Innovation is the name of the game these days. Educators must remain progressive and open-minded as efforts are made to pivot in the absence of “normalcy.” Although the professional needs of educators are ever changing, the fact remains that educators consistently have needs to be met. This presents an opportunity to serve the needs of educators in new and inventive ways.
What are EdCamps?
An EdCamp is a low cost, bottom-up approach to teacher improvement. During EdCamp sessions, participants come together, determine what’s going to be learned, and set out to teach each other in a laid-back communal manner.
What are the Benefits of an EdCamp?
One of the unique aspects of EdCamps is the way session topics are chosen. Topics are decided by the participants as opposed to being chosen by a committee that reviews session proposals. This ensures a high level of relevance for the participants. It also heightens the level of engagement that the participant will exhibit during the sessions. Professional learning is much more efficient because it is aligned to the needs and choices of the teachers.
Another unique aspect of EdCamps is the fact that the sessions are led by practitioners as opposed to researchers, sales representatives, or theorists. Participants are guaranteed to receive firsthand knowledge from those who are currently practicing what they are presenting. This type of professional growth is considered valuable and is highly sought after by educators because it emphasizes raw experience rather than a studied expertise. Evidence-based strategies have proven to be preferred over theory-based ones.
It is also notable that EdCamps promote collaboration that is in the moment and organic. The participants work together to share their experience and knowledge on the agreed upon topics. Prior to hosting a session, there is time spent on collaborative planning. On the day of the session, there is no expert presenter because the participants all share with one another. This synergetic expression makes the experience one that is communal in nature. Participants are empowered to glean ideas from one another as opposed to learning from a lead presenter. As a result, the traditional top-down approach to professional learning is eliminated, confidence is built in the participants, and teacher capacity is increased.
EdCamp Professional Development Data
The following professional development data was reported by in a 2015 study (Carpenter, 2015) regarding EdCamp participant perceptions and motivations for attendance.
Motivations to Attend
In Carpenter’s study, 70% of the EdCamp participants reported that they were motivated to attend an EdCamp because of a recommendation. 43% of this group stated that they had heard so many positive things about EdCamps and they were motivated to come. The remaining 27% of those who received recommendations stated that their co-workers opinion and recommendation motivated them to attend.
Rating of EdCamp Experience
85% of those who attended EdCamps reported that their experience was either good or excellent. 49% of this group rated their experience as excellent. Only 2% of the participants reported that their experience with EdCamp was poor.
Strengths of EdCamp
Carpenter’s study revealed many strengths of EdCamp. The two top-rated strengths reported by the participants were 1) EdCamp was an amazingly positive atmosphere and 2) Participants had the freedom to move between sessions. Other strengths that were noted were 3) Having a large amount of connectedness via technology and 4) Gave new perspectives and tons of new ideas.
Weaknesses of EdCamps
Some of the shortcomings of EdCamps that were reported included 1) Participants needed to be reminded of watching their air time 2) Some sessions weren’t as collaborative as they seemed to indicate they would be and 3) New timers didn’t know what to do. Another weakness reported was that there was no place to go in the event that the participant didn’t feel like any of the sessions fit their needs.
EdCamp Resources to Get You Started
There are tons of resources that are helpful to educators who wish to get started with EdCamps. Here are a few of them.
EdCamp Community: This resource provides educators with the background information regarding EdCamps. It also provides the tenets of the EdCamp Model.
EdCamp Events: This resource provides information regarding upcoming EdCamp events. Educators have the capability to view dates, times, locations, descriptions, and registration for these sessions.
EdCamp at Home: This resource allows educators to access previous sessions of EdCamp. Materials from the sessions, as well as recordings, are made available so that the EdCamp may be experienced from home.
Designing for Learning Cards: Educators have the opportunity to request a 16-card deck that provides strategies for designing learning environments for students. This is available for those who attended a face-to-face or virtual EdCamp.
EdCamps are exciting and innovative opportunities for educators to receive meaningful professional learning that also allows them to collaborate with their colleagues. The best thing about EdCamps is that they are free!