I decided however to approach at camp a little differently this time. Rather than delivering a session myself, or going along with existing sessions, I decided it would be best to try and ask some difficult questions. For example, I spent the first session, which talked about STEAM and coding, asking The participants not why coding was important, but if coding was even important at all. I think a lot of times in education, especially the Ed Tech realm, we get so caught up on trends and buzzwords, that we forget to ask ourselves if they are actually helping student learning. Coding is certainly a great skill to pursue and will certainly lead to great things from students, but is it really the best use of time and money, especially to the exclusion of other options? Is spending weeks on a Minecraft activity in my English classroom as valuable as perhaps simply using videos, or iPads, or other forms of media? Is coding being overly promoted simply because it's at a disadvantage, or is there something more valuable to coding… Or "Making"… Or STEM... than any of the other existing fields? I'm not against any of these things, but I think it's important, especially at these types of events, that we have these conversations, rather than simply talking about the app of the day. It's great that someone as a teacher can get his/her kids to program a little robot to scoot around the floor, or that you can have the kids make a cute little plastic keychain with the 3-D printer, but why? Simply saying "motivation! " probably isn't a good enough answer.
The good news, I was able to get some valuable answers out of my colleagues, and I think I got them to look at things in a new way. Even though I was sort of arguing against myself at times (someone even called me out saying "aren't you the guy that uses video games in English class? ") I think that conversation was able to be productive and thoughtful. And of course, that's really the whole point of EdCamp, to be able to have these conversations rather than just rehashing the same ideas over and over. For now though, EdCamp is done for another six months… It's off to see the Baldwin volleyball team take on the WPIAL championship!