I was lucky enough to be part of an intrepid group of teachers who got up extra early this Saturday morning to make a road trip to Red Deer. What was happening that would cause us to make such a trip – Redcamp2015 of course. This was going to be my very first Redcamp, so I was quite excited. For those of you that haven’t actually gone to an edcamp before, you honestly do not know what you are missing. An edcamp is where you are in charge of your own professional development, you get a say in what you want to learn about. You share topics that interest you on the edcamp board, then people vote and pick those topics that most interest them and then the edcamp is built there right on the spot. It is a very exciting process. Then you go about your day, going to those sessions that most interest you. And if the session is not quite what you were looking for, you are welcome to get up and go to a different session. No one is going to stop you or say “Hey, what are you doing?” It is encouraged, because this is your day that you go to those sessions that speak to you.
So, fast forward to Redcamp which was held at the Glendale Science and Technology School (which is a very beautiful and welcoming school by the way) in Red Deer. When we got there, I was excited to see there were quite a group of people there to participate – people ranged from administrators, to teachers, to ed students on their own journey to becoming educators, learning coaches, other specialists and there even was a group of grade 7 and 8 students on hand to help out throughout the day. They volunteered on a Saturday to help people get to their sessions, to show them where the food and facilities were and all did this with a welcoming smile on their face. (so thank you to them for a job well done) They even came to a few sessions, but I will get to that later.
I was lucky enough to present a few things while I was at Redcamp. While I would not say I am an expert by any means, my good friend Kelli Holden (an amazing educator from Spruce Grove) and myself co-chaired a session sharing our experiences on different ways we connected our students using Skype and other forms of social media. It was great because everyone that came had a story of their own to share, which is the genius of edcamp. It is like one big collaboration of educators – everyone sharing and asking questions. While there were people that hopefully took away some ideas for their own classes from what we shared, I know for myself I also got some interesting ideas that I am going to bring back to my own school.
My next session I chaired on my own and it was a session on a passion of mine – using Minecraft as a teaching tool. Now what you need to realize is that this whole being the person in charge, the person who speaks is something very new to me, it is something I have just started doing this year, so I still get very nervous about speaking in front of others. The funny thing was that while I was nervous about speaking about Minecraft to a bunch of educators, I actually had a few Glendale students come into my session as well. And trust me, students are definitely the experts when it comes to this topic (so I was honestly a bit intimidated) However, again it was fun to share some of the different things I had done to use Minecraft as a way for my students to share their learning. There were many questions and ideas shared amongst the group and it was great to again see collaboration taking place.
Now the fun thing about edcamp is how quick everyone is to start talking and sharing ideas even though you may come from different towns, grades or even teaching situations. There was a brave group of us who took the “school shuttle” to the local lunch spot and we enjoyed having the chance to just talk about whatever – our classes, what was happening in our schools or even things not school – related (go figure).
The most interesting part of my redcamp experience was being part of a conversation in the afternoon dealing with Curriculum Redesign. There were a large group of us there to talk about where this was at in our different districts. Someone from Alberta Ed was going to come to speak as well, but we all know since an election had recently been called, that was now not going to happen. But it was still interesting to see where different people were at with this as well as the common obstacles and questions most of us were facing. The one thing I took from the conversation was that it was important for me as a teacher to use my voice and not be afraid to speak up about Curriculum Redesign. If I believe in this direction Alberta Ed. is taking (and I do), it is important that I speak up and share this with my colleagues, however challenging that may be.
The day ended with us all coming back together. One of the main organizers, Sean Granger, shared something that was I guess a school motto and it really spoke to me. It will be something I will take back to my own classroom….
“If you’re having fun but not learning, that’s bad. If you’re learning but not having fun, that’s worse. If you’re learning and having fun, then that’s our classroom.”
To the organizers of Redcamp, thank you for a wonderful day. I left rejuvenated and excited about this job I do. It might have been my first Redcamp but it definitely won’t be my last.
P.S. The quick trip we made to the Donut Mill was an added bonus.