Since its inception in 2016, Edcamp CT COLT (formerly LangCampCT) has been a wonderful way for language teachers in CT to connect in an informal and supportive “unconference” setting. It is one of my favorite language teaching events because the main goal is for language teachers to engage thoughtfully in conversations with other language teachers.
For the second year in a row, EdCamp CT COLT was held virtually over Zoom. Since many of our participants had been using Zoom or similar platforms for online teaching, there were few technical challenges so that we could concentrate on topics of interest.
The committee who planned and ran the event were: Trudy Anderson, Gina Gallo, Marta Krzemien, Maureen Lamb, Marisa Lewis, Matthew Mangino, Michelle Nicklas, and Melissa Tubbs. The committee also acted as facilitators for the different breakout rooms during the unconference. Thank you to them for volunteering and working diligently to make this unconference happen!
What is an Edcamp?
An EdCamp is an “unconference,” meaning that there are no traditional presentations and workshops. Instead, the emphasis is on conversations between participants. While there is usually a volunteer to facilitate, their goal is to keep the conversation going rather than to present information as the expert in the room. Instead, all of the participants are experts in the room. Also.unlike traditional conferences, there is the “rule of two feet.” If the discussion in a room is not meeting your needs, you can simply switch to another room with understanding and encouragement from the other participants. The most important part of an unconference is to make the experience and discussions meaningful for you and your practice.
How do we do this virtually?
We set up this Edcamp through Zoom. While last year we had facilitators share their own Zoom links, this year we harnessed the new Zoom feature of participant choice of breakout rooms to allow participants to move freely between breakout rooms to find a discussion that worked for them. The main room was designated as a technical help space and a space for hallway conversations, or impromptu conversations that may have veered off from the original discussion that were looking for a place to happen.
What were some of the topics?
As a committee, we picked topics that participants had indicated an interest in on previous surveys. Some of the topics included:
- Transitioning Back After Hybrid Learning
- Strategies for Building Language Proficiency
- Interdisciplinary Connections Between World Languages and Art
- Strategies for Maintaining 90%+ Target Language
- Grammar in Context
- Equity and Diversity: Conversations about Race in the World Language Classroom
- Creating Opportunities for Global Interactions
- Project Based Learning
- Teacher Self Care and Time Management Strategies
- Social Emotional Learning
How did it go?
Although we certainly missed seeing each other face to face, it was so much fun to have the opportunity to connect virtually with colleagues, new and familiar. The topics selected spurred a wide range of discussions and provided many different conversations that participants could dive into and share with colleagues.
On our exit survey, teachers reported that some of their favorite parts were:
- “It has been too long since I got a chance to really talk to educators in my field!”
- “It doesn’t take a lot of people to share great ideas.”
- “Meeting other teachers with the same needs and experiences.”
- “Getting an intro into different journeys and getting to know a bit more about some colleagues I’ve seen before.”
- “Everyone’s eagerness to share and to learn with and from each other.”
One of the advantages of having a virtual component to an EdCamp is that participants can choose how they want to participate. They can add notes to the document for each room, use tools such as chat or reactions to respond to other participants’ comments. In the future, it may be useful to set up a Padlet or another similar tool so that even when we are back in person, there are opportunities for participants who may be more comfortable sharing over text to have a platform to share and make their voices heard. Some teachers even asked if we could do an in person and virtual EdCamp at different times of year.
Thank you so much to all the participants and the committee who made EdCamp CT COLT 2021 such a great professional development opportunity!