I have now been to two unconferences for educators, edcamps, and I want to encourage any educator who has the chance to attend one. First let me explain what an unconference is for those who have never heard of one. It is a free conference that is organized to give the participants an opportunity to share their ideas and questions with the other people who attend. It is not about keynote speakers and major presentations; it is also not about vendors and big name sponsors. It is a conference that is based around the idea that teachers teaching and sharing with each other can be a very powerful way to learn. An unconference usually starts with 1-2 hours to socialize and to plan presentations. It is an opportunity to catch up with friends and to make new ones. It is a time that allows teachers space to pull together ideas that they might want to share or questions that they might want to frame a conversation around. It gives all those who attend that wonderful commodity of Time.
As people decide that they want to share a new idea or tool that they use, or that they have a topic for a conversation that they want to facilitate, they go and sign up for a session, choosing a time slot that works for them. The board slowly fills up with the variety that is represented amongst the educators at the conference. It can be anything from “How to Build a Classroom Website and Why?” to “Is it Possible to teach creatively with the demands of testing?” Each educator then chooses what he/she wants to learn about and discuss and heads to that session. One of the primary rules of an unconference is “The Rule of Two Feet.” If you get to a session and it is not meeting your needs or is too easy or complicated for what you are after, you simply move to another. The point of the day is for everyone to learn and grow. It is not an insult to whomever is leading the session if you vote with your feet; it is simply a sign that they need something else at the moment.
There is an amazing power and energy in an unconference. Teachers are giving up their free time to come and talk to one another. Those with something to share, offer it and those in need of help, ask for it. As those who attend collaborate, there is a powerful energy created. The isolation of the classroom teacher is broken. There are suddenly lots of people who want to help and support what is going on for other teachers. The first edcamp was in Philadelphia last May. There are now many more popping up around the country. Check out the edcamp website, for a location near you or to get information on how to start one. There are lots of people who have been involved who would love to help.