On October 15, 2016, I attended EdCampVic with many other preservice teachers. It was such a neat way to interact with a variety of experienced education professionals, from K-12 school teachers, to EAs, to university professors, and beyond. EdCamp is an “unconference,” set up in a democratic way so that attendees can suggest and vote for topics of discussion. There are no papers or presentations given in the sessions; instead, a facilitator simply introduces the topic and opens the floor up for discussion.
The only keynote was the fabulous Shelley Moore, who joined us first thing in the morning to talk about inclusion. The main takeaway from her talk was this: include supports in education that benefit all students, all the time. Don’t require students with learning exceptions to have to seek out those supports, or have to prove they need them, and definitely don’t make them feel bad for needing them. If you haven’t seen Shelley Moore talk before, please watch this video. She is a highly engaging speaker, and the audience was both captivated and inspired by her.
We then broke out into sessions for the remainder of the day. The session that I was impacted by the most was Re-envisioning Student-Centred Learning: Imaginative Education and Involvement. It’s a wonderful thing to see a packed room full of educators who all want the same thing: to engage their students. We talked about encouraging inquiry, about using students’ imagination to reach higher-level thinking, and about involving student reflection in a variety of ways. A couple points really stood out to me in this session. Unfortunately, I’m not sure who said the first one, which is that “if [students] aren’t engaged, then it’s not student-centred.” We need to be able to adapt our teaching methods to each of our students’ unique needs, abilities, and interests if we are truly going to provide student-centred teaching. The second point was by Trevor MacKenzie, a high school English teacher in Victoria, who asked us, “what are you doing in the first weeks of class to empower your students?” One thing I’m realizing is that it’s worth taking extra time at the beginning of a course to involve students in the development of the course. Students need to feel that they are valued by the teacher from Day 1. They need to be involved in discussions and feel that they can ask questions. They need to have some control over what their assessment pieces will look like. If students are empowered, they will participate and produce meaningful work.
I’m really glad I attended EdCampVic, and I look forward to attending the next ones (and maybe checking out EdCamps in other cities, too!). I left feeling hopeful about my future as an educator, and excited to try out new methods in the classroom.