Edcamp Tokyo 2017

The experiences of organizing and participating in Edcamp Tokyo in 2014 and 2015 have been so inspirational, I wish to share them with all of my colleagues and teacher friends. The best way to do that is to organize an event.

Last Fall, I approached my administrators about empowering teachers within the elementary school to self organize one of our own professional development days. Strictly speaking, the event was not Edcamp, because it was a limited to our own staff. However, we followed the Edcamp model and the results were fantastic.

‘Creative Connections’ group at Edcamp @ KIST via Instagram

The only logical step was to offer to host the next Edcamp Tokyo here at my school. The process began as usual with assembling an organizing team, surveying the local community for optimal dates.

One change we made was to move the organizing team away from seemingly endless email threads to Slack. Slack is a slightly ironic update to the ‘chat room’ circa 1994. However, for facilitating communication and collaboration in a team, it is far superior to email and has the potential in my opinion to supplant social network ‘communities’ as a space to organize around events, ideas, and movements.

Community involvement

Industriousness is one of the hallmarks of Edcamp, so I utilized Twitter’s polling function to gather votes for this year’s theme. The initial ideas were gathered from the organizing team and then put to a vote.

The winner was ‘Make learning personal’. As an organizer, it is also heartwarming and exciting when the #EdcampTokyo hashtag begins to warm up on social media.

Astounded that I hadn’t made it sooner, I created an @EdcampTokyo Twitter handle, which can also be integrated with Slack to stimulate interaction and ‘buzz’. This will be useful in the future, as the login details can be easily shared with other organizers and hosts.

Given the current global political and social climate, it was also heartening to read an announcement of a new anti-harassment policy from the Edcamp Foundation.

The day arrives

Hosting and Edcamp has plenty of joys and the greatest among them is meeting curious and passionate people. Our event attracted approximately fifty participants from thirty different schools and other organizations.

Browsing and voting for sessions at #edcamptokyo! #edu

A post shared by Bart Miller (@bartlmiller) on Apr 7, 2017 at 5:42pm PDT

Student panel

One fantastic idea this year was to include a session with a panel of KIST students to provide perspective on issues from bullying to technology in and out of the classroom.

What most surprised me about the students’ perspective was how unenthusiastic they were about technology, as though only Generation X and older people are excited by carrying a supercomputer in our pockets.

Critical thinking

I was happy, in between relaying messages and ushering late arriving guests, to stumble into a Critical Thinking session which I would characterize has having a theme of ‘making the complex simple, but not simplistic’.

The most stimulating feature of Edcamp is diversity of perspectives. When many points of view focus on a conceptual topic like critical thinking, the conversation is certain to be enlightening.

Viral On Twitter

It’s a fact that Edcamp itself was born on Twitter, as was Edcamp Tokyo. Consequently or coincidentally, it’s also our favorite social network and the #EdcampTokyo hashtag hosted a fair amount of chatter around this event.

This kind of backchannel interaction is fun and provides another channel by which people, including those not necessarily in attendance, can participate.

Looking ahead

Hosting or organizing professional development is usually a different experience than participating in it. Fortunately, this year I had such a helpful organizing team and KIST hospitality team that I was able to engage in discussions without being overly busy with logistics and problem solving.

In the future, I would like to see Edcamp Tokyo grow into a community which includes more local Japanese educators as well as more enthusiasm from the international schools.

In terms of the organization, I would like to see our function transform into an advisory role empowering teachers to organize and host their own Edcamp Tokyo events with the support of our expertise and promotional tools.

CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend

(This post contains embedded ‘tweets’ that may not render properly depending upon your device and browser.)

It all started, as so many connected learning experiences do, with a tweet.

If Kristen Swanson #couldntbemoreexcited about #EdcampPalooza, then lurking on the #CISC2015 hashtag on Twitter with @Haydeewan seemed like an inviting activity. 

Probably irrationally, I was inspired to virtually attend the symposium by following its stream, collecting tweets, and then organizing them into this reflective blog post. By reordering the tweets, I think it’s interesting how common themes run across different sessions and activities.

If you were at the symposium, I hope you enjoy my curation and interpretation. If you were not, I’m sure will enjoy attending virtually with me!


The CISC Leadership Symposium included the largest Edcamp ever!

Kristen shared the Edcamp CISC Session Schedule which, in true unconference fashion, represents the authentic interests of the participants. They included the divergent and ambitious inquiries that characterize self determined learning.

At Edcamp Tokyo, we asked participants to share their session notes so that everything would be published via our Edcamp Tokyo Collabornization document, a practice I would like to have seen adopted for this most epic of Edcamps.

I believe that Edcamps and other ‘unconferences’ and the authentic and engaging conversations that they kindle and sustain are a model for the future of professional development.


Education visionary Grant Lichtman introduced the concept of the cognitosphere, a model which provocatively represents the ubiquitous and highly dynamic nature of learning.

‘The cognitosphere includes both the body of knowledge as it exists and evolves, and the process of creating, teaching, transferring, managing, and learning that knowledge.  Knowledge is based on the human experience and therefore includes both content and skills. It represents the total of all the answers to all the questions that have been asked in the past, as well as the process of asking questions that will create new knowledge in the future.’

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI think a model based on the ‘4 Cs of the Cognitosphere’ could have serious traction. I see a strong connection to the 21st Century Fluencies of the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, a core resource in my approaches to teaching and learning.

One word

Mr Lichtman also took the opportunity to pose his #OnewordK12 question, ‘What one word describes your vision of the highest goals of learning? What do you hope to exude as an educator? Of what do you want your school to “reek”?’

As the audience responses poured out from Twitter, I recognized this as an exercise in Collaborative Sensemaking and tasked myself with tabulating and organizing the results. This was a truly tedious task which I wouldn’t repeat under the same circumstances, but due to an unwavering combination of curiosity and stubborness, I completed the list below which includes the results, organized by number of entries, alphabetized, with a link to every ‘one word’ tweet at the symposium.

It turns out that the educators at CISC this year describe their vision as, most wish to exude, and most want their schools to reek of ‘passion‘!

passion 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17

excitement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
innovation 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
joy 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

creativity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

engagement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9; inspiration 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

curiosity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

enthusiasm 1,2,3,4,5,6

collaboration 1,2,3,4,5; success 1,2,3,4,5

fun 1,2,3,4; wonder 1,2,3,4

agency 1,2,3; commitment 1,2,3; community 1,2,3; confidence 1,2,3; empowerment 1,2,3; energy 1,2,3; excellence 1,2,3; hope 1,2,3; imagination 1,2,3; love 1,2,3; perseverance 1,2,3; possibility 1,2,3,4; transformative 1,2,3

acceptance 1,2; amazing 1,2; authentic 1,2; connection 1,2; courageous 1,2; dynamic 1,2; exuberance 1,2; leadership 1,2; learning(culture) 1,2; meaningful 1,2; mindfulness 1,2; ownership 1,2; positive 1,2; relevance 1,2; risk 1,2; understanding 1,2

achievement 1; active 1; affirmation 1; believe 1; big 1; brave 1; buy in 1; challenging 1; compassionate 1; competence 1; delight 1; democracy 1; determined 1; different 1; discovery 1; discussion 1; empathy 1; equity 1; everyone 1; exhilarated 1; expectation 1; exploration 1; fearless 1; flow 1; focus 1; gamification 1; give 1; google 1; growing 1; happy 1; honesty 1; imperative 1; inquiry 1; inquisitiveness 1; intriguing 1; inviting 1; kindness 1; motivating 1; opportunities 1; optimism 1; options 1; oral discourse 1; preparation 1; progress 1; purposeful 1; relationships 1; rigor 1; sky 1; sparkle 1; spirit 1; stickwithitness 1; systemic 1; team 1; urgency 1; value 1; voice 1

I’m sure it would amuse Mr Lichtman that the word ‘grit’ appears exactly zero times.

Maker Education

Perhaps the most exciting event at the symposium for me was Dale Dougherty’s Maker Movement workshop.

Reading these educator leaders find excitement in the Maker Movement gives me tremendous hope and encouragement for the future of formal learning. In my blog post, Maker Club year 1, I reflected on my experiences with the young makers in my school and I am thrilled to see growing awareness and enthusiasm for making.


I have always found value in improvisation, particularly due to being a jazz musician, as an abstract conversation and exploration of shared models, ideas, and feelings.

Unfortunately, my experiences in formal education, other than my New School years, have emphasized predictability and repetition over spontaneity and iteration.

Truthfully, I was shocked to see educator leaders waxing on improvisation, valuing creativity and divergent connections.

What if the professors in my teacher preparation program thought similarly?…


Chip Heath’s observation is one of my favorite tweets from the symposium. I have often experienced the conundrum of being encouraged to innovate and redefine how learning occurs in my classroom, only to be asked later for traditional reports aligned to standards with quantitative summative assessment data.

The symposium’s conciousness of change seemed to center around decomplication. In fact, the metaphor of farming, often regarded as a ‘simple’ way of life, was used to change perspective on the act of teaching. Farming is complex, but farmers tend not to be complicated. I find this analogy to be very comforting somehow.

The word ‘cultivate’ has probably appeared in every one of my classroom blog posts in various contexts, although this is my first time thinking of education in terms of farming. It aligns perfectly with my ideas of LX Design and metateaching and I appreciate the organic and visceral imagery.

Considering plants and animals, why not address the elephant in the room?

While there are undeniably elephants being ignored at any educational conference, this elephant is another metaphor which seeks to provide a model for change.

I appreciate that only emotion can move the elephant, and I believe that that emotion comes from, and should come from, the children.

When we focus on the children and their stories, the elephant is unstoppable.

If listening to children is ‘innovative’, then we have a lot of catching up to do.

While listening to children in education may be historically new, it is gratefully older than history in terms of relationships and mentoring. It was great to see the Educator Leaders at the symposium focusing on positive developments.

Bright spots

Fortunately, incredible learning is happening all around us, all the time.

What if Trust and Transparency can empower ‘bright spots’ everywhere?

What if…?

My ‘What if…?’s

What if we took Grant Lichtman’s suggestions literally?

What if we discard ‘anchors and silos’ by closing county and district offices of education, convert them to community centers, and move all educators into school sites?

What if educators observed a five year moratorium on conferences? Instead, apply 100% of our energy, resources, attention, and passion to finding and cultivating the bright spots within our own learning communities. Then we get back together to share.


What if educational leadership was a true inverted pyramid with students at the top, determining and directing  the learning, and teachers and administration below, facilitating and supporting?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWhat if ‘the day when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom’ is today?

The CISC 2015 Leadership Symposium was a test. A test of authenticity and courage.


Without courage, nothing else worth doing is possible. So much of what I gleaned from the tweets from CISC 2015 is that educator leaders are trying to muster their courage to reform education, how we learn, into a totally new model.

Looking for ‘bright spots’, adopting a design mentality, motivating the elephant, etc, it’s all meaningless if it doesn’t lead to action.

With so many outstanding, inspiring, and impassioned ideas in such a short time, I hope this post has helped to synthesize some of them and provide opportunities to reflect and act.




Edcamp Tokyo 2015 Harajuku

It’s been my honor to help organize Edcamp Tokyo for the second time. This year, the event will be hosted by Jingumae International Exchange School in Harajuku on Saturday 28 February 2015.

Play to learn; learn to play.

We decided on a theme of ‘play’ this year, which I hope will set a tone of curiosity and openness. As with every Edcamp, the key to success is self determination among the participants. Through a democratic process, sessions are proposed, voted on, and organized into classrooms and other meeting spaces.
The schedule is never set in stone. Edcampers are encouraged to continue engaging conversations, break out into splinter groups, or change sessions if their interests or needs are not being met.
We only ask that sharing and collaboration remain a top priority via Google Docs and our Edcamp Tokyo 2015 Home Document.
I look forward to seeing how the day evolves and invite anyone to participate, even if you can’t be there in person!

Reflecting on Edcamp Tokyo

Beginning with an errant tweet and concluding with an impressive Demo Slam, helping to organize and then participating in Japan’s first Edcamp, Edcamp Tokyo, was a truly remarkable experience.


Incredible Team

Special appreciation belongs to Kim Cofino, Clint Hamada, and Yokohama International School for hosting us so well. Their attention to detail and world class facilities left nothing to be desired. The fluency of collaboration demonstrated by the entire organization team including Greg Feezell, Glenda Baker, Sarah Sutter, and Rab Paterson was simply astounding.
The result was an organization and planning process that was as enjoyable as it was effective.

Making Connections

The strongest connection I made at Edcamp was in the sharing of ideas between diverse learning communities. It was the first time I gained a sense for the approaches to learning and teaching being practiced at other schools and in a variety age ranges and developmental stages.
Discussing the Maker Movement with secondary educators was a revelation for me, as I gained insight into how my efforts at the elementary level can build the fundamental scientific, mathematical, collaborative, and innovative thinking skills that learners will expand and develop in the future.
Making Thinking Visible, a relatively new line of inquiry for me, turned out to be an in-depth discussion of the conceptual connections between learning in various disciplines and how explicitly taught and practiced ‘thinking routines’ can provide continuity between skills, topics, and ideas.
I was happy to share my experiences developing the Independent Inquiry project with a group of educators in the 20% Time in Education session. I hope that they will find the resources shared to be useful as they cultivate self-directed, interest-driven learning.
In the Creativity, Design, and Innovation session, there was a palpable desire for change. We all shared a passion for learning and hope for the future that was an inspirational way to end the day.

The notes from the sessions are all linked to the Collaborative Organization Document (aka the schedule), a resource which I hope can help to maintain the connections we have made.

Building Community

How Edcamp Tokyo helped to build a community of learners in Tokyo and across Japan remains to be seen. There haven’t been any tweets using the #EdcampTokyo or #Edcamp東京 hashtags on Twitter for awhile, nor is there much activity on the Edcamp Tokyo Google+ Community.
In all likelihood, participants returned to their busy lives and classrooms with new perspectives and tools, but not necessarily time to reflect and share publicly. Given the intensity of engagement throughout the day, I’m confident that we are all applying our new understandings in creative and meaningful ways.
Personally, I feel that what we did was ultimately in the service of learning. Every idea shared was a generous gift and I’m happy to express sincere gratitude to all of the participants in Japan’s first Edcamp.

Gearing up for Edcamp Tokyo

In the Spring of last year, I tweeted my interest in having an Edcamp in Tokyo:



There wasn’t much interest, although in retrospect I suppose it would have been helpful to use the actual #Edcamp hashtag. I set up a page on the Edcamp Wiki and laid in wait…

Several months later, a tweet piqued my interest once again:

As Greg would later observe, it snowballed from there. Several Tokyo and Yokohama teacher-leaders joined the organizational team. We set up an Edcamp Tokyo website, held a Google Hangout with Edcamp Foundation Board Member, Kristen Swanson, settled on a location, Yokohama International School, and a date, March 15.

Countdown to Edcamp Tokyo

With only four weeks to go, there are currently more than fifty dedicated educators registered and conversations percolating on our Edcamp Tokyo Connectivity page, Edcamp Tokyo Google+ Community, Edcamp Tokyo Idea Wall, and of course around the #EdcampTokyo and #Edcamp東京 hashtags on Twitter!

This is the first chance for educators in Japan to assemble for self-directed, collaborative professional development. Even those outside of Japan might be interested in our activities, especially as they pertain to inquiry-learning, multilingual and third-culture education, technology, and whatever inspiration may strike!

I can’t wait to see you there, in person or virtually.

Edcamp Tokyo