Unconferences and EdCamps as PD


Recently I’ve been reading and hearing the terms “unconference” and “edcamp” more and more frequently. I first heard of an “unconference” in reference to the first ever PSLA Unconference hosted by Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) and Stephanie Brame.

From the PSLA 2013 program:

“Share, learn, exchange ideas, solve problems, build community and capacity at our very first PSLA Unconference. No spectators allowed! Come prepared to start or participate in relevant, timely conversations and help us prepare an exciting, interactive agenda, culminating in a fast-paced Smackdown.”

I was unable to attend the conference but during and after the conference, everything I read pointed to how valuable and inspiring this session was.

Fans of the Nerdy Book Club know about the first ever nErDcamp, an edcamp for which the praise seems to echo infinitely with the participants.  (For those of us who couldn’t make it (me) we feel like the kid who missed the bus on the day of the field trip… although we can life vicariously through the Idea Board.)

Correction (See comment below) Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) Angela Watson (@Angela_Watson) just returned from ISTE in San Antonio, TX.

From Cool Cat Teacher The Cornerstone

My best learning still takes place in unstructured situations. In both edcamps and the Hack Education unconference, there are no presentations or formal sessions, just opportunities for educators to get together in groups talk about topics that matter to them.”

The internet is a pretty big place and I don’t profess to know it all (even though I am a librarian) but I have yet to read anything negative from people attending these types of events.  Maybe the nay-sayers aren’t posting or maybe I’m just not following them, but the overwhelming majority of comments about unconferences and edcamps have been very favorable.

With all due respect, I have to say, as of late I have been less than impressed with the topics that have been presented for professional development during our in-service days.  Not that there isn’t a time and place for the district to voice their goals and provide information and strategies to reach those goals, but wouldn’t it be rewarding if, even once a year, we held an unconference or an edcamp on a professional development day.  The concept of these types of events as professional development is appealing because it provides the participants with the autonomy to decide which topics are most important to them.   They have the added benefit of providing the administration with insight into the priorities of the staff.

Do you think this could work?  What are the drawbacks? And can someone please tell me the difference between an unconference and an edcamp?

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