Want to foster rich academic discussions? Try a student #Edcamp

Seliskar didn’t act on his idea right away. But one day, as his class became sidetracked in a conversation about study habits, he realized his students had a lot of useful strategies to share with each other.

This is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the Edcamp model, he thought.

After showing his students a video of the Edcamp model in action, he created and posted a Google Docs spreadsheet for his students to fill out, indicating the topics they would be interested in presenting. The class ended up with 15 sessions altogether, each lasting 20 minutes. Topics ranged from “How to Study on the Weekends” to “How to Be Successful in Math.” Because Seliskar’s classroom included six student tables, he set up concurrent sessions at each of the six tables.

The result was a series of enthusiastic, student-driven conversations that led to what he called real “two-way learning.”

“Even the students who normally were quiet were taking part as well,” he said.

‘A voice and a choice’

Seliskar discovered what other educators who have tried the Edcamp model with their students have observed: Not only can students learn a great deal from each other, but the format also is an effective way to enhance their communication skills.

“We talk a lot about the importance of the four Cs,” Seliskar said, referring to communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. “This is a great opportunity, in a short amount of time, to help foster those 21st-century skills.”

Scott Bedley, a fifth grade teacher in California’s Irvine Unified School District, has been going to Edcamps for a few years and also has brought the concept into his classroom. “The Common Core standards focus on speaking and listening skills,” he noted. “This [practice] addresses those well.”

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