In the midst of the 10,000 educators who have come to Chicago for the annual ASCD conference, a group of passionate and slightly crazy educators decided to work outside the standard sessions and keynotes and hold an edcamp, an unconference “for teachers, by teachers.”
It started over breakfast. A group of us, Kristen Swanson, https://twitter.com/thenerdyteacher, Steve Anderson and me, who had been asked to come to the conference as Press, were having breakfast in the press room. The opening remarks and keynote were being streamed into the room. Behind us, as one presenter after another stood and spoke, came the words, “We need to stop lecturing!” The conversation exploded around the table. As founders and organizers for edcamps around the country, the irony of a lecturer saying that we need to stop lecturing while lecturing was glaring. We decided to go rogue and create an edcamp in the midst of the larger conference to show how an unconference can avoid the lecturing model. We wanted to show the power of educators working together to learn and share, outside of the model of “experts” and “important people. We had experienced it over and over again through the edcamp model, and we wanted to share it with others.
Since we were in the Press Room, we alerted the ASCD Communications team and chose a space outside the Registration area. We added edcamp Rogue to the official edcamp wiki. We created a Facebook page. And we were off! It was time to tweet it out! Among our tweets was a request for swag from vendors! Immediately Edutopia stepped up and donated their new earbuds, dozens of them, to the cause. A Special Thanks to Edutopia! (If you don’t know their website and resources, investigate it!)
When educators are passionate about sharing together, things start to happen!
At 3:30, we headed down with some big Post-It sheets with Edcamp Rogue written on them and some table cards with #edcamprogue – since every edcamp needs a hashtag! We stationed ourselves by one of the big computer screens and put it on our Twitter feed.
Then a sort of miracle occurred! People began to come! One by one and in pairs, they wandered over, looking around to see if this was actually where they wanted to be. As the four of us welcomed each new teacher and handed out earbuds, the energy began to build. We knew we were disciples for our movement and were eager to welcome any and all to learn more. After 10 minutes, there were around 50 people sitting around in a semi-circle.
The most amazing part was that most of the people who had come had never heard of edcamp. They had never gone to one or even known about it before they stopped. We gave a brief description of what an edcamp is: an unconference where teachers share and learn together; no keynote; no cost. It is a day for learning! We asked the people there who had been to an edcamp to share their experiences. Four teachers talked about the energy of the day and the ease of participating. They shared ideas they had learned, one of them being to use Twitter for professional development. A number of teachers had never considered using Twitter. The conversation then turned to how to connect on Twitter and why to bother. Again, we asked for people to give share.
Conversations began, and the community of learning was created. This was the goal, to create connections among educators. Big conferences have teachers sit in rows, usually in immovable chairs. The presenter presents, and the teachers sit and take notes. There is little to no interaction and little or not true connections made between the participants. At the end of the session, the teachers take away a collection of notes, but little more.
In a world that changes so quickly, we need an army of educators behind each and every one of us. We need the connections that allow us to conquer the challenges before us. While information on teaching is good, connections and relationships with other passionate educators is life-changing! It is the way to provide the very best for our students. Edcamps do that! They make connecting with other teachers not only possible but a key goal of the day.
Edcamp went rogue within ASCD and modeled how to make connections and new friends on the journey that is teaching!