From the pages of Lookjed: Creative responses to educational challenges - #Jedcamp

The following is cross-posted from the Lookjed Listerv.

Imagine a conference with no keynote presentation, no scheduled presentations, no fee to attend, no need to take off time from school. A conference that is located locally so there are few travel expenses and no need to find overnight accommodations. This is the model of Jedcamp, also known as an unconference. The goal is to put as few impediments as possible for teachers to attend and to maximize free flowing conversation, collaboration, networking, and sharing. 

The idea for this type of get together was first developed by computer coders who created BarCamp as a way to meet and share. When a group of educators came to a BarCamp, they spontaneously decided to lead a session on the intersection of technology and education, "planned" spontaneity is one of the hallmarks of these camps. These teachers realized that they could franchise this model for education as well so the first EdCamp was formed three years ago in Philadelphia. Some half a dozen of these camps now take place every week in locations throughout the world with their own wiki, [edcamp.wikispaces.com], where you can see a schedule of all events. A number of months ago, Jewish educators started to see the need to start their version of Ed Camp since most Ed Camps took place on Saturdays and educators wanted a chance to network on issues unique to Jewish day schools. So JedCamp was formed, first in South Florida on December 30, 2012 and then this past weekend, April 21, in Paramus NJ where JedCampNJNY took place. 

JedcampNJNY was organized by Rabbi Aaron Ross, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky and a committee of like minded educators from NJ and NY. Publicity was done through Twitter, Facebook, a JedcampNJNY page on the Edcamp wiki, Lookjed announcements, and word of mouth. We did not pay for any publicity and with the exception of food which was provided from personal donors and the space which was provided by Yavneh Academy, there were no other costs for the event. We did not really know what to expect since none of us had ever actually been to an EdCamp or Jedcamp, although Seth Dimbert who organized JedCampSouthFlorida flew in for the event. 

The event exceeded everybody's expectations. Over 80 teachers gathered from dozens of schools including every Yeshiva day school in Bergen County and others throughout the NY, NY area. Teachers came energized ready to share and present. The way sessions were "planned" was on a board posted with 4 time slots and 5 sessions rooms per slot. Sessions were posted organically as teachers arrived and wrote their own ideas for various slots. The board became the central focus of the first part of the day. Within 20 minutes of the beginning of the morning, all but three of these slots were filled with various presenters and topics. The final three spaces were occupied by participants who, upon seeing the board fill up, chose a topic to present about after arriving for the event. Topics were not limited to technology (something we were concerned about), although sessions on iPads, 21st century learning, and educational apps were represented. Other session topics focused on educational reform such as a session on building a high school from scratch and one questioning the need for reform. Others focused on more unique topics like one on using improv in the classroom. What made all of these sessions so rich was the lively conversation and healthy give and take in the rooms. 

Here is a picture of the session board: 
Click on the picture above for a spreadsheet listing all of the Jedcamp sessions.

The most rewarding aspect of this "unconference" was the face to face conversations in the rooms, the hallways, and at lunch. Participants were encouraged to "vote with their feet" going to any session of their choosing and if they did not think they were gaining from a session leaving for a different one without the presenter taking offense. There were no "gurus" in the rooms, allowing everyone to feel that there was a level playing field and the event was a neutral space where teachers from various schools could freely talk with one another. The event was also run by teachers for teachers so all sessions were both relevant and timely. Although the focus was on face to face interaction, technology tools and social media were used as a framework to extend the conversation with a lively Twitter feed using the hashtag #JedcampNJNY, live Google docs being created in real time throughout the sessions, and many blog posts reflecting on the event written both during and shortly after the day. 

You can view pictures here that give you a taste of the event: [www.facebook.com

In true JedCamp fashion, rather than posting a long list of our reflections here is list of personalized observations from those in attendance. 

Mr. Jeffrey Kiderman's Google Doc on creating a school from scratch: [docs.google.com

Rabbi David Mark's Google Doc on using positive psychology in the classroom: [docs.google.com

Notes and Reflections by Mrs. Lauren Adler: 
[docs.google.com
[docs.google.com

2 blog postings by "NY's Funniest Rabbi", Rabbi Neil Fleischmann: 
[rabbifleischmann.blogspot.com
[rabbifleischmann.blogspot.com

2 blog postings by Rabbi Daniel Rosen: 
[rosends.blogspot.com
[rosends.blogspot.com

Blog posting by Rabbi Michael Bitton: [rabbimichaelbitton.blogspot.com

2 blog postings by Rabbi Aaron Ross: 
[jewishedd.blogspot.com
[jewishedd.blogspot.com

My 2 previous blog postings: 
[techrav.blogspot.com
[techrav.blogspot.com

Blog posting by Mrs. Debby Jacoby
[http://edjewcation.wordpress.com/

Article about JedcampNJNY by the Jewish Standard, a local Jewish newspaper: 
[www.jstandard.com

Moving forward this event is so easily franchisable that we hope that more Jedcamps develop throughout North America and the world. Jedcamp is the “affordable” conference model as it requires very little funds to organize and costs nothing for teachers to attend. There are already plans for Jedcamps in Baltimore, California, and Brooklyn, NY. Please feel free to contact us if you would like ideas for organizing your own Jedcamp. 

Kol Tuv, 

Rabbi Aaron Ross, aaronshalom@gmail.com 
Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, Tzvi.Pittinsky@gmail.com 
And the JedcampNJNY Committee