The informal gatherings allow teachers to collaborate and hone specific skills.
Where does a teacher turn to learn how to incorporate technology into her classroom or find innovative ways to teach reluctant readers? For generations of educators, the answer was to head to a big professional development conference that offered general resources. But thanks to the growing popularity of EdCamp, they're increasingly taking advantage of free, grassroots gatherings to organically collaborate and take control of their own learning by building specific skills.
The EdCamp model borrows from the "unconference" structure of BarCamp, participant-driven meetups of tech hackers that began happening around the world in the mid-2000s. In 2010, a group of Philadelphia teachers who had attended a BarCamp decided to create a similar space where their peers could hack the theory and practice of K-12 education.
A social media campaign wants to motivate teachers to make a fresh start in 2012.
New Year's doesn't mark the start of the school calendar for teachers, but that doesn't mean it isn't an opportunity for them to set new professional goals. But going at it alone can be tough. A new collaborative effort, The 30 Goals Challenge, invites educators to become part of a virtual community designed to help them change the way they view their classrooms and students.
Launched two years ago by influential educators Shelly Terrell and Lisa Dabbs, the grassroots effort has drawn 7,000 teacher participants from around the globe. The two founders set small, short-term goals designed to inspire teachers and help them improve their work incrementally. Last year, educators were challenged to make a list of "what you believe about learning," reflect on what an ideal classroom culture would look like, and set a goal to teach digital literacy.
Terrell and Dabbs—who founded two of the most popular education conversations on Twitter, #edchat and #ntchat (new teacher chat)—have long been advocates of the power of social media to connect educators and share best practices. They write posts on their websites about each goal and encourage participants to start their own blogs and do the same. Participants can also discuss the challenge on Twitter using the hashtag #30Goals, upload video reflections about each goal to YouTube, and post updates to the challenge's Facebook page. Although teachers are invited to join the challenge at any point, the formal kickoff will happen in early February.