Edcamp Baltimore (@EdcampBmore) will be held Saturday, September 27th on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Co-founder, Chris Shriver (@ccshriver) sat down with #mdeschat to discuss her passion for technology, teaching, and the edcamp movement. Chris will guest host #mdeschat on Twitter this Thursday, September 18th, 8PM EST.
You serve as a Digital Learning Specialist at Garrison Forrest School. What are the roles and responsibilities of your position?
As a Digital Learning Specialist, I work directly with students and faculty in the lower division of my school. My main responsibility is teaching a class called Imagineering (a hands-on STEM class with a focus on building and problem solving) in grades PK-5. I also work with teachers to help implement technology in their classrooms. We are a Google Apps for Education school with a 1 to 1 program in grades 4-12, so we have many opportunities for collaboration and curriculum enhancement using digital tools. I also often help with faculty training during our in-house professional development days.
How has technology changed since you began your career?
This is a tough one to answer, at least succinctly. My teaching career has had two phases, one before children and one after. The first phase ended in 1996 with the birth of my oldest daughter. At that time, I was teaching English to non-native speakers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the world of edtech for me consisted of not much more than word processing and email, all of which was accomplished in a lab, students and teachers alike.
When I re-entered the classroom (at my current school) in 2006, I found myself at a 1 to 1 school where every teacher was assigned a personal computer (a big change from 1996!). There was a lot to learn, but fortunately, I consider myself a life-long learner. After a few years as an assistant teacher, I became the Digital Learning Specialist for the Lower School. I was fortunate to have a classroom that was technology-rich (I was in a Mac lab with an interactive whiteboard, and we were piloting the classroom use of iOS devices in our younger elementary grades). However, as I look back even these short 4 years, I realize a lot has changed.
In 2010, I taught technology in isolation in a lab. Students came to me, and we learned tools for the sake of learning the tool. Sometimes, what we did in the lab was an extension of what was happening in the classroom, but that was often not the case. Two years ago, we decided to close the lab (we needed additional classroom space) and move my work with the students into the homerooms. This allowed the projects to be directly tied to what the students were doing in class.
We were successful because now my class time with students deals very minimally with websites and tech tools. That is part of what happens now in the homerooms (with my support as needed). My role has been re-imagined once again as the STEM teacher, and with it, I have a new classroom. I teach a class primarily focused on building and creating with our hands, aided and enhanced by technology when it is the best tool for the task. When we do have computer time, rather than websites and software, we often find ourselves learning programming. I would say the biggest change in how we as a school view technology is the realization that we cannot simply teach our students to be consumers; we must also teach them to create.
You are a co-founder and member of the organizing committee for Edcamp Baltimore (September 27th at JHU). How did you get involved with edcamps?
I met Shannon Montague (@montysays) in January 2012 at a Photoshop workshop at Calvert School. We recognized one another from Twitter. Coincidentally, she and I had plans to both attend EduCon in Philadelphia a few days later. Although we didn’t really spend our time together at the conference, we both came away with similar experiences. As you may know, attending EduCon is three days of meeting and connecting with the Who’s Who of Twitter. There, both Shannon and I heard a lot about edcamps (most of the current Foundation board was in attendance).
A few months later, we found ourselves having coffee at the Starbucks in Pikesville discussing the steps necessary for putting together an edcamp for Baltimore (Shannon is a master organizer). The excitement of what we had heard about at EduCon was contagious, and we knew we wanted to bring it to Baltimore. November 10, 2012 was the first Edcamp Baltimore.
What do you think it is about edcamps that appeals to so many educators?
Edcamps put educators first. We become the students, so our needs come before that of our schools or districts. We have a voice in what we want to learn. This is so exciting because I think educators enjoy learning; after all, we have decided to devote our careers to being in the classroom. So when we find ourselves surrounded by others like us, dedicated, passionate teachers who voluntarily give up a Saturday to learn, the feeling is pure joy.
What would you tell someone who has never been to an edcamp to encourage their attendance?
I think the biggest hurdle for most is the idea of giving up part of the weekend. However, every edcamp I have attended has brought me into contact with some of the most amazing educators I have ever met. I truly believe the decision to attend an edcamp will be a decision no educator will regret. For anyone who is in need of refueling (often the reason we are reluctant to give up the weekend), edcamps are the opportunity to rediscover the joys that brought you into the classroom. You will leave with far more than the day you donate.
What are you looking forward to most about Edcamp Baltimore this year?
I am looking forward to the people! This has been a year of unbelievable excitement and anticipation for Edcamp Baltimore. In the first two years, we had to do a lot of selling of the event. This year, our loyal attendees have done all the heavy lifting. They have tweeted and contacted colleagues, and the response has been tremendous. We are in a very vibrant community, full of exciting innovation, and I am really looking forward to learning from and connecting with all of these dedicated educators.
A BIG thank you to Chris for sharing her knowledge and passion!