Thursday, July 10, 2014

The nErDcamp Revolution

Logo designed by Laurie Keller

"Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”  - John Green

When most teachers think of professional development, what usually comes to mind is soul-sucking, district-mandated drivel that doesn't really develop anything other than the desire to gouge out your eyes with a paperclip if it will get you out of having to sit through another mind-numbing in-service led by an "expert" who has never taught a day in her life.

But the encouraging news is that teachers are starting to take their professional development back in the form for Edcamps. An Edcamp is what is known as an unconference. Instead of writing proposals and having a committee of people to read through and decide months in advance who will present, Edcamps have no set schedule until the day of the conference.What makes Edcamps so revolutionary is that this is a small but mighty step in proving to the establishment that we're tired of being told how to do our jobs by people who aren't in the classroom. So instead of waiting for administrators to realize the necessity of teachers learning from each other, teachers have decided to stop waiting and just do it themselves. We're taking our profession back and telling the doubters, "Don't you worry; we got this."

nErDcamp is a spinoff of the Edcamp model with a literacy focus. The name nErDcamp comes from Nerdy Book Club co-founder Colby Sharp who, along with his wife Alaina and a slew of Nerdy planners and volunteers, began the first nErDcamp last year. This year's nErDcamp was even bigger and better, with two days of learning rather than one.

  • Day one comprised of planned sessions, ending with a keynote by Donalyn Miller. In the evening there was also a Nerd Run 5K.
  • Day two involved the main part of nErDcamp which were the unplanned sessions, followed by Nerd Camp Jr. in the evening.

I could only attend day one since I am currently participating in the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, but even that was enough to make me realize what a powerful force this new model of professional learning has become. Teachers from all over the country (and even Canada), descended upon Western High School in Parma, Michigan to learn from each other and to celebrate what it means to be a nerd. Nerdy teachers, as John Green pointed out in the quote above, are wholeheartedly and unabashedly enthusiastic. We don't hold back our love of learning. When you release us from our cages of stifling, dispassionate bureaucracy and place us in a setting with other Nerds, an explosion of Nerdtastic fervor happens. As evidenced by the fact that #nErDcampMI was a #1 trending topic on Twitter last weekend:
nErDcamp trending
Photo credit: Dan Spencer

As Colby Sharp pointed out in this tweet:
It's hard to believe the small town of Parma, Michigan could be the center of the universe, but for the 300+ teachers that came to nErDcamp and the people on Twitter who weren't there but wished they could be, so it was. If only for a couple days.

Mark your calendars because on July 6 & 7, 2015 nErDcamp will return for year three. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Nerdcamp 2014
Cindy Minnich and her son Bryson came to Michigan from Pennsylvania
There were pins from all over the U.S. and even Canada!
Nerd camp swag
Just a small sample of the generosity of publishers who provided books for the swag bags
Nerdcamp 2014
Colby Sharp introduces Donalyn Miller's keynote to a full auditorium
Nerdcamp 2014
Nerd Run 5K awards
Love these ladies! me with Cindy Minnich, Donalyn Miller, Niki Barnes and Kristin McIlhagga
Nerd camp Jr
Linda Urban talks about how to add detail to your writing to the kids at Nerd Camp Jr.

To see all I learned from Nerd Camp, check out my Storify:
#nErDcampMI 2014: Tweeting My Learning


  1. Great post, Beth. Thanks for the ice cream. :)

  2. I so enjoyed this post, Beth! I love that John Green quote - it's my favorite of his videos. Your recap is wonderful, and while I got to go the first year, I sadly wasn't able to attend this year. Hoping 2015 is the year I get to go again. :-)

  3. It was such an amazing time. You got the regular inservice description right... and this was so not that experience! Thrilled to be there this year.
    My daughter is the girl looking at the camera in the front row of the Linda Urban pic :)

  4. Tell me what you really think about most PD, Beth!

    I'm sorry we missed each other at nEeDcamp this year.

  5. Great post! I love the John Green quote at the beginning...I'm using that one!