Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chrome Camp - A Great PD Experience

Connected Learning is an education professional development organization here in St. Louis. It was created by a few progressive educators and built into a real force in the region. The goal of Connected Learning is to disrupt and hack PD so that educators can lead and get the PD that they want and need, not what others deem "appropriate" for them. The motto I hear from the organizers is "Be greedy in your PD. Get what you need." It is a great rule to live by.

Yesterday, Connected Learning put on an event called Chrome Camp (#ChromeCamp). It was a morning of professional development centered on technology, Google and learning. It was run "edcamp" style. After an introduction, teachers signed up for sessions they wanted to talk about or had questions about. From those sign-ups, a schedule was made and teachers were off to the sessions they wanted to attend. Simple and smart, this is a great way to share the expertise of everyone in the room. There are no "presentations". Rather, teachers meet and share. They get to have conversations about teaching and learning while also discovering dozens of tools and tricks that they may not have known before.

I went to three sessions during Chrome Camp. During each session, the conversation was easy and natural. It was very much like when teachers congregate in a room during their planning period. The conversation might start with one question but within fifteen minutes, a half dozen technology solutions, some new ideas for classroom design, a raft of new apps and three or four ideas about how to acquire materials are all thrown into the discussion. It is unreal how much ground a group of teachers can cover when they are left alone to learn and share together with no rigid agenda. Teachers are naturally curious about their art and always want to improve. Connected Learning gives teachers the opportunity to find others who can help them do just that and trusts that these teachers will aspire to become better. After all, if teachers didn't want to get better at what they do, they would not have shown up to Chrome Camp.

The mission of Connected Learning is one that everyone should embrace. Educators are the experts on education. Through sharing, teachers can solve the problems in their classrooms and make the learning experiences better for all of their students. There is no longer a need for pre-planned, canned, top-down PD for teachers. The real learning occurs when we empower each other and draw on the expertise of all. When all PD is run like Chrome Camp or EdCamp, then education professional development will be more relevant, more immediate and more effective.

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