EdCamp: A Great Start to #NAESP16
Learning about coding in school, scheduling for interventions, and more

By Rachel Walters

Attending my first EdCamp outside my own school in Tampa was a great way to kick off the learning at this year’s conference. I remember first learning about the EdCamp model a few years ago, and I was intrigued by the idea of allowing participants to build a day of learning around the interests and the expertise of those attending. 

I enjoyed the concept so much we did a mini EdCamp in lieu of a faculty meeting at my school. The positive feedback from the teachers was overwhelming. They were able to choose what they learned about, and weren’t forced to sit through training someone else thought they needed.

Yesterday, I finally had the chance to experience my first EdCamp as a participant, and it did not disappoint. Joe Mazza, @Joe_Mazza, opened the inaugural NAESP EdCamp by explaining the four rules of every EdCamp: the camp is free, open to anyone, participant driven, and vendor free. 

We quickly moved into building the session board, setting our agenda for the workshop. Mazza reminded us, “The expert is not the presenter. The expert is the room.” He also encouraged us to take a risk and volunteer to present on a topic. 

I must admit I did not take a risk, but I enjoyed watching the board take shape as my peers wrote down various topics of interest. Within 10 or 15 minutes, all the sessions were filled, and I was able to choose three areas of focus to learn more about with my colleagues.

Session One was very informative, as we discussed how to teach coding—today’s form of computer programming—in an elementary school setting. Brad Gustafson, @GustafsonBrad, facilitated the learning as we shared ideas on the importance of coding, how to implement it, and how to get teachers to see the value of it. I felt a little intimidated because our school has not focused on teaching coding as a regular part of the curriculum. I did, however, leave the session with a wealth of resources to share with my teachers as we move forward in increasing the use of technology in our school.

If you want to know more about adding the teaching of coding in your school, search the following items on the web: Bbots, Sphero, Google CS First, and Bloxels. As school leaders, we need to make it a priority for our school community if we want our students to be prepared for life.

The next session was equally as engaging: We discussed global collaboration and digital citizenship. My best takeaway was learning how to build a “list,” which will allow us to live-stream tweets on our school website while filtering out the spam. I also loved the comment someone made, that “connected is not something we do; it is how we think.” As leaders, we need to lead the way in making sure our teachers and students have the skills necessary to think “connectedly.”

Finally, the last learning session of the EdCamp centered on scheduling and how to fit interventions for struggling students into an already crowded school schedule. I especially liked the idea of designating 30 minutes per day for interventions on a six-day rotation, with three days dedicated to reading and the next three for math. 

The day did not end with EdCamp. The sponsored networking time was another great opportunity to meet principals from across the country and hear about the great things happening in education today. We have chosen a demanding yet rewarding career, and it is helpful to make connections with others who have the same calling.

A few reminders: Download the #NAESP16 app to help organize your schedule, or use this itinerary planner.

Connect with me on Twitter @RachelWalters and share your thoughts at the conference, or find me at Clearing the Path. More to come!

Rachel Walters, principal of Shaw Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, is serving as the #NAESP16 official blogger.