Monday, February 4, 2013

Jedcamp is coming to New Jersey!

For many of us, the word "camp" brings back memories of bygone summers endlessly playing sports, participating in color war (before color war came to schools as well), and experiencing our first extended time away from home.  However, as we have moved through life, many of us have also come to realize that the greatest thing that we took away from camp was the friendships that we made.  So often we move to a new educational level or stage of life, only to discover that a friend we had made in camp is waiting there for us, ready to reminisce about the summers of yore and to build on that initial connection to forge a more lasting bond.  In other words, camp was our first real brush with networking.

That is the one of the guiding forces of the Edcamp movement.  If you have ever attended a professional conference, you know that while the sessions and speakers are certainly part of the attraction, the real action happens in the hallways, over meals, and anywhere that people have the opportunity to speak with their colleagues, both old and newfound.  In the age of Twitter, LinkedIn, and PLN's, conferences become the places where virtual connections become live encounters and the networks thus grow even stronger.

Edcamp capitalizes on this aspect of conferences by not being a conference.  More accurately, Edcamp is an "unconference".  What is an unconference?  Imagine attending a conference where everyone is there for a common reason, but there are no keynote speakers, no planned sessions, and no set schedule.  Rather, every attendee has the opportunity to offer a presentation or lead a discussion.  No one is a guru or an expert; rather, every session is populated by a group of individuals who share a common interest and come together for an hour or so to have the kind of unplanned, honest, and undirected conversations that we usually only have with our immediate co-workers but rarely with people who work in different buildings or in different environments.  In other words, it is the best type of networking - bringing people together around common interests and providing for constant sharing of ideas.

(see more about Edcamp in this video)

Unfortunately for Jewish educators, Edcamp tends to take place on Saturdays.  Enter Seth Dimbert (@MisterD) and Rabbi Meir Wexler (@RabbiWex), who held the first ever Jedcamp - Jewish Edcamp - in late December down in Florida.  Roughly 40 Jewish educators from all types of Jewish schools came together on a Sunday to discuss a wide range of topics in education, from hi-tech to low-tech to no-tech.  Conversations and discussions were natural, free-flowing, and the positive feedback that was bursting out of the event created a ripple effect that has spread straight up the East Coast.

And so, it is a pleasure to announce the opening of registration for the first ever New York area Jedcamp!  Officially titled JedcampNJNY (#jedcampnjny on Twitter), it will be held at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, NJ on Sunday, April 21st.  Online registration is required and can be done at our Eventbrite page, and make sure to see Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky's blog for more thoughts about Jedcamp.

A few details that you should know about Jedcamp:

  • It is absolutely, positively, 100% free of charge.
  • Attendees will have the opportunity to post session topics throughout the day.
  • Jedcamp runs by a "vote with your feet" approach - if you are in a session and decide you would rather be in another one, you can walk out and move to another room - and no one is allowed to be insulted!
  • There is no cost for attending Jedcamp.
  • Jedcamp is a grassroots event - there is no sponsoring organization.
  • This event is open to all who are interested - day school teachers, high school teachers, Hebrew school teachers, all denominations, all subject areas, administrators, everyone.  As long as you have a desire to share your thoughts and ideas about Jewish education or be shared with, this is the conference for you.
  • Did I mention that it is free?
So what next?  If you are reading this blog, and you are a Jewish educator in the New Jersey/New York area, first register for Jedcamp and then spread the word to your colleagues.  Their reactions may range from "Yes! I have been waiting for something like this my entire professional life!" to something along the lines of "Look, I tried '7-Up the Uncola' and that was a big letdown - how do I know that an 'unconference' won't be more of the same?"  Either way, encourage them to find out more about how Edcamp/Jedcamp works and encourage them to try it.  Space is limited - register today!

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