Rockin’ PD: EdCamp With A Twist:

#IMMOOC Innovation with Relationships & #4OCF Friendly

The constant struggle faced by many school districts regarding professional development generally leads to a discussion of how to bring teachers the professional development they need, tailored specifically for each of them. It’s quite the tug-o-war. All District PD days generally lead to frustration by staff because their individual needs are not met, they are not given time for processing and reflecting on what was presented, and there’s certainly no time for applying what was learned if by the smallest chance it did actually fill a need for some teachers.  Self-directed PD works for some of us. I am perfectly capable of finding ways to meet my own PD needs and typically do.  However, many educators need more support and direction in order to meet their PD needs, so the cycle of what to do for a PD starts all over again.  In my district, this was almost always the case. As a member of the PD committee and the high school leadership team, I am aware of the desire my district has to serve the PD needs of its teachers, and the complete and utter difficulty we face in trying to do so. Yesterday, however, that all changed.

You Show Us Everything You’ve Got

In a car ride to a PLC (Professional Learning Community) workshop, my principal, our art teacher, and myself discussed what we wanted to do at the next PD day, which was rapidly approaching.  Knowing the desire of one of my teacher friends, Kim Belleisle, I brought up her idea to host a mini-EdCamp for the teachers of our district.  Kim and I have discussed the idea with the PD Committee and Leadership Team before to no avail. To be fair, there are only five teachers in my district who have attended an EdCamp, and most of the teachers live on their own individual island of isolation. Only a very small handful of us are connected educators, to varying degrees.  To my surprise, my principal nodded thoughtfully and remarked that he knows Kim has been wanting to try it with our teachers.  He had concerns though about the structure of EdCamps. To work for us on a PD day, we needed to make sure there would be and “expert” in the room.  And on short notice, how were we to find out what they were interested in learning AND find our experts?  Fortunately for us, the car ride was lengthy enough for a great idea to be born.

You Keep on Dancin’ And the Room Gets Hot

Some of the topics he thought teachers would request were things my friend and I could handle as expert.  “What if we looked at the PD plans turned in by teachers to see what their needs are?” asks my principal. Brilliant. We did, and I compiled a list of possible EdCamp topics.  That brought up other concerns he had. If Kim and I were always the ones presenting, that alone could alienate some teachers. Not all, but some. Yes, that is a very real possibility.  So I suggested that we do a modified or hybrid version of EdCamp. We target things we know our teachers want to learn or know more about based on their PD plans as he suggested, we ensure there’s an expert, and we bring in others to help present. We began to think. Brainstorm. Miles ticked away.

You Drive Us Wild, We’ll Drive You Crazy

Now, I’ve worked on being a connected educator for the past year. When I do anything, I dive in. All in. Feet first, hold my breath, and go.  If you’ve ever been swimming in a river, creek, or swimming hole (and some pools), then you know that the first few seconds require your body’s sensory receptors to work hard.  After you surface and float for a minute, your body adjusts to the temperature of the water and everything is fine. That’s my philosophy of action. Jump in, adapt, and enjoy.  I did this with Twitter and blogging, and I found my #tribe, some great friends, and people who think like I do. I’ve networked and gotten more PD out of a Twitter chat than in some conferences I’ve attended.  When I share some awesome Twitter moments with my non Twitter colleagues at school (principal included), I endure a lot of teasing. You may have experienced the same: Twitter people aren’t real people, Denis Sheeran? You don’t know he’s real. Probably a 12 year old kid pretending to be real (just an example, Denis). Oh good grief, Mrs. Steinbrink. We know you’re popular on Twitter (Ahem. I’m popular in person too). And the one we all hear and love, I don’t get Twitter. What’s the big deal? I have enough to keep up with on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

You Say You Wanna Go For a Spin

But being a connected educator can pay big dividends when planning a hybrid EdCamp with your Doubting Thomas principal during a long car ride. “You should get us some guest experts from all those people you ‘know’ on Twitter,” My principal says, teasingly, during our discussion. Huh. Why not, I think.  So, while he’s driving and our art teacher is either thinking we’re crazy, thinking about our EdCamp idea, or picturing a beautiful mosaic in her mind, I contacted Denis Sheeran, author of the amazing book, Instant Relevance, a few others in my Twitter PLN, and my school board president, Doug Caldwell, an EMINTs Technology Instructional Specialist, and INTEL Senior Trainer, whom I’ve known since kindergarten and had the privilege of teaching both of his awesome daughters. Within a matter of minutes, I had four educators willing to do short virtual or in person EdCamp style discussions on the topics we needed from three different states and right here at home.  Being a connected educator paid off in a big way because another Twitter PLN friend contacted me the next day and wanted to help out as well. Connected. I’m thinking that’s another word for rich. Having a tribe of people who will pitch in and support your endeavors is an amazing and powerful thing.

The Party’s Just Begun, We’ll Let You In

There you have the birth of the Plato VirtualEd Bivouac. We changed the name from EdCamp since my principal didn’t want any teacher trying to stay the night in the gym. (It could happen. Maybe.)  A bivouac is a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers or mountaineers. That seemed to send a better message, and since my principal is a former army man, he liked that term better. Our district is also located near Fort Leonard Wood, which provides us with several students from military families, so a military inspired name seemed appropriate.

You Drive Us Wild, We’ll Drive You Crazy

We continued to work on this once we reached our PD destination. The small snowball of an idea began to grow, and roll. A few weeks ago I discussed the Ultimate Bite as a metaphor for how my own innovative ideas are born. While I had mulled over how to make an EdCamp that would work for us for professional development, I had not given it serious thought until I got into the car that morning. This idea was one was born in collaboration, within a relationship of trust that I share with my principal, and in a car, and we pulled it off when PD day finally arrived. There were some glitches, but by doing a few virtual speakers with Google Hangouts, the teachers still on their islands of isolation were able to see how powerful technology can be, they heard other voices with new faces, and they had their professional needs met. Lunch was full of happy teachers.


Like I said in Ultimate Bite, ideas can come from anywhere and strike at any time. Got an idea? Are you dangling your toes in the water but are afraid to jump in? All in? Don’t just get a little wet. Let go and dive in. Wait in the water for a few seconds for your sensory receptors to adapt, and then swim. Get your idea in motion. Go. Are you ready? We got this.

*Subheadings from verse one of Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss

2 thoughts on “Rockin’ PD: EdCamp With A Twist:

  1. Wow! That. Was. Rockin! Great post! So many educators struggle with getting others on board. This post shows it can be done if you, as George Couros says, innovate inside the box. Going to use some of the ideas!


    1. Thanks, Lance! And it wasn’t the first time we had tried the idea, but it was the first time everything lined up for the idea to to be implemented. Persistence and patience are key!


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