School system bringing EdCamp to Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2015

Educators from across the county and the state will make their way to Knox Middle School March 7 for EdCamp Rowan.

“It’s free professional development for educators,” said Andrew Smith, director of technological innovation for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, adding that EdCamp allows the professional development to be tailored to the needs of the attendees the day of the event.

“It’s an un-conference – there are no presenters and there are no sessions,” he explained.

Teachers will arrive between 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. for registration, breakfast and to brainstorm session ideas.

“We’ll have these large tables with butcher paper out and people write down ideas and challenges on sticky notes,” Smith said.

Teachers will then go to the keynote presentation, given by Derek McCoy, National Digital Principal of the Year. McCoy is principal of Spring Lake Middle School in Spring Lake, just outside of Fayetteville.

During the keynote presentation, organizers will group the sticky notes of ideas into categories, and decide on topics for professional development sessions.

“We really make a program that morning,” said Dr. Michael Waiksnis, co-principal of Knox Middle School. “It really lets the participants form the agenda.”

He and Dr. Latoya Dixon, Knox’s other co-principal, founded EdCamp South Carolina when they worked in their previous district.

“The beauty of it is that it’s much more organic and meets the needs of the people that are there,” Waiksnis said. “The great thing about an EdCamp is that it truly meets the needs of each attendee.”

After McCoy finishes speaking, there will be 5- minute sessions from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., with four to six different sessions per timeslot.

Each session will have a facilitator, but each attendee will be a presenter of sorts.

“In this model, you might have 30 people presenting in one room,” Smith said. Facilitators are “merely there to help discussion flow.”

“EdCamps are very much focused on collaboration,” Waiksnis said.

“The discussion can go in whatever way you please,” Smith added.

Each person will have the opportunity to ask questions and collaborate with others in the session.

“Rather than a one-way transmission of ideas,” Waiksnis said, Edcamp allows “experts learn from other experts.”

There will also be a vendor fair. The district has invited 40 digital resource vendors that provide resources the district approves of and recommends.

“It gives us an opportunity to bundle,” Smith said, explaining that if multiple schools want to use a resource, they might be able to get it for the entire district at a discounted rate.

The vendor fair also helps offset the price of lunch and everything else, he added.

Smith said the typical day for a teacher typically runs nonstop from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Even if professional development is worked into their day during a planning period it has to compete with the everyday distractions of a school environment.

“The biggest goal is tailored professional development and providing our educators a different venue to learn,” he said. “This allows educators to step away and be in an immersive environment.

EdCamp is an international professional development model, with locations as far away as Germany, Hong Kong and Dubai. Twenty Rowan-Salisbury educators went to EdCamp North Carolina in Raleigh earlier this school year.

There are already more than 200 educators planning to attend EdCamp Rowan, 117 from the Rowan-Salisbury School System, and 88 from other districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Iredell-Statesville, Cabarrus and Winsont-Salem/Forsyth.

For more information or to register for EdCamp Rowan, visit https://edcamp.wikispaces.com/edcamp+Rowan.

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