Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Jedcamp of Our Own

I have spent considerable time on this blog over the course of the past year writing about Jedcamp.  I have been amazed at the power of the Edcamp model to bring people together, to stimulate fresh ideas, and to encourage open discussion in a fully non-threatening environment.

However, I have always wondered about the limitations of the model.  By definition, a Jedcamp is populated by a coalition of the willing.  People who come to Jedcamp are people who want to come to Jedcamp, and thus they are probably aware of how the day should run and are possibly even prepared to present or lead a session of their own.

But what about a Jedcamp where not everyone has chosen to be there?  In other words, what if a Jedcamp was like most professional development days, where people are there because their school has mandated that they be there?  Would such a Jedcamp have the same energy and excitement?  Would teachers be as willing to be involved?  To put it another way, does the Edcamp/Jedcamp model have the potential to supplant traditional professional development, or is it doomed to remain a niche phenomenon, enticing a certain type of teacher while failing to reach the majority?

We put this question to the test this past week at Yavneh Academy, where I serve as a teacher and administrator.  For our Election Day in-service, we divided the day into four parts, some for development and some for housekeeping.  For an hour and a half after lunch, we devoted the time to an in-house Jedcamp for our entire faculty.

Knowing that not everyone was familiar with the model, I had sent out several emails in the weeks leading up to the event explaining some of the rules, and I used some time during lunch on Election Day to review the major points.  A sign-up board was placed in the lunch room, allowed for two 35-minute sessions and up to five rooms at a time (we had roughly 80-90 faculty members present).  After a slow start, the board quickly began filling up, with topics as diverse as teaching through movement, balancing life as a teacher and a parent, and how to handle the convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah (which happens this year and not again for almost 80,000 years).  Once the board was filled and teachers had a chance to choose their first session, I stood back, held my breath and...

Success.

Within minutes, each room was bursting with colleagues who do not always have the opportunity to interact, getting to know each other and enthusiastically tackling the topics at hand.  As at the actual Jedcamps that I have been privileged to run, it was difficult to end the sessions, as teachers wanted to continue discussing and analyzing the issues that were raised in each room.  When the second session came to an end and everyone proceeded to their other meetings for the day, there was a noticeable buzz in the hallways, and several teachers came over to me to express their satisfaction with and enjoyment of this out-of-the-box approach to professional development.

So, what were my takeaways from this experiment?

  1. The Edcamp model can work even when the participants "have to" be there.
  2. Schools should consider a change of pace for some future PD day and allow the faculty the opportunity to make use of this model to discuss the issues that they want to talk about.
  3. Hopefully, the next time I post that a Jedcamp is taking place, more teachers will be aware of what that is and may even try it out.

1 comment:

Simcha Schaum said...

As a participant at Yavneh's Jedcamp, I share your enthusiasm about how it went. At the first session I attended, there was a leader who brought content to share, yet was happy to allow the conversation to go where the rest of us took it. The conversation was dynamic and spirited, respectful and friendly, even though we did not all agree on all the issues. I felt that I both learned from and shared with my colleagues.
IMHO, the most important aspect of a PD in the 'edcamp' model is the opportunity to be deeply reflective of one's own practice - a process that typically continues long after the sessions are over.