This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in EdCamp Columbus. I love Edcamps. This is the third one I've attended and have one more to go to this spring. It is a great place to reenergize, make connections, and gain new ideas to use in your classroom.
What is an Edcamp? According to edcamp.org, an Edcamp is,
"Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs.What makes Edcamp an unconference? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions."
photo credit: Keith Millard @scarletandgray
Edcamps are participant-driven discussions really. A person can choose to "present" a topic or an idea, but the best Edcamp sessions tend to be discussions, often passionate, about things that matter most to educators. Unlike tradition conferences, attendees can walk freely in and out of sessions, often referred to as "voting with two feet". It is not considered rude to do this. There is usually so many good sessions that folks move in and out to gain as much information as possible. If the session is not what a participant wants, then they move on to another. Best of all, they are FREE!
Edcamp is not just for teachers. It's for teachers (pre-service and veteran), principals, superintendents, anyone excited and passionate about education. I've seen a few professors in attendance too. I think that's important. Sometimes, college educators are too far removed from the classroom. This gives them a chance to see what teachers are passionate about today!
The day starts at around 9:00 am and moves on very quickly. Most discussions are 50 minutes long. To be honest, them seem much shorter than that. There is about an hour break for lunch and then sessions resume until about 3:00. Everyone gathers for a "smackdown" - sharing of your favorite takeaways from the session you attend. Then, there are door prizes, usually sponsored by edtech companies. Sometimes, you win a year's license to a popular or new educational website, small trinkets such as stylus, cups, pens/pencils, or lunch bags, and also cool edtech hardware such as document cameras or interactive whiteboards. I've been fortunate enough to win software and an interactive whiteboard (now only if it worked with my Chromebook!).
photo credit : Aric Thomas @Ar1cTh0mas
Another reason I like Edcamps is that it gives me the opportunity to meet face to face with some of my PLN (Personal Learning Network). I've met a lot of folks on Twitter, G+, and other sites/listsrvs. It's always great to put a face with a name. I've also started to follow some folks as a result of meeting them at Edcamps. Again, it's all about builidng your PLN and taking charge of your learning.
I'd like to organize an Edcamp for a local university/college. I think it is important for pre-service teachers to attend. It gives them a chance to make connections with veteran teachers and having a venue to ask questions they have about teaching. It's a win-win relationship because veteran teachers get energized by young teachers - full of passion and excitement about their chosen future profession. Maybe I'll get a chance to do that soon.
Want to check out the Edcamp calendar? You can go to edcamp.wikispaces.com and check it out. My next Edcamp is edcampOhio on April 25th. If you get a chance, go to an Edcamp. It's life changing!