Nearly 100 educators and thought leaders flocked to the U.S. Department of Education headquarters June 6 to join #EdcampUSA, an “unconference” led by educators, for educators. Hundreds more joined the conversation via social media. Visit Storify to view tweets and pictures that captured the day. Educators built the schedule on the spot and volunteered to lead sessions on professional development, connected learning and digital trends.
Here are five takeaways from the day-long conversation:
- Sharing is caring. #EdCampUSA provides all of the resources and interactive notes from its sessions for free. As in-person participants and the broader online community chime in, sessions may shift organically. All notes from Edcamp US DOE are posted here.
- Technology is a tool, but it’s not a magic wand. There are many ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Ultimately, session leaders emphasized that it’s not about how a single device, program or website reinvents education, it’s about how tools deepen learning. For example, Skype can be used to bring expert thinkers to life for students.
- Innovation doesn’t have to come at a cost. Remaking learning spaces, building makerspaces; these august-sounding ideas can seem overwhelming — and expensive — but they can often be accomplished without purchasing a thing. For example, makerspaces, which are intended to nurture hands-on learning, can be as simple as an open space equipped with uncomplicated tools like paper and scissors.
- Connected educators are generous educators. There is a risk to joining social media networks and connecting with peers and educators; not all school districts encourage a connected culture, but those comfortable making the leap will find a bevy of resources: tweets from conferences, lesson plan ideas, blogs sharing personal success stories and a community of plugged-in educators ready to form a personal learning network.
- Edcamp Foundation is celebrating monumental growth in its fifth year. The U.S. Department of Education was a symbolic location for #EdcampUSA and was ripe with opportunity to share edcamp ideas with policy leaders. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan briefly joined the event to observe how participants built the schedule and shared ideas. Hundreds of edcamps have sprung up around the globe, finding fertile ground in countries like Japan and Norway.
Mina Dixon is an editorial assistant at SmartBrief, where she helps write and edit content across industries, including education.