Tuesday, 14 May 2013

It Started As A Single Conversation...

Redcamp '13 (a borderline-cheesy combination of our location here in Red Deer and the Edcamp event that we hosted on May 11th, 2013) by all accounts was a great success. The site for Central Alberta's very first full-blown Edcamp was Glendale Sciences and Technology School, and it took place on a beautiful Saturday in which almost 120 teachers, administrators, educational assistants, university/college students, as well as a speech-language pathologist and a City of Red Deer Councillor, participated in almost 30 unique sessions of professional learning.

Redcamp '13 started as a single conversation between Diane Roberts (@robertsdrb), Sean Grainger (@graingered) and me, almost seven months ago. In very short order our "committee" had grown to include nine educators altogether, including representation from both Red Deer Public and Catholic Schools. After just a few meetings Sean Grainger had set up a web page, a blog, and a registration process, and we were off to the proverbial races! Thanks to the concerted effort of our committee our numbers began to grow, and by the time May 11th, 2013 had rolled around we had 127 registrants for our Edcamp event.

As participants started filing into Glendale School on Saturday morning the reality of the event probably hit me for the first time... educators (and other non-educators but still life-long learners) had set aside families, chores, recreation, and a great number of other events & responsibilities, to attend a day of professional learning, put on by other colleagues and professionals from throughout Alberta. As the schedule board started filling up (4 time blocks with 7 sessions in each block) and participants began to take their seats for our opening comments, I knew that all of the work and worry leading up to May 11th had been worth it.

I had the privilege of welcoming the participants to REdcamp '13, as well as the great honour of introducing our fantastic organizing committee:

• Kelly Aleman
• Joe Bower
• Larry Hartel
• Sean Grainger
• Ted Hutchings
• Dave Martin
• Chris McCullough
• Diane Roberts

Joe Bower and Sean Grainger each spoke to the assembled group, and then participants headed out to classrooms to attend their first session. My plan had been to roam around to as many sessions as possible, but this turned out to be very difficult to do as I found myself drawn in to the professional conversations taking place in the rooms I was visiting, and I ended up spending most of the time in the first session engaged in a very spirited dialogue about what will be happening in Alberta now that the Provincial Achievement Tests had been scrapped, and replaced with a new literacy & numeracy based student learning assessments.

In the second block I facilitated a session entitled, "Creating a Culture of Collaboration"

In this session there were participants from school jurisdictions in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Sturgeon, Chinook's Edge, Wolf Creek, as well as a city councillor from the City of Red Deer, and an instructor from Red Deer College. The Edcamp saying, "the expert is the room" was certainly evident in my session about collaboration, as the conversation was lively and continued strongly until the session ended 60 minutes later. If I hadn't already thought the day was a complete success, I definitely felt that way after the session on "Creating a Culture of Collaboration".

Considering the sun was shining, and the temperature was above 20C, I wondered how many of the participants would come back after the lunch break, but I shouldn't have worried at all. When the third session started at 12:45pm seven rooms were once again engaged in dialogue and rich with professional learning. I attended a session put on by Paul Harris (@harris4rd), a City Councillor for Red Deer. "Purpose-Centre Questions" was a session in which Paul modelled the use of purpose-centred questions whilst "teaching" us what they were and how to use them. A fantastic session.

In the fourth block I attended a session on "Teaching Math Creatively" by Kim Miner, from the Calgary Board of Education. Kim is currently on sabbatical taking her Master of Education degree, and she shared some of the work she has been undertaking in this regard as it relates to Math. A great deal of sharing took place during this session, and I was quite disappointed when Sean's voice came over the announcement system letting us know that the end of the day was almost upon us, and it was time to gather in the gym for one last wrap up comment.

In the gym there were a lot of thank you's - both Sean and our committee thanking the participants, and the participants thanking us for putting the Edcamp event on (our pleasure!). Sean shared the blog and encouraged all participants to submit content to it (which I will be doing with this reflection myself), and then the 100+ participants left the school to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day, and the rest of the weekend.

After a bit of clean up I too left the school and drove back home to Lacombe to spend the remainder of the evening with my family. As the 15-minute drive up the QEII went by all I thought about was what a wonderful day of professional learning I had just experienced. Of all the Micheal Fullans, Ken Robinsons, and Rick Dufours I've seen, I would rate REdcamp '13 among the best professional learning experiences I have attended. Yes, without a doubt, "the expert is the room"! I can't wait until my next Edcamp experience, and I can say with no hesitation or doubt, REdcamp '14 will be a fixture on my professional learning calendar one year from now!