Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Author John Thompson Shares His nErDcampNNE 2014 Experience

John Thompson 

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be one of the attendees in what I believe was the second nErDcamp to be held, the first having been organized by Colby Sharp and others in Battle Creek, MI in 2013. This one, titled nErDcamp Northern New England focused on literacy and took place just south of Portland, Maine at Biddeford High School. As one of a small group of authors invited to participate, I was lucky enough to watch a bunch of wonderful, dynamic educators in action.
At a time when so many are hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing as they decry the sad state of American education, I can’t begin to tell you how inspirational it was to see a hundred and twenty some educators gather together on a very snowy Saturday to exchange ideas, attack problems, spread best practice information and network with one another to create ongoing ways to share going forward. No one got paid, no ‘senior management’ sent word from on high that this was what the teachers needed to do. nErDcamp NNE was totally voluntary, totally from the grassroots, an event that grew from the ground up, an event that was of teachers, for teachers and by teachers.
The teachers, literacy coaches and media specialists who braved the difficult weather came bristling with energy, questions, excitement and ideas, and the first task of the day was to figure out exactly what our mission was. Our head organizer, Susan Dee (@literacydocent) was unflinching in insisting that there were no “leaders” and no “experts.” After the group threw out ideas for questions, areas of exploration, discussion topics, etc, even if someone volunteered to moderate a session, their job was not to be the fount of all information, but to keep things moving.

Every single person was expected to learn and everyone was expected to share their own expertise wherever possible. To my amazement, this was not an exercise in herding cats. There were no egos on display, no pedants, no one insisting ‘my way or the highway’. The people in the auditorium quickly helped structure a blank schedule into a four block schedule with nine operating classrooms, each dealing with a different topic.

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