I can’t wait for #edcampHAM…inspired by #edcampTO

This past fall, I attended my first #edcamp. I have attended a multitude of conferences before and I have also been part of organizing teams for conferences….I guess you could call them ‘real conferences’, but this was my first…what do you call it??? UN-CONFERENCE.

EDCAMP itself was an illusive term to me. The ‘unconference’ model was a learning in itself. To start with no content and let the current ‘whims’ of the attendees determine the agenda was eye opening. People generated questions on the spot and sessions were determined by a ‘dotmocracy’. There were really no conference presenters, but just people who got the ball rolling with the questions and conversation. I thought a lot…and I learned a lot too!

As a teacher-librarian, I am interested in integrating 21st Century Fluencies/Skills with the classes, teachers and students I encounter. Although there are a few differences in semantics, the literature is pretty consistent in identifying the basic skills: looking for solutions, interpreting information, creating meaning and/or creating something new, evaluating media influences and working with others collaboratively. I gravitated to sessions with that focus. I also followed the twitter backchannel #edcampto to stay attuned to others sessions. In wanting to learn more about the use of technology and its use within the 21st CF, I had my A-HA moments.

First, 21st Century Fluencies or Skills is really misleading. It is not really about skills that have developed or been needed in the just last 12 years . These are skills that children and adults have needed throughout any school and work career through decades. By labelling them 21st Century, we get confused in thinking its a new ‘need’ and a new invention. I am usually more into the meaning more than the label, but I find myself needing to continually remind myself of the timeless nature of these skills. I guess with the speed at which things are changing and information is being exchanged and shared, perhaps it is the flexibility we need in adapting to each situation. BUT really, can we change the name? Any suggestions?

Secondly, the presumed connection between 21st CF/S and technology is obvious. As mentioned above, the name is part of the problem, and the perception is another. Obviously technology can be a vehicle fostering the skills, but it is not the means to the end. We cannot simply give students technology and assume we are using or building on the skills. Putting a desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, e-reader, or smartphone in front of a student does not guarantee 21st CF/S. In fact, sometimes giving technology and tools without thinking about the skills actually stunts the very use of the skills we should be promoting. I am by no means discouraging the use of technology. Personally, I love to open up the world and discover what can be done with mobile devices. But, we just need to ask the right questions in introducing it and encouraging it with the students. How does it or CAN it promote the skills? How may it hinder the development of the skills? HOW DOES THE TOOL HELP OUR STUDENTS LEARN? In working through these questions, we can make the integration more authentic AND powerful in that it forces us to build the skills with our students AND ourselves.

My head is still swimming with ideas that I am having to make sense of from #edcampTO. I am still working on understanding, sharing and implementing 21st CF even with my discomfort with its branding. Despite the name, we know that our students are needing the skills MORE for the future. We, as adults and especially as educators, have to remind ourself that we need to continue developing our own skills in the area. We need to learn along with our students and be explicit with how we are learning along the way too.

So, for now, I will reflect some more on my collaborations and learnings with people at #edcampTO. By the way, I can’t wait for #edcampHAM…Come join us Saturday, May 4th, 2013.

Here is a short STORIFY representing some of my favourite tweets:

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