Edcamp Maryland: The Day Just Kept Getting Better

choptank

This was my view as I was crossing the Choptank River on my way to Edcamp Maryland. So I had a feeling it was going to be a great day. The drive from the eastern shore of Maryland to downtown Baltimore was not long and it gave me time to reflect and think about what I might share if I were to lead a discussion. I had never presented at an Edcamp before, so I have to admit I was a little bit nervous.

As I entered the Maryland State Department Of Education, which by the way is the first state department to sponsor and edcamp, and went to check in with the event organizers, I was greeted by Susan Verdi and Christie Flayhart.

My day was getting better with every passing moment. Susan and Christie are two highly valued members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) who I had never had the pleasure of meeting in person until yesterday. I was truly honored to get to spend time with each one of them because they are both the type of people who make you feel better about yourself when you are around them.

I thought to myself that if this day continued on this trajectory I can’t even begin to imagine how it was going to end.

Next, I took the elevator up to the 8th floor to partake in some refreshments and to get settled. I got my name tag and then went to pay for my parking ticket. Those that attended the Edcamp were going to get a discount. I thought that’s pretty cool.

Free conference.

Free food.

Discounted parking in downtown Baltimore.

Awesome!

But as I went to pay the fee I realized that I did not have enough money. I was now going to have to pay over double the discounted rate. I kicked myself for not carrying more cash, but in the scheme of things I was not too concerned. This day was a bargain.

And then as I went to walk away the gentleman that was in charge of the tickets told me not to worry about it. “Just give me what you have,” he said. I don’t know if he covered it himself or if it came out of some other funds. But he didn’t need to do that. Thank you!

At this point if my day would have ended I would have considered it a success. And yet, the actual Edcamp sessions had yet to begin!

I got some coffee and a bagel and sat down. Everyone was in such a good mood and you could feel the excitement brewing. After a few minutes I decided to put a topic on the board. I was still a little nervous about it and really didn’t know if many people would be interested in what I had to share. But I figured, why not? What do I have to lose?

Every few minutes the event organizers would enter the room where we were all eating and drinking and yell out how many spaces were left on the board. These ladies were enthusiastic! In the end, the board was filled up with a variety of topics chosen exclusively by the participants. Ahhh, the beauty of the Edcamp format.

Next we were treated to motivational remarks by Dr. Jack Smith from MSDE and Jody Zepp, Maryland’s reigning teacher of the year. It was clear from their remarks that they were passionate about education. More than anything, we could tell that they were both passionate about the participant-driven experience that was getting ready to take place.

And we were off! Now was the time we had all been waiting for. Edcamp Maryland was about to begin.

In the morning I attended a session on social media led by Jared Wastler and Sarah Thomas. The energy in the room was great and Jared and Sarah were able to raise our social media IQ and make us laugh at the same time. When was the last time you laughed your way through professional development? Well I did during the first session yesterday and it was a blast!

I popped in one room for the second session for a few minutes, but to be quite honest I was beginning to feel a little nervous about the discussion I was going to be leading after lunch. Lunch was great because it allowed educators to meet and greet folks they have never met before. I used this opportunity to eat a slice of pizza and check on the projector that I would be accessing during my discussion.

Now just because I tweet and blog it does mean that I know how to operate equipment. In fact, I’m quite helpless. I tried to connect my laptop to the projector, but to no avail. Luckily right next to me was an Edcamper who jumped right up and helped me. Thank you.

The session began with a discussion on Edmodo. A topic I knew very little about, but feel more comfortable with now. Then it was my turn to discuss blogging. I was still nervous, but I knew I had friends in the room who were there to support me. And that made all the difference. I felt good about the discussion and I do think that some folks came away with the confidence that they too can blog. There was one point though during the discussion where an Edcamper asked a question about student blogging.

Uh oh! I know next to nothing about student blogging. I really had no good response. But without a moment’s hesitation my colleague from Dorchester County, Brian Cook, jumped in and saved me. He was able to share all that amazing things he does with his students at North Dorchester Middle School. His students are some amazing writers. You can check them out at https://dorchesterpress.wordpress.com/ .

The last session I attended was aimed at strategies to help urban youth. There were only a few of us in the room but that didn’t matter. The discussion was rich and aimed at helping to build better relationships with the kids we serve each and every day. the combination of new and veteran teachers allowed for a give and take from which everyone benefited. There were truly no experts in the room. There were just people helping people. And it was beautiful.

Edcamp Maryland ended with a huge prize giveaway. It was great! I wasn’t counting, but I believe almost half of the Edcampers left with a prize. I didn’t win a prize, but I can tell you that I didn’t leave empty.

One of my most memorable images of the day came when I was pulling out of the parking garage. As I was about to pull away a fellow Edcamper and I made eye contact. And then we smiled warmly at each other. I do not know her name and I doubt she knows mine. But we did attend a session together. And so while we may not have known each other and we may never see each other again, we were a part of something bigger than ourselves. We Edcamped!

On the way home I had plenty of time to reflect on the whole Maryland Edcamp experience. And I liked what I saw. The fact the Maryland State Department of Education was the first state to sponsor an Edcamp is awesome and makes me feel good about the direction we are heading. I didn’t have too long to reflect because I was meeting my wife and kids at Golden Corral for dinner. This was my daughter’s reward for having an awesome report card.

They arrived before I did but my daughter was waiting for me in the lobby. She greeted me with a running hug. Later on while we were eating, or should I say stuffing our faces, she asked me how I thought the day went. I told her that it was great and that I think I may have inspired some people to start blogging. My daughter smiled and I could tell she was happy for me.

But what she said next resonated deeply with me. She was telling me about a quote she loved. She was paraphrasing, but basically she told me that while it is good to be inspired, inspiring others it much more powerful because it involves more than just ourselves.

Wow! That was the day in a nutshell. While I believe that everyone that attended Edcamp Maryland came away inspired, more than anything I believe every person that attended was able to inspire someone else in some way, shape or form. And therein lies the power of an Edcamp! Educators giving up a Saturday to learn and grow with each other!

As we were walking out of the Golden Corral I couldn’t help but notice that the sun was setting. Of course it was. A perfect ending to an incredible day! Thank you to everyone that made Edcamp Maryland such a success. I am already looking forward to next year!

golden corral