Yesterday I was able to participate in a SAMRiCamp teacher workshop. Similar to last year, DG58 hosted the event and it was well attended. It’s great to see so many educators and administrators taking time out of their busy schedules to attend this professional development opportunity. There were many sessions available and facilitated by educators and administrators in the area. The sessions provided educators with a variety of options to choose from. For the most part, the facilitators of the sessions had organized presentations displayed on whiteboards that were shared through Google Drive. As usual, the entire conference was paperless. Discussion generally followed the presentation with the audience sharing feedback with the group. The majority of the sessions included a hefty dose of teacher conversation.
I find that this type of teacher development model is different than the norm. This type of model can benefit educators in ways that weren’t possible a few decades ago. My past teacher trainings generally consisted of specific workshops for teachers within a particular district. The presenter spoke for the majority of the time with a handout and limited audience participation. Instead of having one district provide training for their specific teachers, the SAMRiCamp teacher camp model encourages more of the conversation element with participants from multiple districts. Different perspectives, programs and ideas can be heard when participants offer responses in the sessions. Gathering teachers and administrators from the local area/state can reap benefits for all participants.
The conversation and collaborative part of this type of professional development is important. Including time to discuss, ask questions and share ideas can evolve into teacher reflection opportunities. During these teacher-led conversations, teachers can experience affirmation and may also meet constructive feedback from others that they can bring back to their school. Pushback, or asking deeper questions that lead to justifying a response can also play a role during these conversations. Discussions can lead to deeper connections with other teachers outside of their district. This action also provides opportunities for teachers to expand their personal learning networks. Being able to candidly discuss matters related to education with other professionals can improve practices. Since many districts are represented, different instructional models and ideas can be brought to the table for discussion. Since educators are both introverts and extroverts, the discussion doesn’t necessarily have to always be verbal. The conversations and questions could take the form of a shared Google Doc. I believe all teachers have something to share and getting comfortable enough to share can be a positive tipping point in the professional development conversation. Taking the risk to share/present and receive feedback can benefit all stakeholders in the room. At the same time, I think it’s important for teachers to be able to say that they don’t have all the answers. The unanswered questions can often help develop an atmosphere of brainstorming, which inturn helps the group. Reflecting on past practices and sharing/learning from others can lead educators to change their practice for the better. Feel free to review the #SAMRiCamp tag for a brief overview of what was discussed.