EdCamp and Appy Hour are two outside-of-the-box ways to approach initiating and sustaining innovation in schools. Having participated in both forms of professional development over the years, I found them to be inspiring and effective. Both ideas (along with many other creative approaches to professional development) can be found in the book Four O’Clock Faculty by Rich Czyz which I highly recommend.
Image credit: @4OClockFaculty
EdCamps are a unique form of collaboration where teachers from different schools get together and choose which topics they want to discuss through the course of the day. Instead of having a strict schedule determined by administrators, topics are open-ended and can change as needs arise. Typical EdCamp events happen on a weekend day and last several hours. EdCamp is all about the power of sharing and connection.
Rich Czyz, author The Four O’Clock Faculty, suggests using a blended model for EdCamp where several sessions are preplanned based on anticipated needs and interests of attendees while other slots are left open for spontaneous discussions. Whether you are using a completely open-ended model with rooms sorted by topics for discussion (such as “Google Forms”) with no set presenter, or going a more traditional route and having presenters lead specific sessions, the format will look very different from traditional conferences. It will sound like a conversation, not a lecture. Ideas will be shared and collaboration encouraged. Central to the idea of EdCamp is that all educators attending have valuable insight and contributions into the various topics covered.
One unique aspect of EdCamp is that it’s completely acceptable to walk out of a session if it’s not meeting your needs. Another interesting aspect of EdCamp is the end of the day ‘smackdown session’ where educators stand up and share out something they learned throughout the course of the day.
You can learn more and search for EdCamps near by using their website.
I first was exposed to the idea of Appy Hour at the first school I ever worked at. The school had an amazing technology integration specialist who inspired me to push myself in terms of how I was using technology in my classroom. The specialist hosted after school events that were narrow in scope and scaffolded based on level. For instance, there might be an ‘Intro to Google Classroom’ Appy Hour and on a different day there would be a Level 2 session. For an informal hour, teachers would enjoy snacks and treats while exploring a new tool with a presentation geared toward their interest and level. After a short presentation, teachers had an opportunity to work with the tool one on one with the support of the specialist and peers.
Reflecting back on this model, I feel there were three key factors to success. One was the energy that the specialist brought to these presentations. They were a wonderful time of communication and collaboration which felt more like hanging out with friends then getting through a boring professional development session. Another key element of success was the fact that the sessions were tailored to specific interest and level. This personalized learning worked well because teachers were engaged and their time respected. A final component of success (which admittedly not all districts could afford) was the fact that our school provided hourly pay to attend these sessions.
A different version of the Appy Hour as featured in the book has the coordinator selecting a few teachers or students to present a new tool or app at the start of the meeting. They spend just two minutes ‘selling’ that particular tool and then they move to tables to oversee different stations. Based on interest, teachers attending the development get to choose which station to visit and begin to work with the tool. When they feel they have the basics covered, they move on to the next station.
If you’d like to explore a creative approach to Appy Hour from an elementary level coach, Kristy Rocquin has some wonderful resources on this site.