Beyond the Classroom

A Primer on Edcamps

Exploring the free, collaborative “unconference” for educators.

Getting together for growth

Professional education conferences can be exciting and fun. They can also be hectic and stressful. But perhaps what makes many traditional confabs less than appealing for attendees boils down to two factors: the costs and the limited opportunity for real interaction with colleagues. These flaws lead to a widespread feeling that conferences are of little value (“Did I really get anything out of this?”) for teachers. Could there be a better model for educators’ professional development out there, somewhere?

Sure enough, in 2010 a quiet revolution began—appropriately—in Philadelphia. That year, the first Edcamp was held there. Based on the internationally acclaimed BarCamp model, this new “unconference” concept brought the spontaneity and open flow of ideas to the education industry. In the six years since, its popularity has exploded and generated a global movement. Many enterprising thought leaders in education have helped evolve the model, and Edcamps now occur in dozens of countries around the world.

Cool! So how is it different?

Edcamps are, above all else, collaborative in nature. Unlike traditional conferences, which are highly structured with predetermined schedules, the events at an Edcamp are planned and scheduled by participants themselves, for the same day. Attendees post their events on a shared scheduling board, and Edcamp events run the full gamut—including discussions of various teaching methods, classroom arrangements, or student projects; interactive demos of new lesson plans, tools, or technology; or simply socializing, networking, and enjoying relaxed banter.

Social media are a large component of Edcamps. With so many conversations going on (and goodness knows, to relieve any anxiety due to FOMO) apps such as Periscope, Twitter, and Facebook enable participants to communicate with each other in real-time across the globe.

Participants are all considered to be on equal footing at an Edcamp. There is no hierarchy or order of precedence, and nobody “pulls rank” on anyone else. Teachers, administrators, coaches, and others contribute to the multi-faceted flow of ideas. Presentations given by first-time attendees are strongly encouraged. Oh, and then there’s the bottom line: Attendance is always free.

How do I find one of these?

The organizers of Edcamps are passionate about teachers’ professional growth and development. That is why Edcamps take place in a large and growing list of locales—as seen at the Edcamp Foundation’s website. Also, coming up this summer is the mostly-virtual Edcamp Global, an interactive event planned specifically to span the globe and involve as many happy campers as possible.


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