyed some amazing KC barbecue afterward.