Choose Your Own Adventure: iCamp 2014

Share, collaborate, unconference, engage.  These are some of the actions that took place at iCamp.  On the surface, these may just sound like buzzwords but in the moment, these protocols brought authenticity to the iCamp experience.

iCamp is iZone’s 3-day immersion experience for NYC educators to address challenges in their schools and collaborate with like-minded colleagues in new ways. Here’s a little run down on iCamp 2014.

Day 1

Don Buckley was first on deck.  During his presentation, we explored modern innovations and their origins- did you know that DJ turntables originated from a nun teaching music class?  This was the perfect kickoff to one of our big iCamp themes: design thinking – how do educators address challenges in an iterative and innovative process?

Following the successful presentation, iCampers were ready to dive into design thinking exercises and attend unconferences.  Campers identified real problems in schools and potential solutions in our design thinking workshop; participants also proposed topics, such as using technology to communicate with students, to become “unconferences” with peers.

Day 2

Enthusiastic iCampers kicked off the second day with several breakout sessions. Two popular sessions on middle and high school scheduling were led by Robert Canady. Other educator-led breakouts included creating your own class website, designing your own cover story, blended learning, and more.  The flexibility and choices of iCamp are two things campers adored.

Over lunch, we heard from NYC design firm Zago.  They shared case studies that used design thinking methods to solve challenges within non-profits and city governments.  With plenty of food for thought from Zago, we revisited design thinking, building on what we learned from the day 1 workshop.

After thoroughly exercising the brain, campers were ready for some physical exercise. Each year iCamp is held in the Catskills so hiking, tennis, and yoga were a huge hit.

At dinner, our “Campetition” really got started.  (That’s right, a competition at camp.)  Educators identified a real school problem, formed teams, and created a pitch stating why the problem should be tackled.  The winning team not only received Google Chromebooks, but their popular topic will also become the basis for iZone’s next Innovation Challenge.

Campers scurried into conference spaces as quickly as possible to begin plotting their pitches.

Day 3

With the last day kicking off, there was still a lot to be done.  iCampers met to reflect on iCamp experiences before finding their pitch teams to put final touches on presentations.

Each presentation was meaningful, and it was clear that campers were passionate about their topics.  Student engagement, building trust between administrators and teachers, socio-emotional learning, and real world learning were just a few of the ideas covered in pitches.

But ultimately, there could be just one winner.  The votes came in from laptops, cell phones, iPads, and other devices, rating “Campetition” groups on the strength of their pitch ideas and the probability of schools being interested in solving the proposed challenges.

And as a surprise to everyone, two pitch groups were tied for first place. Finally, after a tie-breaker, “Keepin’ It Real” would take home the prize and it was determined that  iZone will launch a real world learning challenge in the not-so-distant future.

Overall, the encouragement of openness and collaboration rapidly became realities at iCamp, and this paved the path for lasting friendships and collaborations (and not to mention our upcoming adventure: the next challenge!).