This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1.
My first Edcamp experience was 3 years ago. I received a Whedonesque e-mail from a colleague inviting me to this thing that seemed not just different but REALLY different. Now, I don’t impress easily. I’m a professional development junky- I’ve been to just about everything and I’ll admit that most of it bores me anymore. The presentations, the PowerPoints, the handouts- it all focused on telling other people what the speaker knows. There’s not much that seems really new, innovative or even interesting. But this Edcamp thing? It sounded just crazy enough to be worth a look. There’s a catch, though- I can’t learn without coffee. Edcamp seemed like the kind of event that might skimp on the coffee. So my office- the Center for School Renewal- ponied up for the coffee. (Hey, life’s about self-interest, right?) Now, three years later, we’re still buying coffee. Actually, we’ve stepped up our investment a bit and ponied up as a Platinum Sponsor for Edcamp Boston and we’re picking up responsibility for Edcamp Keene this August.
Why do we do it? Because Edcamp is one of the last places where educators can go to ask the questions they need to dissect and analyze. It’s not about talking about what the presenter wants to talk about, it’s about taking on what the group wants to talk about. It’s a perfect mix of democracy, idealism, and pragmatism and we at Antioch love high ideals and rolled up sleeves.
You may not know us well (or at all), but Antioch has a long history of service to the greater good. According to our founder, Horace Mann, we should “be ashamed to die until (we) have won some victory to humanity.” We look for people who not only want to change the world, but also believe that they have a responsibility to do so. We want teachers who are willing to chuck conventional wisdom and think big, impertinent, brave thoughts. We want people who trust other people to imagine something better for kids, communities and the world. We have a number of different paths that we invite people to use as they enter our community-Concentrations in Educational Technology, Educating for Sustainability, Teacher Leadership, Problem-Based Learning, and Autism Spectrum Disorders (We even have a Self Designed Concentration for people like you who know they want their graduate work to serve their needs, instead of the other way around)- all based in constructivist philosophy and taught by instructors who walk their talk. We know that traditional classrooms aren’t for everyone- in fact, we’re pretty sure that most people are better served when classrooms looked more like Edcamp and less like, well, nearly every college classroom ever since (and before) the industrial revolution. We know that the people who agree with that are the same people who are going to change EVERYTHING for kids, schools, and communities.
We find those people at Edcamp- and we know they like their coffee (and tea and bagels and donuts) just as much as we do. ‘Cause changing the world is going to call for a LOT of coffee.