“Unconferencing” with CEP 811 EdCamp

25 Jun

Reflecting upon the EdCamp “unconference” experience, I am filled with some mixed feelings. There were a few aspects of the experience I thoroughly enjoyed, and others I did not. However, it is necessary to consider that this experience not only was a first for me to present using Prezi, but also “successfully” using Google+ Hangouts. My first experience using Google+ Hangouts during this course was not part of the coursework, but a way for us to meet each other “face to face”. I am extremely satisfied I attempted that informal hangout session because from a mechanical standpoint, it did not go so well. Given that problem, I was able to make the necessary preparations and adjustments to my computer to assure that the next time would go more smoothly. If I had not accidentally joined a separate hangout for the first ten minutes, I would say overall the hangout went extremely well, mostly becauseI had enough to make the adjustments. Time, unfortunately, wasn’t on my side when it came to my presentation. There were two nights of EdCamping, and I was on the second. Not a big problem, but when it came to light that there were some technical issues having Google Drive and other Google windows/tabs open during the first night’s hangout, I decided my Google Presentation (window/tab) was not going to add fuel to the fire the following night! Thus, Prezi became the fallback option I needed.

As I stated earlier, I had never used Prezi before and had less than 24 hours to teach myself how to use it. Thankfully, tutorial videos are widely available both within the Prezi subscription and YouTube.Furthermore, simply ‘playing’ with Prezi taught me enough along with the tutorials to feel ready (and bringing back memories of the Networked Learning Project in CEP 810) for the EdCamp. Feeling good for my turn to present, I had no idea of what happened next. It is easy enough to share your screen during a Hangout, but what I did not realize was that when I had clicked “present” in my Prezi, it automatically went to full screen and few people in the hangout could actually see my presentation! Fortunately, one person caught on and tried to share their screen with the other members, but part of the presentation was lost for most of them. That said, the experiences I did not like the most were the technical problems that surfaced and the need for late adjustments. However, the Hangout added a few positive experiences as well. What I liked most about the EdCamp was that a group of professionals, from different regions, could share and discuss with one another a variety of current educational topics in depth. By no other means would something like that be possible. We as professionals have had similar opportunities to discuss topics, but mostly contained and limited to the physical space. Google+ Hangouts certainly allows for global perspective for any topic at any time, something incredible when one takes into consideration the variety of perspectives accessible in the world. I also enjoyed how in one hour, I felt like I had learned what I would have learned in multiple traditional conferences. I was astounded by how we were able to discuss in depth a variety of topics and the tremendous value that put on our growth as professionals. Undoubtedly, this was a unique transparent experience for what collaborative learning should look and feel like, at least virtually. Below you can see how the collaboration works in a live setting.

Finally, other than technical difficulties, I enjoyed, yet again in this course, trying something new. If faced with the opportunity to EdCamp like this again, I wouldn’t change anything other than being able to test a separate Hangout to make sure things go smoothly before going to a recorded session.

The potential I see for this type of professional development could very well be boundless. It is actually possible connect people from all corners of the globe, and I can only imagine what teachers can learn from each other across nations and continents. In a sense, professional development, has been (borrowing a term from this course) “reimagined” and is no longer necessary to just sit and get what a speaker presenting. We have the power to work with one another, both in the physical and virtual settings. I feel that my school could benefit from an EdCamp experience even in a live setting because you never can predict what one might learn from people within the region, let alone one’s own staff. There may not be as much variety in perspective as a global “unconference”, but the pure value of working collaboratively makes it all worthwhile.

If I were to organize an EdCamp for others, I most definitely would take part in a live session first! I checked out EdCamp’s calendar and I will have a local opportunity coming up later this year. Once I get a “feel” for how a live session works (the virtual one already under my belt) and all of its structural components, then I would feel more comfortable being able start one up. Having looked at a separate in-state EdCamp website, it seems that logistically a set of sponsors is necessary, and of course, a facility to house the event. By itself, that would take a lot of orchestrating. Therefore, having a buddy to aid with that would be a tremendous asset. Another important piece would be how to supply materials for the teachers to work with. Hopefully the facility would come with those materials, otherwise they may need to be provided by the district or some other means. One thing is for certain, whether virtually or live, EdCamp “unconferencing” is a great way for teachers to collaborate with one another, and I hope to take part in (another) one very soon.

Reference:

EdCampUSA. (2014, February 1). Edcamp STEAM as featured on Classroom Close-up, NJ (December 2013). Retrieved June 25, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZPzoHli8Gw

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