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Relationships, Voice and Digital Leadership: #EdCampUSA

On Friday, May 29, I had the privilege to attend #EdCampUSA (aka EdCamp DOED) in Washington D.C. This was no ordinary EdCamp. This EdCamp was held at the U.S. Department of Education with Edcampers from across the U.S. The room was filled with many members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN), some I have never met in person, and many new educational leaders I was ecstatic to meet! Oh, and the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, happened to make a surprise appearance!

The morning began like most EdCamps, networking and building the schedule. Kristen Swanson and Hadley Ferguson kicked things off with a great introduction and a few updates on the EdCamp Foundation.

I learned so much and left with so many new ideas that my head was spinning for the following few days. One thing was definitely clear. There were some common threads that were consistent in all of the sessions I attended.

Relationships Are Key to Success

No matter what topic we were discussing, eventually the conversation would circle back to building relationships. For classroom teachers, building relationships with students is crucial to success and learning. For administrators and other educational leaders, relationships set the tone for success on campus, in the district and beyond. Cultivating relationships with teachers and staff is a crucial step to classroom transformation and innovation. But another critical relationship that I decided to explore at #EdCampUSA is the relationship with pre-service teachers, professors and institutions.

There is a gap between K-12 and higher education. Please don't mistake this as a blanket statement about every pre-service program, but there are many institutions that are still delivering lots of lectures and PowerPoints, and totally missing the boat on both student-centered learning for pre-service teachers and modeling digital learning strategies. I don't have any answers, but I know there is work to be done to bridge this gap.

How great would it be to get pre-service teachers attending EdCamps? I've had a few at the EdCamps I have been involved with, and it is a great opportunity for future teachers that is easily overlooked.

Every Voice Matters

Another common thread that I found in all of my conversations at #EdCampUSA was a focus on voice, not just student voice, but also the teacher's voice. That's what is so powerful about the EdCamp model, it is participant-driven and gives teachers a voice and choice in their learning. Student voice in professional learning has piqued my interest recently, and I find it interesting to hear how other educators are emphasizing the importance of student voice in the classroom, and teacher voice in professional learning--yet again, another reason why relationships are key!

After experiencing the power of a student panel in professional learning first-hand (during my day job), I want more! It's so important to consider what our students believe and experience as learners. Have you stopped to ask your students what they think are the characteristics of a successful learner? Or what their most powerful learning experience entailed? The answers might surprise you!

Digital Leadership

As leaders, we have to model what we want to see in our teachers and in our classrooms. It's not enough to rely on those tech-savvy superstars to lead the way. Leadership shouldn't have to include the word digital these days, it should be implied, but it is not. There are not enough leaders who are modeling digital strategies and social media usage. Again, not a blanket statement, but there are not enough educational leaders taking on the role of being a digital leader for teachers, students, and staff. We have to stop focusing on digital tools and focus on how to leverage technology to transform learning!

Kasey Bell_V1_Twitter

Kasey Bell is an award-winning digital learning consultant with a passion for technology and learning, and a member of our Educational Advisory Board.

 *The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*

**This blog is reposted with permission from Kasey Bell, originally posted on June 3, 2015.**

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