I spent yesterday at Winters College at York University in Toronto attending my first EdCamp. Here are my thoughts after only a little time to reflect.
- Echo Chamber: EdCamp, with its ‘unconference’ format attracts a certain type of person. There were generally progressive voices who think that education needs to change by reducing institutional control, empowering students and using technology. There were times when I felt like we needed contrary opinions, or at least someone to question what we were talking about, to push the thinking along.
- Innovation Can Be Lonely: I met many people who are on the leading edge of change in their own particular field or location and they talked about how isolated they feel and what an uncertain and exposed position that is to be in. I remember feeling that before I started using social media to connect with other like minded people. I spoke a lot about the power of Twitter to connect innovators and the importance of developing a PLN to support change in education.
- “Are you…?”: It’s a fun moment when you walk past someone, glance at their name tag, and there’s a flash of recognition. Someone scans your face to see if they recognize you from your twitter profile picture followed by “Are you…”. I had several first time face-to-face encounters and I’m happy to say no one disappointed. I enjoy it immensely when people use a twitter handle instead of a name (“Oh, you’re @acampbell99?”). Not sure why.
- It’s Time to Dump “21st Century Learning”: This term was bandied about repeatedly in sessions yet there’s no clear single definition of what it means. Some people think it means empowering students, some using different teaching methods, some use of technology, and on and on. It’s also misleading as many of these ideas have nothing to do with social changes of the last twelve years. Instead I propose we start using “The Andrew Campbell Learning Movement” 🙂
- The Value of Unions?: It was alarming to hear stories from teachers working in charter schools in Buffalo, NY. The expectation for their school, as set by the state, is to get 100% of their students into college. If they don’t achieve that goal the state will shut the school down, and they are expected to track their students after they leave and be able to prove their long-term success. It showed me the kind of things that can happen when you have “educrats’ unchecked by a powerful opposing voice.
- Education has an Innovation Problem: Innovation happens out on the fringes, in situations where people are free to take risks, try new things and work them out. To innovate we need to be able to risk failure. In our current, highly accountable, education climate there are very few situations where this can happen. Ministries and boards of education are all about playing it safe and using proven methods because they need to show results and they don’t want to put the education of students at risk. If that’s the case, where will the new ideas come from? Based on what I saw yesterday, much of the innovation will come from outside the traditional education system in small, social entrepreneurship start-ups, which is the way innovation happens in the High Tech and other industries. Whether the education system can successfully bring those ideas into the mainstream will greatly affect the future of how we ‘do’ education.
- Innovators Within the System are Frustrated: They’re frustrated with having to fight they very system they are trying to improve and they’re frustrated that more of their colleagues don’t see the need for change and aren’t pushing with them. In many of the discussions the question of how can we force things to change came up. Our education system is very resistent to change and very slow to affect change. It’s this quality that may ultimately lead to its irrelevance.
- EdCamps Are Good: As you can see lots of meaningful discussion about important and difficult issues. I thoroughly enjoyed it.