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Passion For Learning

EdCamp Comes to Atlanta

September 6, 2012 8:08am (EDT)

EdCamp is a free, national “un-conference” organized and run by educators. It’s more collaborative and democratic. Attendees vote for the sessions the day of. The Atlanta version EdCampATL is being held for the first time this Saturday, September 8 at Woodward Academy. I’ll be there. What about you?

Co-founders Wanda McClure and Nikki D. Robertson encourage you to attend. I spoke to Robertson about what educators can expect and takeaway from the inaugural conference.

PFL: Give me an overview of Ed Camp for those who are unfamiliar with it.

ROBERTSON EdCamps were started by EdCamp Philly in 2010 by a group of like-minded educators who were inspired by Daniel Pink's book, Drive. They felt that professional development for educators could be delivered differently, even collaboratively with real classroom applications. The original EdCamp founders were recently highlighted in eSchool News. You could read the article here.

PFL:Why did you decide to bring the un-conference to Atlanta?  

ROBERTSON (We) were both looking for an EdCamp opportunity in the Atlanta area when Dan Callahan of the EdCamp Foundation found (us) both through a Twitter connection. Once connected the plan to bring an EdCamp to the Atlanta area just seemed to take on a life of it’s own.

(We) quickly collaborated together and began building a team of dedicated volunteers to join them in bringing the EdCamp Atlanta project to Atlanta. (We) were both interested in offering an innovative approach to professional development that included the creative collaboration of public, charter, and independent school leaders and teachers in the greater Atlanta area - something that, until EdCamp Atlanta, was rare if non-existent.

Typically, schools offer professional development in isolation with little sharing of knowledge between them.

Wanda has an independent school background and is currently the Elementary Director at Amana Academy, an Expeditionary Learning Charter School in Fulton County and the 2011 Coca Cola Foundation's Charter School of the Year.

(I) have a public school background and am the head librarian and technology coordinator for Auburn City Schools.

Auburn High was ranked the 28th best non-magnet public high school and 77th best public high school in the United States by Newsweek in May 2006, and the second best educational value in the Southeastern United States by SchoolMatch, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

(I) am the moderator of the Alabama School Library Association monthly twitter chat sessions ranked number one library chat in the world by both Edudemic and Online Education DataBase. In September, (my) collaborative efforts have resulted in merging the Alabama Librarian twitter chat sessions with the TL Virtual Cafe team to bring the twitter chat experience to librarians throughout the United States and the world. (I'm) also a frequent presenter for Simple K12, Alabama Educational Technology Conference, Georgia Educational Technology Conference, Library 2.011 & Library 2.012 Worldwide Conferences.

(Wanda and Nikki’s) collective experience made them both acutely aware that educators learn best when they are building and sharing knowledge with other like-minded educators and that each type of educator - independent, public and charter - brings something unique to the craft of teaching. It made sense to offer EdCamp Atlanta as a viable solution for Atlanta area educators across all platforms to network and learn together in an innovative environment.

It is important to note that most of the planning for EdCamp Atlanta has taken place using Google+ Hangout.

(Wanda McClure, Nikki D Robertson, Jaime Vandergrift, and Shelley Paul are the directors of EdCamp Atlanta. Weekly directors meeting were held via Google+ Hangout on Sunday evening at 8 pm ET. )

Directors discussed accomplishments in moving the plans for EdCamp Atlanta forward, reviewed our goals for the upcoming week, and finalized details to share with registered attendees through the weekly EdCamp Newsletter.

PFL: What are some of the takeaways that you hope educators will leave with from EdCamp ATL?

ROBERTSON:First and foremost, we'd like educators to connect with each other and learn from each other. Being a "connected educator" involves building a professional network of colleagues in a variety of school settings and sharing knowledge across that network empowers educators. So, share what you know.

What works in your classroom? We hope every participant comes away asking themselves, "How can I use what I learned to transform my teaching?" "How can that help my students?"

PFL:Since attendees vote “with their feet” as to what sessions they want to attend, what advice would you give to potential presenters on how to be chosen? ROBERTSON: Don't be afraid to share! Offer to present something you are passionate about and you have used in your classroom. EdCamps have a great deal of synergy and everyone is looking for innovative ways to teach today's students.

Network and share! Don't let the technology sessions keep you from presenting without technology either. Everyone is in a different place on the continuum of integrating technology in the classroom. A session on leadership principles is just as valuable as a session on using IPads in classroom.

PFL: Who are some of the attendees that you’d like to highlight?

ROBERTSON: We want to highlight all EdCamp Atlanta attendees! Featured Edcampers can be found on our webpage. These educators are the real stars of EdCamp Atlanta and bring tremendous collective expertise which they will share at the event.

Attendees are registered from Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Bios of each educator are listed as well as the social media links where you can follow each of them.

EdCamps attract more than educators though; business leaders also attend which invites creativity and collaboration from the corporate sector. It's this type of networking and sharing that truly makes "un"conferences unique and innovative.

One such leader who will be at EdCamp Atlanta is Renee Hopkins, Senior Editor of Texas Enterprise and Media Relations Manager at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, will be on site to present a session on how to use Twitter to curate and capture great ideas as well as how to network creatively.

Renee has been blogging about innovation and creativity since she started the blog IdeaFlow in 2003, she is the former editor of Strategy and Innovation and the InnoBlog atInnosight, and her Twitter chat, Innochat, (which she hosts with fellow "Innocats", Gwen Ishmael and Drew Marshall), was recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as a top Twitter chat for strategy, business, and innovation.You can follow Renee at @Renee_Hopkins.

Another attendee of note is former Atlanta educator and principal, Bo Adams. Bo is one of Atlanta's educational "thought" leaders and is currently the Director of Educational Innovation at Unboundary, a design and consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Bo is a regular contributor in the blogging world and you can follow him at @boadams1.

We also have some special virtual attendees who will be at EdCamp Atlanta. Tom Whitby, an Adjunct Professor of Education at St Joseph’s College in New York, is the creator of Edchat, winner of an Edublog Award for the Most Influential Educational Twitter Chat Series. Tom will be doing a virtual Q & A to kick off the EdCamp Atlanta. Shelley Terrell, author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators, (to be released soon by Eye on Education), will be demonstrating how to use Google+ Hangouts to collaborate. Shelley is a prolific presence in the worldwide education community through social media and has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central, Tefl.net, the ELTons, the Edublog Awards and T/H/E JOURNAL.

Finally, Adam Taylor, better known on Twitter as @2footgiraffe, is a techno-geek and regular blogger who writes about technology and trains educators in his district in Nashville, Tennessee.

PSL:How will this conference address the Common Core?

ROBERTSON: Implementing the Common Core is a huge undertaking and will take time to implement well in every school across the nation. That implementation is not a singular event, but an ongoing process that will involve every teacher participating, learning and sharing best practices with other educators. EdCamp Atlanta is the type of "un"conference where that kind of sharing and learning goes hand in hand. The synergy created at EdCamps invites collaboration and innovation in each session and those EdCampers will take that knowledge and creativity back to their classrooms to transform student learning. Many will share what they've learned at Edcamp Atlanta with their online networks reaching across the nation and the globe. Some of the sessions we hope will be offered at Edcamp Atlanta include: ways to create a digital classroom using Web 2.0 tools; using collaboration to connect 21st century skills and the Common Core; using online tools to build a Common Core resource toolbox, and building a professional learning network to connect with other educators to share best practices in the integration of the Common Core are just a few.

EdCamp Atlanta is encouraging teachers to implement what they learn at the "un"conference by offering one $200 mini-grant this year to a classroom teacher who demonstrates what he or she learned in his or her own classroom. As EdCamp Atlanta continues to grow, we hope to increase the number of grants we can award to help teachers implement best practices in truly collaborative and innovative ways that will transform learning for all students.

The rest of the EdCamp Atlanta Founding Team members are: Jaime Vandergrift, former founder of Pad Camp Dallas and educational consultant; Shelley Paul, Coordinator of Teaching and Learning at Woodward Academy; Shervette Miller, EdCamp Atlanta web site designer; Catherine Flippen, EdCamp Atlanta app developer; Janelle Wilson, Educator; and Tracy Shutz, Educational Consultant.

All volunteers receive training, free parking and a catered meal provided by Carole Parks Catering.

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