Personalized Learning at EdCamp

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend #EdCampIowa at South East Junior High School in Iowa City.  Ed Camps are unique because they allow participants to build the agenda and learn about whatever they like.  It was incredibly powerful to see more than 100 educators gather in the library at South East on a Saturday morning to better themselves for the benefit of students.  Seriously, more than 100 educators showing up to school on a day off when they are not paid to grow professionally. Amazing.  Three other locations in the great state of Iowa also offered EdCamps on this day, making it the largest EdCamp event in the country.  It's a fine time to be in education, and there are so many people doing the right work in our profession.

As I participated in the first session of the day dedicated to personalized learning and differentiation, I got excited about the many things that our teachers are doing to meet the needs of students in their classrooms.  We have teachers dabbling with flipped learning models, genius hour (passion projects), workshop framework, and other delivery systems to engage and meet individual needs.  These ideas, models, and strategies are fantastic, but really do not do us much good if we haven't formed connections with our students.  As I listened to Ben Gilpin facilitate the discussion, I couldn't help but think about the power that lies within knowing your students.  What drives them, where are their passions, how much do you push them, and how much do you back off?  All of these questions need to be answered if you are going to personalize learning in the classroom, and maximize instructional time.

After this session, I thought about our teachers and how they differentiate and connect with students, but I also thought quite a bit about my work with staff members.  It is equally important for me to know what drives them, where there passions are, and what they value.  I need to be better here.  If I expect our teachers to meet individual needs, provide choice in learning opportunities, and connect with students, then I must model this practice daily.  I need to look for additional ways to differentiate professional learning while providing choice and ownership in this process.  What would happen to our culture if we provided more of a voice to teachers and students related to learning?

I had about an hour and a half on the road to think about my learning throughout the day.  I'm so grateful that I had the chance to learn about Telling the story of your school | Peer coaching | What Connected Educators Do Differently, and using Twitter/Voxer as key collaborative tools.  These sessions were excellent, pushed my thinking, and left me pondering ways to enhance my work.  What I will remember most about this EdCamp are the amazing people leading the charge in education, and truly making differences in the lives of students.

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