Edcamp Puget Sound Conference or Should I Say Unconference

On Saturday, November 2nd 2019 I had the opportunity to attend my first Puget Sound Edcamp. I wasn’t sure what to expect or even how this would relate to the current grad school course that I am in; Values, Ethics and Foundations in Digital Education. So I was pleasantly surprised when the entire day felt relevant to what I am currently studying and my work in schools. Unlike most traditional conferences, Edcamp is an unconference. That means the topics and sessions for the day are determined by the participants that day. It was so empowering to be able to write down topics that I was interested in and then be able to upvote other ideas that others had written down, all in real time. I spent the day talking with other educators about topics ranging from journaling in math, STEM activities in grades k-12, to Anti-racist and culturally responsive education.

While all of these topics are diverse looking back I feel like they all have something in common. In order for any of these things to happen it takes partnership. It takes students engaging in positive and safe ways both online and offline. It takes educators supporting and creating opportunities for students to make positive decisions and to contribute to the community in order to build relationships. Furthermore it takes coaches being present to encourage and support educators and students in all of this. When all of us work together great things can happen. Instead of just copying down math problems, coaches can support educators in finding resources that allow students to creatively show their math learning in their journal. The ISTE standards for Coaches (7b) specifically highlights how coaches can “partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.” It’s the balance that is so important. Coaches need to help educators and in turn students realize that not everything needs to be done online.

In the session on math journaling there was a lot of discussion around online resources but when it came down to it the math journal itself can be done on paper. Digital does not always mean better. The session on STEM also supported the idea of partnership and working together. Students need to have opportunities to engage with STEM activities in the classroom and to see it incorporated with core content instead of a stand alone idea. When STEM is embedded into learning it helps students understand how things are connected and to make some of those connections for themselves. It can also help students to engage in positive and safe behavior while using technology, which is part of the ISTE 2b Student Standards. The last session that I attended centered around Social Justice Equity in Schools and Anti-racist vs culturally responsive. This session left me thinking about how the words and actions that I use all stem from my own implicit bias or unconscious racism. One participant shared how they have changed the verbage they use when talking about student behavior. Instead of calling a students behaviour inappropriate they have shifted to calling it unexpected. I love this idea because it makes it more about setting clear expectations and communicating those expectations with students. Now I’m not labeling a student as being good or bad but instead talking about how their actions might have been unexpected. I also think this helps when thinking about how I have conversations with students and even educators. Am I expecting them to react in a certain way and how is my unconscious racism playing into that. ISTE Educator Standard 3a calls educators to “create experiences for learners to promote positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.” However if as an educator I am not aware of my own implicit bias and unconscious racism then I don’t believe we can fully achieve this. My own awareness will enable me as an educator to help my students see their own implicit bias, thus allowing us to have conversations that open us up to empathy and building positive relationships and community.

All of these sessions allowed me to learn from others. It was great to hear and learn about what other educators are doing and experiencing in their districts. I was able to connect with people from neighboring districts to share ideas and continue to build my professional learning network. I am looking forward to the spring Edcamp and continuing to engage in this work.

References

“ISTE Standards for Coaches.” ISTE, www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches.

“ISTE Standards for Educators.” ISTE, www.iste.org/standards/for-educators.

“ISTE Standards for Students.” ISTE, www.iste.org/standards/for-students.

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