Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever EdCamp in Central Alberta. It was a fantastic day of collaboration among professionals at Glendale School in Red Deer, AB. The energy that passionate teachers bring to a room, never ceases to amaze me. There was a buzz in the gymnasium as teachers eagerly awaited their first sessions. What I find to be extremely cool is that room was filled with professionals from all over the province. I use the word professionals as days like yesterday are not only for teachers, but for anyone who is passionate about children and their learning. For those that we not able to be physically present at RedCamp13, they were able to follow along via a Twitter feed, which can be seen at #redcamp13.
I began my day at Social Media and Community Building, facilitated by Ted Hutchings. In this session we discussed how connected our students and parents are to one another through social media. To not foster this in our classrooms and ultimately our schools, is providing quite the disservice to our students and their families. Ted demonstrated how easy it was for him to create a school community by just having a school Facebook and Twitter account. This made it extremely easy for parents and students to interact with one another and stay connected to what was happening at the school as it happened. Paper notes are becoming a thing of the past. They make great stuffing for the bottom of the backpack, locker and an even better paper airplane. The chances that the newsletter is making it home to parents is slim and because of this Ted needed to find different ways to communicate and reach out to parents, which he has successfully done through social media platforms. As a teacher, it is crucial for me to critically look at various social media platforms and determine how I can integrate these into my classroom to promote a stronger classroom community for my students and their families, while also ensuring that this technology is promoting the learning of my students.
Sean Grainger facilitated a fantastic session on Creative and Authentic Learning Tasks. In this session, we worked in small collaborative groups to discuss what authentic learning is and how we foster this learning in our classroom. One comment I made to a fellow pre-service teacher, Kirby Fecho, was how nice it was to be back in an elementary classroom. I loved teaching both elementary and high school, but there is something about the elementary classroom that is so appealing… so welcoming. This was one thing that was discussed in this session, making a welcoming environment for students to promote their authentic learning. This is so commonly seen at the elementary level, but it needs to permeate deeper into the secondary classrooms. Why are the elementary classrooms colourful and welcoming and high school rooms are white and sterile looking? Which room would you rather learn in? I strive to make tasks authentic to promote students engagement in their learning, but an additional goal I have for the future is to get rid of the white, sterile walls in my secondary classroom and make it more inviting to the students, further creating that classroom community and a place for real-life learning to occur.
After lunch, I had a fantastic experience co-facilitating “Twitter: Becoming a ‘Twerp’ has it’s Advantages” with Kirby Fecho. As pre-service teachers we both see the benefits to Twitter and using it in the classroom to promote learning, however, we wanted more. We’ve seen university professors (Kurtis Hewson) make effective use of Twitter in our classes and even dabbled in it’s use ourselves, but we’ve only scarped the surface of possibilities; we wanted to take an hour and share our stories and hear the stories of others. It was a great room of diverse learners, some who have been active on Twitter for years, others who were there to figure out exactly what Twitter was and how it could be used. Throughout the session great ideas were presented and questions posed allowing each of us, regardless of our experience level with Twitter, to take something from the session. It was a great experience and I am grateful to the organizers of RedCamp13 for allowing my good friend and I to rise to this challenge as pre-service teachers.
To end off the day, Brent Galloway facilitated a session titled Build It and They Will Learn. Brent provided insightful strategies for promoting learning in our 21st century learners and classrooms. We are seeing an exciting shift in education. Education is no longer about opening the textbook to page 12, reading 15 pages and answering the questions… repeat next day for the rest of the semester/year. Instead, we have a real world textbook available to us, we just need to take the time to make proper use of it. It could be as simple as using google, a YouTube video, going outside and learning rather than staying n the confines of the classroom, connecting with professionals via blogging and other social media sites, etc etc etc. The ways that we can promote learning and engage our students in and out of the classroom is endless. It was great to be involved in a discussion where the focus was on teachers taking risks to help students learn in a truly authentic way by involving students in the process of their own learning.
Hopefully you can see that the focus of this weekend was on what we want our students to know 40 years later, the authentic learning. Always ask yourself, “How can I make this material more meaningful for my students so that they can continue to apply their understanding years into the future after they have left my classroom and are out in the ‘real world'”? If we can do this for our students, they will be engaged in authentic learning.
Until next time,