How Are Educators Continuing Powerful Professional Learning Online? - Digital Promise

How Are Educators Continuing Powerful Professional Learning Online?

Two teachers work together on a laptop at an Edcamp event.

January 13, 2021 | By

In June, the Edcamp Community joined our Digital Promise family. The Edcamp Community supports educators to organize and participate in participant-driven professional learning designed by and for educators. Edcamps are free public events that leverage the knowledge and experiences of attendees by allowing educators to collaboratively determine topics for discussion and choose which sessions are meaningful to them. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edcamps were typically in-person and locally focused. However, with educators pivoting to distance learning, organizers have developed virtual Edcamps to continue creating opportunities for voice and choice in their professional learning. In this post, we share stories of virtual Edcamp organizers and invite educators to join us for an Edcamp Organizer Meetup on January 28 to support their Edcamp planning.

When school districts closed their doors and began to teach remotely, Edcamp organizers faced a dilemma: cancel their long-planned events, or move online instead. It wasn’t an easy moment. However, many organizers decided to forge ahead and go virtual, using a variety of approaches and an impressively creative combination of online tools. The efforts of this amazing community helped educators stay connected and empowered as they navigated tough times together.

Edcamp JoCo, for instance, went into rapid response mode and shifted their 200-person event online just weeks before the planned April date. They quickly alerted participants that the Edcamp would be held via Zoom and, thinking ahead, offered Fligrid and Jamboard as complementary tools to keep the conversation lively and engaging.

Edcamp Kansas similarly faced a logistics nightmare: Their annual event featured multiple counties coordinating individual events on the same day across the state. But this intrepid team successfully merged all their local Edcamps together into one, 800+-person online event that featured a virtual family game night, a teacher self-care hour, and an ice cream social Q&A with the state’s commissioner of education.

Edcamp GAWired also took the online challenge to a whole new level by creating a QR code for back-channel conversations and “brain break” mini-videos embedded in their fantastically user-centric event website. Edcamp Edtech, meanwhile, created an open-to-all event focused on using technology for assessments, learner variability, and equity and inclusion, and EdcampRL hosted their entire event asynchronously on Twitter.

More than 80 online Edcamps took place this year and ranged from 50-person e-gatherings for one district, to 1,000-person multiday education extravaganzas. In the midst of the evolving challenges of 2020, educators came together to support one another and discuss how to:

  • Reach and engage their students, especially those facing learning or social challenges
  • Navigate changing norms online and in physical classrooms
  • Communicate effectively with parents/guardians when opportunities for face-to-face conversations are limited
  • Care for educators themselves, whether through mental and emotional self-care or by creating space for professional development and learning

The Edcamp Community will continue to support organizers in their efforts to bring educators together online in 2021. We encourage those interested in learning more about the Edcamp model or organizing and attending an event to explore the Edcamp Community and the resources below:

We invite educators to register here to attend our next Edcamp Organizer Meetup on January 28 to share their experiences and ideas for organizing a virtual Edcamp with one another.

In the meantime, we encourage educators interested in organizing an Edcamp to start conversations with their professional communities by reaching out to fellow educators to drum up interest and support in Edcamp. Contact us at edcamps@digitalpromise.org to discuss your Edcamp plans and post questions.

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