This past weekend, we attended EdCampSTL, a professional development "unconference". The premise of this "unconference" was that teachers would be teaching teachers. Presenters sign up in the morning for sessions they'd like to facilitate and others show up to attend those sessions. Teachers are told to "vote with your feet". If a session is not useful to them, they leave and find another session to attend.
Melissa and I presented our 20% Time project, Harmonized Learning. We were not really sure how much of an audience we would have for a project like this but were pleasantly surprised. Both of our sessions were pretty much full. We talked a lot about our experience so far this year, our successes and failures, and what we would do differently if we could do it all over again. The teachers in the session had excellent questions because we could tell that they were already thinking of how they would incorporate this type of project into their own teaching situations. The conversation went from the philosophy of 20% Time to the nitty-gritty of how much time to dedicate during an average week.
For us, it was an amazing experience. We felt validated for what we are trying to do and now realize that there are many teachers out there who believe in the power of student choice, motivation and the passion of learning. Now we are on a mission to change our school and district professional development program to one that is more like EdCampSTL. It just makes sense to tap into the vast expertise that our teachers have on-site. In doing so, our professional development will be more relevant and effective. - Don