EdCamp in a bubble. Welcome to EdCampNJ where, for the first time I spent the majority of my day working instead of being an active participant in general EdCamp Sessions. This was a completely different experience for me. Despite having been involved in the leadership and planning of EdCamps in the past, I found this year was extremely different.
One aspect, was the incredible opportunity to join the transition team for a collection of new people to take over I joined passionate, innovative educators like Chris Nesi, Chrissy Romano Arrabito, Stacey Lindes, Justin Schleider, Dan Borghoff, Bibiana Prada, AJ Bianco, Sandra Paul, Rob Pennington, Rebecca McLelland-Crawley and many more (there are in creating a smooth transition from the original team that created and led EdCampNJ to be one of the country’s premiere EdCamps. Having the opportunity to work with these people, to ride their coattails a bit, and to learn about the planning process from Billy Krakower, one of the original founders of EdCampNJ was all part of an amazing experience leading up to the day.
I can say from experience that this group of people cares profoundly about creating the best learning opportunity possible. The planning that went into the event, the ideas, the discussions were far beyond what most people saw on the day. Many of those ideas never make it out of the discussion phase, but the goal was clear: create a vision for the future of EdCamp. The planning has not stopped. This amazing group has continued to talk immediately after the event, planning, discussing how to make future EdCamps better, and reviewing feedback that people are sharing on their surveys. Being a part of this team is amazing. I have every confidence that the events put together by this crew will lead to amazing things going forward. The team for EdCampNJ is going to deliver an incredible day of learning, passion, and empowerment for educators going forward.
(The Room where it happened. Thomas Grover Middle School Cafeteria to start the day!)
The day of the event was a whirlwind. For the first time during an EdCamp I took on a day long job during the event. I had expected to feel as though I’d missed out, to feel let down by being “locked up” in a certain place. In the original plan, I was set to be a part of the prize patrol. I would be visiting sessions and giving away some of the great donations from the day. During the planning phase however, I suggested a room to play, discuss, and experience BreakOut Edu. It quickly morphed into a day long commitment. The plan was for me to “breakout” of that space for a little while, but it became overwhelmingly popular.
(Groups of attendees in the common area, attempting digital breakouts, sharing ideas and resources)
(Left:Mr Flexon examines the locks. Right: Hadley Ferguson, Billy Krakower, and Rob Pennington grab a reward- EdCamp Swag!)
After creating a game that was designed for EdCampNJ, I ran the experience between 8-10 times for different groups. With the high speed nature of resetting, watching and assisting where teams were working their way through the puzzles, and having discussions about application of Breakout to different areas, my day flew by. What was the same however, as in other EdCamps was the inspired feeling, the positivity and passion that I gained. Between the many conversations that I had about the breakout room, to having Hadley Ferguson laughing and smiling with joy at discovering the answer to various riddles, the day was energizing and exciting.
One highlight was having Chrissy Romano Arrabito shout with near giddy excitement at knowing the answer to one of the puzzles. (Chrissy was there taking pictures and had previously expressed her sincere dislike for “those types of things”.)
I thought that I would miss having the great discussions that led to quality learning, but instead I found the opposite. The day solidified the goals, value, and purpose of using BreakOut Edu in the school setting. I was repeatedly asked to explain the curriculum connections, but the best question was, “what is the purpose of this? What will my students get from it?”
(A group works together to find uses for a tool they have discovered… a blacklight pen)
The answer that I came to was this: BreakOut doesn’t just get people to communicate and collaborate effectively, it necessitates players to be critical consumers of information. Players need to view a number of pieces of information through text, media, and the world around them. They have to be critical of that information and look for alternate meanings Rather than take in what they see at face value, players need to evaluate their surroundings, their information resources, and use that information to solve problems.
(Image of a group from Rider University with a few other participants-Fastest time of completion!)
The day ended with a wonderful celebration of all the hard work that went into creating EdCampNJ, which quickly turned into a reflection on how to make it better. It is one of the reasons I love working with this group. They are non-stop. As a group we took some time to celebrate the success of the event, appreciate it all, and then get right back to making it better. I feel like this event was the best EdCamp for me yet, because I get to continue the conversation, invest in building the future of EdCamp, and continue to develop quality relationships with some inspiring leaders in my area.