Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reflections from Our First Edcamp

Why attend an unconference? (Edcamp Philly 2012 Survey)
creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by kjarrett:
Back in October of the current school year, I had the privilege of attending Edcamp Dallas which was my first experience with an Edcamp style professional development event. Up until that point, I had heard a lot of great things about Edcamps but had not yet experienced one myself. After participating in Edcamp Dallas, I was instantly sold. I have to admit, that the idea of attending a conference where none of the sessions are pre-planned and anyone can present made me a bit skeptical; however, I quickly realized that this form of professional development is highly effective, engaging and productive for everyone involved. I was thoroughly impressed with the enthusiasm and eagerness to share by all of the conference participants and the unique format was a refreshing change of pace from a traditional conference. Upon leaving, I immediately decided that I wanted bring this experience to the staff I work with at my school.

After months of patiently waiting and planning, we finally got the opportunity to run our very own Edcamp this past March. With only a half-day of time to work with, we offered four, thirty-minute sessions with five different sectional offerings within each session. After the final session, we all came together for a "slam session" and faculty prize raffle. The most significant challenge we had to overcome in our planning was the limited time to work with. At a normal Edcamp, the sessions are decided the day of the event; however, there was not time to do this in our particular situation. To work around this challenge, we created a shared session schedule using Google Sheets that any of our staff could use to input their name and session idea into during the time slot of their choosing. This sheet was sent out about 48 hours before the event and the response was outstanding. There were no problems filling all of the session slots and we even needed to add another room to the schedule to accommodate all of the presentation ideas.

Given that the majority of our staff had never even heard of an Edcamp before this, I was a bit nervous going in regarding how this new form of professional development would be received. Would we have enough teachers volunteer to be presenters? Would the sessions be productive and relevant to our staff? Would our teachers find the time productive since the Edcamp format was totally new to them? Ultimately, these concerns were found to be a non-issue as the event proceeded without a hitch and was a highly productive time of learning and sharing for all. Never before had I seen our faculty so engaged and enthusiastic during a professional development in-service time. It was incredibly encouraging to see to see our teachers leading rich discussions with their peers and openly sharing ideas and best practices from their classrooms.


The success of this event was confirmed in the feedback I received in a follow-up survey. The most notable responses were as follows:
  • 98% of the staff agreed or strongly agreed that the Edcamp format was a productive use of professional development time.
  • 98% of the staff agreed or strongly agreed that the topics shared were relevant and helpful.
  • 100% of the staff agreed or strongly agreed that they value the ability to choose from a variety of sessions led by their peers (83% answered strongly agree on this one).
  • 98% of the staff agreed or strongly agreed that they would prefer to use the Edcamp format for future professional development days. 
For those of you who have participated in Edcamp events before, I am sure these observations are no surprise to you. If you are yet to experience an Edcamp for yourself, I highly recommend attending one ASAP as it will change the way you look at professional development. To find an Edcamp near you, check the following site:

I wish you all the best as we continue seeking ways to change teaching and learning for the better. God Bless!

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