unpacking #edcampnyc, lifelong learning, and staying relevant


(photo by SpecialKRB)

EdCampNYC was a great day of learning, unlearning, and relearning, as over 150 educators came together to participate in an unconference dedicated to K-12 education. The peek at our session board above shows the full slate on December 4, 2010 — at any given session time, there were 10 sessions going on, and with four workshop sessions that meant a total of 40 amazing sessions led by educators really pushing the limits of what is possible in all of our classrooms and engaging in discussion that still provides a lot of food for thought. There’s such power in that: a free conference with so many offerings that you were bound to find something of interest to you. When was the last time you were at a conference with that much to offer?

As an EdCampNYC organizer, I didn’t really have much of a chance to participate in any sessions, as there was a lot of herding, double-checking, and general helpfulness that needed to be done, but it was so great to be a part of the very obvious energy of the day. A Saturday in a very cold December brought together people from across the country and even someone as far as Canada — not too bad for an organizing team that never met as a whole group until the morning of the event. It was very humbling, rewarding, and inspiring to be a part of the team that put this on. Yay, us!


(photo by astoeckel) 

What I’m struck by is the amount of continuous and readily-available professional development that is available. And this isn’t just about using Twitter to form a Personal Learning Network (not that that isn’t valuable — I’d be professionally lost without mine) — I’m talking about real, face-to-face, anything goes information sharing. The EdCamp movement is just one of several conferences where everyone could be the expert and everyone has something to share. Most of my unconference experience is with the (paid and much more organized) NEIT conference, but there is also ntcamp, BarCamp, other conferences such as TSETC, Educon, TEDx events, and who knows what else coming down the road. We all have so much to learn and share with each other, and we all should be part of a larger discussion around our daily practice. Even the experts have something to learn, or at least should be taking the time to educate others so that we all go a little farther and push the limits of what is possible.

Good teachers should encourage their students to be lifelong learners, and this was the perfect opportunity to take part in a very powerful learning opportunity. However, I wasn’t the only organizer lamenting the fact that not everyone from their school who signed up to attend wasn’t there, and we “sold out” of our 300 tickets but still only had about half those tickets represented in the day. It was a missed opportunity for those that didn’t or couldn’t make it, a real chance to learn something new or help someone else work through an idea.

I recently heard about someone coming back from a very traditionally-run conference saying that their school was way beyond others in meeting 21st century needs. This bugged me because it sounded like someone resting on their laurels. Even the best of us surely recognize that there is always work to do, always someone to teach (whether a student, colleague, or a Twitter follower), always something to learn. We should be talking the talk AND walking the walk all the time.

There is always more to do. For me, TEDxNYED is next on the list, but we all have our things to do and parts to play. We have to keep moving, keep thinking, keep doing. We’ll all be better for it.