Fair warning. This post has nothing to do with COETAIL, except that I have tried to apply some of what I’ve learned from the courses. But I’ve got this blog and figure I should use it. Oh, and it got kind of long, so I broke it into two parts. This is part one.
I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling over the past twenty four hours. Yesterday, I spent my morning with a fantastic group of educators from the Accra, Ghana area for EdCampAcc. From what I was told yesterday, this was possibly only the second EdCamp in Africa, and I’m pretty sure the first one in Ghana (If you know otherwise, please fill me in). The following is a brief history of how the day came to be.
This was a project that started almost a year ago as I began to hear from my Twitter friends about the fantastic experiences they were having at EdCamps in the United States. They seemed to be happening every weekend and I felt a bit left out. I wanted to bring this excitement to Ghana and Lincoln Community School (LCS).
I started asking my Twitter friends questions and even Skyped with the incredibly kind and energetic Kristen Swanson long before I had any kind of real plan for an event. My administrators were supportive but cautious, of rolling out this new form of professional development.
We started last spring with an afternoon of technology driven PD that was driven by teacher suggestions and allowed them to choose their sessions. The afternoon was successful and built some confidence that allowed me to help organize and run the first “UnG&G” this year at LCS. This time we moved a little more towards the EdCamp style with teachers submitting ideas to a Google Form over the course of a few weeks and sessions being developed from those ideas. This was the first time we had a PD day with our entire PreK-12 staff in the just over two years that I’ve been here.
I had no idea what to expect, and from the questions I was getting, most of our staff didn’t either. But we managed to create some excitement around the day and in the end it too was a great success. Teachers walked away energized and excited to have spent time talking with other teachers from different levels of the school that they quite possibly had never spoken to before. New ideas were generated and new collaborations planned. I couldn’t have asked for much more.
Work had begun on our EdCamp at the end of last school year. A small group of teachers had been discussing the idea and seeking support. We finally got the go ahead and got our event on the calendar. Now the work truly began.
We had no idea what would happen if we started advertising free professional development at our school for anyone who was interested. However, we were quite concerned that we could get a group too big for us to manage and who might be expecting something completely different. The unconference style is something new to our area and there are only a few people who seem to really be discussing it. There is also the issue that our school is very different from the local schools here in Accra. So we had some decisions to make.
We decided that the best way to go was to invite other international schools in our area. Some of them are IB schools like Lincoln and some are not, but our styles of education and the resources available to us are at least similar. We wanted to make sure that participants would be able to have beneficial conversations. This continued to be a difficult decision all the way up to the week of the event. We did not want to be seen as an elitist school with an elitist invitation list but we determined that this was the best way to begin.
The invitation to the event was extended to seven international schools in our area. (We recognize that this might not be pure EdCampness, but our situation is unique) I began emailing contacts that we had in each of the schools, sharing information about EdCamps and encouraging them to share with their staff. Registrations were slow in the beginning but I got a lot of really good questions. Some schools in our area did not start their school year until the beginning of September and that meant it might be cutting it close to get them involved. I sent weekly email reminders for the first month and then switched over to updates and tips for the weeks leading up to the event.
In the end we had almost 80 teachers register from six different schools. The event was at the tail end of one school’s fall break and therefore none of their teachers registered. Registrations, via Google Forms, rolled in until the week of the event when we closed it off. We began to have teachers from other schools emailing asking if their school could be added. Again, a tough decision, but we decided to stick to our policy and kindly asked them to allow us to get this trial run under our belts before we open up future events to more schools.
It was now a waiting game. We had the registrations, the facilities, the plan. Who would actually show up for our EdCamp and what would they think?
The Rise of EdCampAcc Part Two here…