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EdCamp sparks exchange of ideas for educators, students

This EdCamp session attracted a standing-room-only crowd. (CONTRIBUTED)
This EdCamp session attracted a standing-room-only crowd. (CONTRIBUTED)
EdCamp organizers ready to serve cake are Joan Comer, from left, Amy Thaxton, Alyson Carpenter, Missy Coman, Carmen Buchanan, Angie Bush and Jackie Flowers. (CONTRIBUTED)
EdCamp organizers ready to serve cake are Joan Comer, from left, Amy Thaxton, Alyson Carpenter, Missy Coman, Carmen Buchanan, Angie Bush and Jackie Flowers. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – ‘Schoology,’ Common Core technical tools and purpose-driven instruction were among topics at EdCamp, an unorthodox conference for educators and school communities.

For the second year, EdCamp was held at James Clemens High School. In 2012, several Madison teachers and administrators attended EdCampBham (in Birmingham) and decided to bring the approach to Madison.

“We knew our area was hungry for this type of participant-led professional development,” James Clemens Assistant Principal Carmen Buchanan said. “We’re a group of learners.”

EdCamp sessions stimulate conversations among educators about tactics for teaching and learning, such as instructional strategies, technology, classroom management and resources. EdCamp is called an “unconference” because it’s an untraditional conference with no preset agenda.

Approximately 250 people attended, compared to 167 last year. Several school districts participated — even from Auburn and Kentucky.

EdCamp was open to anyone at any level. Along with educators, students attended and led sessions. Board members, politicians and aides also participated.

Participants freely walked in and out of sessions and were welcome to move to another session if a particular discussion wasn’t pertinent to them. “Participants were encouraged to join the facilitator in sharing their own ideas and experiences,” Buchanan said.

Sessions lasted in 55- or 25-minute increments with topics such as learning centers in secondary classrooms, ‘flipping’ classrooms and no desks in grades K-5. During “SmackDown,” people shared technological tools in two minutes.

“Student sessions were packed,” Buchanan said. “Teachers want to learn from students.”

“Teachers tell us they’re already using strategies and technology they learned at EdCamp. We encourage attendees to tweet their learning and resources,” Jackie Flowers said. Flowers is assistant principal at Bob Jones High School.

EdCamp is funded by donations.

EdCamp Madison co-founders are Angie Bush, James Clemens French teacher; Sandy Brand, Sparkman Middle School media specialist; Alyson Carpenter, James Clemens instructional partner; Missy Coman, Mill Creek Elementary School instructional partner; Buchanan; and Flowers.

Joining this effort in 2014 are Amy Thaxton, James Clemens instructional partner, and Joan Comer, Columbia Elementary School sixth-grade teacher.

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