We’re one week away from EdCamp Toronto 2011, and the energy around the event is starting to build. At this point, close to 150 people have committed to attending this unique one-day experience at York University in Toronto. Sponsorship is in place, the food has been ordered, the rooms are booked, and the structure of the day has, for the most part, been worked out.
And while it’s too soon for the organizing committee to declare that everything is completely ready to go, the major details over which we have control have been addressed.
It’s now time to turn our attention to the reason we’ve invited people to gather on a Saturday around this place we call school and this project we call education. In particular, it’s time for participants to begin thinking about the question(s) that they wish to carry with them to York University on October 15th! What are the things that excite you, concern you, intrigue you about the 21st century school? What are the things that you would like to see changed, strengthened or deepened as we move forward in our thinking about education? And, more specifically, how do you frame your thinking in terms of an engaging question?
This will be the heart of the EdCamp experience! It’s not about coming and listening to someone else tell us what they’ve figured out about education. It’s not about coming to grab a pile of handouts or resources to take back to your schools on Monday morning. It’s not about providing answers.
Instead, EdCamp Toronto is designed to be a professional learning experience driven by questions—your questions! Many of you have already begun to think about the issues and ideas that you would like to see discussed at EdCamp Toronto. The results of some of this thinking can be found on the EdCamp Toronto Wiki.
But, this is just a beginning. We would love it if everyone coming to EdCamp on October 15 brought a question along with them to post on our organizational wall at the start of the day.
I have found that the best questions are rooted in personal experience, but quickly move beyond the “me” or the “I” to get to a broader context. For example, I may be having a terrible time managing to arrive at a clear and fair evaluation for students in my Grade 6 Social Studies class, but my broader question may have something to do with the real value of the marks we assign students. I may want some ideas on making more effective use of technology with my grade 8 math students, but my question might be expanded to ask about what 21st century technology can contribute to mathematics education that other strategies and tools cannot.
In my own thinking about the art of questioning, I have found it helpful to take my personal context and ask, “How can I re-frame this so that others see themselves in my question.” It’s a powerful process, one that can move us away from the “I” and into the “we”. It’s a process that can allow us to progress from discrete events to underlying issues.
I think the real value of what will happen on October 15 lies in the way that the questions asked might stretch our thinking, allow us to hear alternate perspectives and leave us with new questions to carry back home. Some of what happens at EdCamp will have an immediate effect on our practice. But I suspect that the real power of the experience will be the way that the emergent conversations rattle around in our brains in the weeks that follow.
The best conversations will be the ones that we don’t want to end: the ones we carry back with us to our dinner tables, our staff rooms, our personal blogs and the expanded networks that are, most certainly, bound to be one of the results of EdCamp Toronto.
So, in these days leading up to EdCamp Toronto, we invite you to think about the burning questions. Write them down, share them with us or with others, and bring them along on Saturday, October 15 to York University.
And if you haven’t registered yet to be part of this exciting event, it isn’t too late. We would love to include your voice, your passion and your questions in this day!