Have you ever attended an EdCamp? If the answer is no, you are missing out. On what you might ask? An innovative, sharing-based day of learning that will forever change your view on professional development. Typically held on Saturdays, educators meet up at a particular location and either present or attend sessions that focus on best practices in education. My first experience with this new type of professional development was in the summer of 2012 at EdCamp Leadership. It forever changed my view on how educators, including myself, should learn and share.
The first EdCamp ever held was in Philadelphia about five years ago. Fast forward to 2014 and there are hundreds taking place around the globe. The great thing about EdCamps is that they are free. Most EdCamps require participants to sign up in advance on their website just so they can get an accurate head count. After that, you simply show up, sign in, fill out your name badge, and make your way to the session board. What is the session board you might ask? It is a “living document” of sorts where attendees can take a peek at what sessions they could possibly attend. It’s important to remember that participants do not pre register for sessions at an EdCamp. You can attend any session you want. Also, if you have a sudden urge to hold a discussion on something you are passionate about, simply put your name and topic on a sticky note and place it on the session board.
Attending an EdCamp is a phenomenal experience. After the opening remarks and a bite to eat for breakfast, attendees can participate in sessions that spark their interest. What happens when you are sitting in a session that is not applicable to you as an educator? Simply stand up, walk out, and attend a session that is more suitable to your needs. I know, it seems awkward, it is actually something that makes the EdCamp experience special. For years educators, including myself, have attended educational conference sessions that are boring or irrelevant. And what do we do? We sit there for hours and leave the conference unfulfilled. As a response to this issue, EdCamps encourage participants to vote with their feet.
Typically, after attending 4 or 5 sessions and networking with many wonderful educators, participants get to experience a smack-down session. For about 30 minutes participants get up in front of the audience and share a best practice web tool that can be integrated in the school setting. Each person has about 90 seconds to present their resource and quickly explain it’s usefulness. As this is going on, one of the EdCamp organizers archives the resources shared on a spreadsheet that will ultimately be shared for all to enjoy. Door prizes and other educational goodies are also given out to bring the experience to a close.
The EdCamp experience is changing the educational landscape for the better — enabling teachers to collaborate by quickly sharing ideas across schools and districts. EdCamps are happening everywhere and provide educators with an experience that will last a lifetime. The people you meet, the resources shared, and the collaboration that takes place is memorable. I encourage other educators to find an EdCamp located near them and get involved!