NOT JUST FOR FUN — One of the busiest sessions of the I8 EdCamp teacher institute day was the hands on Pinterest seminar. Teachers learned how to use the online interest boards to collaborate with other educators across the country and even around the globe, sharing ideas from hanging decorations at the holidays to classroom management. Courtesy photo
Marney Simon Staff writer
For parents, a day off at school means a day to find something to keep your children busy and out of trouble.
For students, it's a break from the daily grind.
But for teachers, a day set aside for no student attendance is hardly a vacation day. Quite the opposite, the teacher's institute day is one of the most demanding days in the life of a teacher, even without a classroom full of students needing attention. Educators use those all-important off days to focus on education, the end goal - strengthen the educational experience for their students.
On Jan. 7, educators from Wilmington and Coal City met for an "EdCamp" teacher institute event. The session, sometimes referred to as an "unconference," is part of an emerging trend for professional development in the education community. Rather than lecture-type settings where the participants listen and take notes, the event is teacher driven, with those in attendance acting as active participants in search of ways to create a more effective educational system.
"It's kind of a newer phenomenon that I would say has become popular in the last three to four years," said Dr. Matt Swick, assistant superintendent of the Wilmington School District, which hosted the event. "Teachers... truly drive the discussion for the day. It's not led by high dollar guest speakers or anything like that, it's professionals bringing information to other professionals to improve things for kids."
Swick said the roughly 300 participants from Wilmington School District 209U and the Coal City Unit 1 School District took part in the day-long EdCamp event, kicking off the day with a minimal schedule. The organizers started by gathering ideas from participants in advance of the event, asking what topics they would like to explore. From there, they planned out the first of three sessions for the day. Once those groups met and the discussions began, the rest of the day fell into place.
"Session two and session three were built on, truly, what the needs were that day, where they felt that they could best use their time to improve," Swick said. "It ranged anywhere from discussions about pension reform, to talking about helping struggling learners, we had sessions on special education, on RTI (response to intervention) initiatives, we had content specific sessions... on Common Core next generation standards."
For teachers, the opportunity to associate with other educators opens the door to finding solutions for classroom challenges.
Read more in the Jan. 15, 2014 print and online editions of The Free Press Advocate.