Why an "unconference" though? I am a learner and love learning in lots of different contexts. I do enjoy traditional conferences with keynote speakers and a variety of breakout sessions, I enjoy learning on my own via books and the Internet, I like participating in face-to-face PD sessions and I like participating in fast-paced Twitter chats. I attended EdCampElon last spring and enjoyed that too. It was different, but it was also invigorating. I'll admit that I'm a bit of a planner and I like to know what to expect. At first, the thought of not having any idea of what sessions would be was kind of scary. How would we decide the sessions? Would it be chaotic? What if I wasn't interested in any of the topics? What if it wasn't what I expected? I attended with a group of friends and colleagues and a completely open mind. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and was surprised that I liked how flexible and fluid the edcamp experience was.
Frequent, ongoing, high-quality professional development is essential for educator growth. I think most educators have experienced at least one less than stellar experience with professional development. For me, the worst PD sessions have been ones I have been forced to go to, ones where I was just being "talked at", and ones that didn't contain practical information I could easily apply to my teaching situation. Edcamps are not like that; they really are driven by the educators who attend them. I think there is something really organic, pure, and powerful about edcamps. Lately, educators across the country have been moving towards having students own their learning and releasing more ownership to them, but what about teacher ownership? In an EdCamp model, teachers truly own their learning. It is all about getting what they need in order to grow. The topics are created by them, so they are relevant. There's a "we're all in this together" mentality with edcampers. Plus, the people who attend genuinely want to be there. These educators willingly give up their Saturdays to better their practice, connect with colleagues, and learn from one another. The energy of passionate, knowledgable, and dedicated educators coming together is magical. What if we could bottle that?!
Breakfast, snacks, and water were laid out, chairs were set up, and our session board was literally a blank slate. As attendees entered the room, we handed them sticky notes and pens and instructed them to jot down a few ideas they were interested in. What did they want to learn about or share today? Within minutes, the blank slate was filled with topics and ideas directly from our attendees.
The session board was built in Google Docs and each session had a corresponding Google Doc linked to it where participants could take notes and share resources, ideas, and curate the conversation for others. In a matter of minutes, a variety of engaging session topics existed. The edcamp format and the "rule of two feet" would allow participants to visit multiple sessions within a specific timeframe if they chose to do so. The collaborative notes in Google Docs provided everyone with all of the ideas and resources, even if they chose to spend their time in different sessions.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the EdCampQC experience:
--Educators must be provided with opportunities to personalize and drive their own professional development and learning.
--You can never underestimate the power of collaboration and forming personal connections with one another.
--A small group of people really can get together and have a huge impact in the world of education.
--It feels awesome when an idea you have turns into a reality and that reality is even better than what you originally thought it could be!
Thank you to my fellow #EdCampQC organizers, all of the educators who spent part of their weekend learning with us, Hawk Ridge PTA and our other sponsors who donated items and door prizes, and our local food trucks who participated.
I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the next #EdCampQC...