Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Edcamp Waterloo Voices

It's been over a week since Edcamp Waterloo Region. I think it's taken me this long to come down off my "edcamp high" and gather my thoughts about the event. As an organizer of the event, lots of time and energy went into the planning and preparing for Waterloo Region's first ever edcamp and to see it come and go is a little surreal.

When I set out with this idea of hosting an event on my "home turf", I had this lingering question of "if you build it, will they come"? I am a firm believer that the people that are meant to be there, will be. It is the participants that really drive events such as edcamps. The attendees of EdcampWR were second to none, with representatives from eleven different Ontario school boards! As our guests arrived early on a Saturday morning to dive into the intricacies of educational issues, I couldn't help to note the number of familiar faces from my own PLN, known through twitter avatars and/or face to face networking. It was fantastic to come together to share, discuss, debate, challenge each other, and continue the online conversations that often fuel our edu-passions. It is the quality of these participants and their contributions that made EdcampWR the success that it was.

In noticing those that joined us for EdcampWR, it seemed a meeting of like minds, like we were speaking to the converted. I couldn't help but notice those missing from the edcamp conversation and wondering how do we get others involved in these important discussions? I believe it's important to express opinions and consider various point of views on educational issues...including the technophobes, the anti-gamers, and those anywhere else on the spectrum of technology use. These voices are important to provide balance and context to current challenges facing innovative teaching practices. These voices are necessary to move forward, to change.

There were registrants that admittedly decided against attending and some that left early because they were intimidated by the conversations, topics, and even evident PLNs. As an educator, I find this very concerning. I feel somewhat responsible to make sure everybody is welcomed and invited to contribute (in what ever capacity) and to meet learners new to concepts "where they are at". How do we make sure our techno-babble and edu-speak doesn't hinder or make the conversation inaccessible to some participants? Do we need to be more aware and respectful of various entry points? How can we make our messages more accessible to newcomers?

I also feel that these individuals have a responsibility to take action to make sure their needs are being met. If a conversation is "too out there" or "above your head" then a decision needs to be made; will you move out of your comfort zone and learn something new (as we ask our students to do daily), or will you choose to get involved in a different conversation (that better suits your interests and needs)? There's always the argument that none of the sessions applied to a specific individual. To those, I challenge you to start a new conversation, one that you feel passionately about, one for which you can feel good about contributing. Like many things in life, what you put in is directly related to what you get out. We don't allow our students to disengage so why would we accept this of ourselves?

I recognize that there are all types of learners and that participation in edcamp-styled events often requires a risk-taking, self-directed individual. To those that fit this description, I applaud you for getting involved, sharing your stories and voices, and continuing the sometimes messy learning journey. To those that aren't comfortable with this, how can we include you in the conversations and hear your voices? It's YOU that I want to hear from the most!!!

If you would like to see what over 150 online participants were saying in the backchannel on Twitter, check out Edcamp Waterloo Region Tweets.

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