By Teachers, For Teachers
Sick of expensive conferences and professional development dictated by those out of touch with the classroom? Then it's time to sign up for Edcamps!
Edcamps are "un-conferences" in which teachers come together to create their own professional development and to learn from one another. As an organizer of the first California Edcamp, Lisa Dabbs gave TeachHUB the scoop on this new PD trend and shares tips on how to take charge of your growth as a teacher.
What are EdCamps all about?
The EdCamp model is based on the international un-conference model, BarCamp. According the to BarCamp wiki, a BarCamp:
1.) Is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.
2.) Is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.
Since Edcamps are derived from this model, Edcamps all over the U.S. follow the same basic guidelines. Sessions are not planned or scheduled until the morning of the event using a scheduling board. Each Edcamp has used this board in a different manner. Typically, the board is a large sheet of butcher paper on which attendees can place an index card or a sticky note with the session they’d like to lead.
Below is a sample of the session board for EdcampOC that was held January 15, 2011 in Costa Mesa, California
EdcampOC Session Board Credit: CC image by Dan Callahan via Flickr
Why did you get involved with EdCamps?
The idea of Edcamps is so unique and exciting that I knew I had to get involved. As an educator with a long history of commitment to professional development, I was very excited to see this opportunity for educators to come together, to learn and grow in a setting where attendees drive the conference and also serve as presenters.
Teacher driven, teacher led...this is the exciting part of Edcamps. There is no hierarchy between presenters and attendees. Teachers can present in front of administrators and administrators can engage and interact with teachers in a dialogue. All participants, regardless of their role in education, are actively engaged in discussions.
I’m a co-organizer of the first EdCamp hosted in all of California, EdcampOC. We welcomed participants from all over the US to join us and share their knowledge. We had some wonderful thought leaders, who had participated in other Edcamps before, join us for EdcampOC.
The set up for EdCamp is unique and informal, especially since attendees sign up to run sessions that morning. How do you create a welcoming and supportive environment for those who present?
As part of the EdcampOC organizing team, I can share that we did a ton of work behind the scenes to make that happen. From researching and securing venues, visiting the venue, ensuring wifi at the venue, great lunch options and swag...it’s all so important to putting the pieces together for a supportive environment.
However, the most important aspect is the cheerful attitudes, energy, and passion of the organizing team. Making sure to have all participants feel welcome as they arrive and throughout the day is a key piece to a successful Edcamp. The team does everything from checking with thought leaders and participants to ensure that they know what’s next, to accessing the session board for changes, or to simply finding a spot to chill for a minute. The team’s attitude is key to setting the tone for a welcoming,enthusiastic day of learning!
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at an EdCamps event?
The take-aways that I’ve had include the anticipation of a day of shared learning with no idea yet what that learning will be, to watching a blank schedule board transform in the first hour with tons of sessions, and seeing that teachers would give up a Saturday to learn from each other, share resources and network. Feeling the energy of the power that educators bring to creating their own learning is an amazing experience!
How are EdCamps connected with twitter and the twitter education communities?
You don't need to be on Twitter or in a Ning site to attend an Edcamp. However, It is helpful if you are because much of the info for upcoming Edcamps is tweeted by amazing educators that are a part of a large Personal Learning Network, or PLN, on Twitter. For that matter, Twitter is an amazing PD experience in itself!
What are attendees expected to bring to EdCamp?
Participants aren’t “expected” to bring anything to attend an Edcamp. The best things that a participant could bring would be a friend to bounce thoughts off of, as well as their ideas and questions to share out with those they meet!
However, having a laptop, iPad, or other mobile device is key for gathering and archiving info gained at an Edcamp. It’s also great to be able to have a device to tweet, check out an online session board, take notes, and view websites discussed during the day. There's nothing wrong with a good ole fashioned notebook and pen either.
How do you motivate people to attend and contribute to these grass roots conferences?
For EdcampOC, we spent time emailing local southern California school districts, distributing signs for posting in local schools, and doing lots of Tweeting of our event. In the end, I believe that teachers, administrators and educators are truly motivated to attend or participate in Edcamps by their own desire to grow professionally. Taking the time to attend or participate is truly a work of the heart and collaborative spirit.
What are three reasons educators should attend an EdCamp?
3.) FREE teacher-led, participant-driven, exciting professional development!
What feedback have you received from EdCamp participants?
The immediate feedback we got from EdcampOC is that participants loved it! For many in California, this was the first time they could attend an Edcamp since those prior were held on the East Coast. They were energized by being able to share and collaborate with like-minded educators. They liked that they could “vote with their feet”,as we say, and decide if a session worked for them or not and that they were able to meet and network with educators from different parts of California, Boston, and even Las Vegas. All of these were a huge plus! We also developed a feedback survey for EdcampOC that we will use for future planning purposes. You can check it out on our wiki site.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up an EdCamp in their area?
1.) If you’re thinking of running an Edcamp, the first step is to find a good team.
2.) Seek out venue and sponsors well in advance. The venue is your critical foundation piece that provides the home base for your event. It’s also wonderful to have sponsors who support Edcamps and can provide swag and raffle gifts for the attendees. Some will also provide funding if needed.
3.) Eat lunch on site if you can. This really supports a relaxed network time for participants, rather than participants running around town searching for cafes or eateries.
4.) Give them a reason to stay till the end! At EdcampOC, we raffled off our great gifts and swag provided by our sponsors. Other Edcamps have done a Tech Tool Smackdown. Either way,it provides a great opportunity to come together and share the end of the day.
EdcampOC organizers Credit: CC image by matt_arguello via Flickr
I appreciate this opportunity and collaboration with TeachHub to share my reflections on the amazing opportunity for sharing, growing and networking which is Edcamp. I highly recommend that folks interested in starting an Edcamp reach out to the Co-Founders of Edcamp. Mary Beth Hertz is the organizer of EdcampPhilly and Dan Callahan is the organizer of EdcampBos. They are part of my PLN and are hard working educators who are eager to share their support. I thank them and my team for our success with EdcampOC.
Do you think you would benefit from attending an EdCamp? Why or why not? Share with us!
1. EdcampOC Session Credit: CC image by Teachingwithsoul via Flickr
2. EdcampOC Session Board Credit: CC image by Dan Callahan via Flickr
3. EdcampOC organizers Credit: CC image by matt_arguello via Flickr