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ILA Edcamp Online: Join the Conversation

By ILA Staff
 | Apr 01, 2020

Man listening to computer The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it necessary to close schools across the globe. It’s also led to widespread cancellation of professional learning events that had been slated for spring, leaving teachers with even fewer outlets to connect and collaborate.

To help educators build community through conversation, the International Literacy Association (ILA) has created ILA Edcamp Online—a virtual adaptation of the popular unconference—scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. ET.

The goal: to create a space where educators can connect in real time, on a level deeper than even Twitter chats or Facebook Live broadcasts can provide.

“Many teachers tend to be social creatures who find comfort and growth through their network of colleagues,” says Becky Fetterolf, director of program content and engagement at ILA. “The necessary distancing guidelines have limited activities substantially, so we wanted to create something that could meet those unfulfilled needs.”

For those unfamiliar with the Edcamp experience, here's how it works: Attendees drive the agenda, participants facilitate on-the-fly sessions, and interactivity is key. The resulting collaboration leads to professional topics that feel far more personal than a traditional “stand and deliver” session.  

ILA Edcamp Online will leverage Zoom, the video communications platform that’s been exploding as a result of shelter-in-place orders. but make no mistake: This won’t be a static webinar. Edcamps are characterized as “unconferences” founded on the idea that participants learn from one another.

“We’re making every effort to preserve the Edcamp format as we adapt the event from in person to online,” Fetterolf says. This includes sourcing discussion topics directly from educators. An informal survey distributed through email and social media yielded three topics:  

  • Alternative Access: Connecting When Your Students Don’t Have Connectivity (session full)
  • Continuous K–5 Learning During School Closures: Techniques, Tips, and Tools (session full)
  • Supporting Struggling Learners: Instruction and Intervention in a Virtual Environment (session full)

“There were clear front-runners,” Fetterolf says. “It made it easy for us to build the ‘rooms.’”

Some Edcamp features won’t translate to the Zoom platform, however. One principle Edcamps employ is the “rule of two feet,” which encourages attendees who aren’t getting enough out of one discussion to move freely to another one. ILA Edcamp Online registrants can participate only in the session for which they register. However, notes from each discussion will be made public after the event for anyone to read.

Facilitators will leverage Zoom features such as polling, virtual hand raising, and group/private chat functionality to encourage the dynamic conversation that drives in-person Edcamps.

For this inaugural ILA Edcamp Online, space is limited. Fetterolf stresses the importance that educators who register commit to actively participate.

“When you register, you’re holding a seat for yourself,” she says. “But that also means another educator can’t fill that seat. So, we’re really hoping that everyone who registers and attends is prepared to engage.”  

ILA Edcamp Online isn’t the only new digital offering from ILA; for the month of April, educators can register for the ILA 2019 Replay, which delivers free access to six recorded sessions from last year’s conference in New Orleans, LA. Presenters include Pedro Noguera, Renée Watson, Donalyn Miller, David Kirkland, Tricia Ebarvia, and Dave Stuart Jr.

Also included in the ILA 2019 Replay: “What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading—and Why That Still Matters,” the wildly popular panel discussion led by P. David Pearson, Nell K. Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwendolyn McMillon that managed to fill a large session room and attract more than 150 livestream viewers at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday—an audience that continued to grow when the archive was shared.

Within days of registration for the ILA 2019 Replay opening, more than 2,000 educators signed up.

Those numbers, Fetterolf says, underscore the current need for quality digital programming. “So many educators tell us that ILA conferences are where they go to recharge and reconnect. To be able to bring some of that PD magic into their homes is our privilege.”

As for ILA Edcamp Online, if early social media buzz is any indication, registration is likely to max out quickly. (Edit: Sessions reached capacity in a matter of hours.)

“If this event is as successful as we’re anticipating, you can expect to see more of them from ILA in the future,” promises Fetterolf.

Links to register for both ILA Edcamp Online and the ILA 2019 Replay are available on the ILA Digital Events page.

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