Empowering Educators in Professional Learning with School #Edcamps

Thursday, February 23, 20175:42 PM



Too often, professional development is something that happens to teachers. It’s rarer that it’s really something for teacher or by teachers.

Next week, my school will be hosting its second building edcamp-style conference, with the goal of empowering educators to take control of their professional learning. We will be hosting over thirty professional conversations and sessions, facilitated by and for Ossining educators. We’ve embraced the edcamp and edtech conference culture fully with choice, food, prizes, and opportunities to connect and grow.

If you’re reading this post, or any of my posts, this model of professional learning probably isn’t new to you. There have been hundreds of edcamps across the world in the past few years, and hopefully you’ve attended one. I’ve written about edcamps and conferences A LOT, and truly believe that professional learning is only effective when it engages and empowers educators.

But for many teachers, that’s still a new idea. For some, it’s unheard of. As we get closer and closer to the big day (March 1 if you’re wondering!), my coaching team and I are coordinating with our staff and facilitators to get ready. And even after two edcamps within the district and a lot of great shifts in our coaching and professional development models, it’s important to recognize that innovative practices take time. It’s also essential to recognize their power.


Check out all of my #edcamp posts or my reflection of #EdcampNJ at 3 Ways Back to Basics Made #EdcampNJ Great. You can also explore more about #EdcampOHS with Making Professional Development Matter with the #Edcamp Model and Life After #Edcamp.



Empowering Educators

One of my favorite recent #edcamp sessions discussed professional learning at #EdcampNJ. Mike Ritzius led a session titled something like, “Your PD Sucks and Here’s Why!” He immediately asked for participant input and conversation, citing statistics that show the more participants are actively involved, the more engaged they are long term in the learning. It seems obvious, but it’s also easy to forget.

The session outlined difference between professional development and learning, the role of leadership, and importance of discomfort in growth. I sketched some notes during the session using Aww App and have embedded the Tweet below. Here are some of my big takeaways:

  • Professional development develops and improves the system of education; professional learning is about the individuals and their growth.
  • The concept of teacher “buy in” deprofessionalises education; ownership is what matter.
  • Growth and leadership takes place somewhere between chaos and order--learning is messy and inquiry based--and it enables us to look at and change the system.

These are the types of conversations I want to have more of--about professional learning that empowers educators to have real ownership over their learning.




Building a Better #EdcampOHS

For me, these conversations have begun throughout our planning. So many volunteers, facilitators, and faculty members have had great things to say about last year’s event. A full year later, I heard many teachers bring it up as their favorite non-teaching day or event, an answer to a question I hadn’t even asked. Again, this reminds me of the importance of innovation and treating educators as the thoughtful professionals that we are.

The edcamp model does this in its basics: choice, the rule of two feet, and meaningful conversation. In our planning, we’ve asked educators to help create the session board in advance but did so by connecting their passions in the classroom to improving all of our professional practice. We recognized passions and strengths and asked teachers to share it with others through conversation and problem solving.



Learning Outcomes

I can’t help but think more and more about goals, audience, and purposeful planning. As teachers, we put a lot of time into thinking about what’s best for our students learning. Teachers, coaches, and administrators need to the same with all professional learning.

While there are many differences between learning for students and adults, there’s a lot we have in common, too. We like choice. We like meaningful, practical learning that we can use in our teaching or learning. We like to feel like our time wasn’t wasted. We like to be able to share our experiences and grow from it. And we often learn best from it, too.

I’m looking forward to another #EdcampOHS that does all of that and adds in some food, fun, and raffles. And I’m looking forward to sharing how it goes, what’s next, and exploring more ideas about changing culture and conversation.



How are you working to change the culture of professional learning? Share your innovative practices (including or beyond edcamp!) in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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