I just got back from my second EdCamp (EdCampMadWI) and wanted to share a few thoughts and ideas about what makes an EdCamp such a great format for professional development!
What is an EdCamp?
The EdCamp was designed to be a different type of professional development: an "un-conference." Rather than a formal event, an EdCamp is a spur-of-the-moment creation. Attendees suggest sessions, either topics that they'd like to present about or ideas about things they'd like to learn more about. Organizers swap those topics into the rooms and time slots for the conference, and attendees can then use that schedule to plan their day. (You can read more about some of the earliest EdCamps here.)
Why Attend an EdCamp?
- $ (Cost). Part of the EdCamp philosophy is that these professional development opportunities should be free. Many EdCamps attract sponsors who help off-set the costs of the event (sometimes even the inclusion of breakfast and lunch) and/or ask attendees to consider a small donation to defray costs. Compared to the high costs of regional and national conferences, you can't beat free.
- Personalization. EdCamps usually offer a wide-range of topics related to teaching and education (often, but not exclusively, with an emphasis on technology). You choose the sessions that work for you, and if you don't like a session, find another one.
- Time for discussion. The more open format of an EdCamp allows plenty of time for interaction and discussion during sessions as well. The fourth session I attend today, for example, was on Project-Based Learning Projects for Primary Grades and had been suggested by a third grade teacher looking for ideas. We ended up with a room half-filled with third grade teachers, and it was a great chance to see inside each others' classrooms and hear about what works and what doesn't in other schools and other districts.
"Pro" Tips for Attending an EdCamp
- BYOD. Bring your own device (or possibly two). EdCamps are big on technology and technology-integration. Because the schedule is put together that morning, you will want to have a smartphone or computer to access it. Bringing your own laptop is also a great way to take notes and contribute ideas directly. For example, this year's EdCampMadWI set up a shared Google Doc for all session attendees, which resulted in an incredible, collaborative trove of knowledge created by the attendees. A laptop also comes in handy if you decide to present a session or if the laptop of your session's presenter(s) decides not to cooperate. (This year, my laptop ended up filling in at two other sessions when presenters' computers refused to play nice with the ceiling-mounted projectors.)
- Vote with your feet. Another tenet of EdCamps is that you should be free to leave a session at any time that isn't working for you. As teachers, educators, or administrators, we know how valuable our own time is. Why waste an hour on a topic when you can find something else of value just down the hall?
- Live Tweet. Twitter is a great way to connect with other educators, and following the camp's hashtag as well as contributing your own thoughts is a great way to build connections.
- Propose a Session. Go ahead, make the leap! You may not feel like you are an expert on a topic, but chances are there are others out there who could learn from what you are doing in your classroom. Proposing a session is also a great way to get direct feedback and suggestions from real teachers about what works for them.
Looking for an EdCamp near you?
There are many places to find out when and where an EdCamp might be happening in your area. Check out this huge list of upcoming events from the EdCamp foundation. Or, do a Google search for EdCamp and your city or state. (Just watch the details carefully. Turns out EdCampMadison is in Alabama, for example, not Wisconsin!)
I am thrilled to be attending my first nErDcampMI this year (July 11-12th in Parma, MI)! nErDcampMI is a two-for-one: a two-day professional conference with one day of scheduled sessions and a second EdCamp-style day. There are also a ton of wonderful authors and educators coming. You can read more about it on the official nErDcampMI site. Maybe I'll see you there!