"You'll be putting on a conference, but we won't know who will be presenting, what they'll be presenting, or know for sure how many people will be there."
As part of our school's Technology Learning Cohort, we put on an 'un-conference,' an EdCamp conference model where professional educators - you know, those people who put on 5-6 hour presentations every day to young people who may or may not want to learn- are in charge of not only what they want to learn, but what is presented. It sounds absurd; in actuality, it's brilliant.
Teachers never get a chance to talk about what they are doing in the classroom, and rarely do they get a chance to share ideas and collaborate. So on March 30th, at 8:30, over a hundred teachers from Maine and New Hampshire gathered together and decided what they wanted to teach and what they wanted to learn. And guess what? It was a huge success.
As it was a technology 'un-conference,' topics ranged everywhere from basic googledoc instruction to how to write code to build a website. In our morning session, people shared what they could offer and/or what they wanted to learn, and then they 'voted with their feet' - they grabbed another cup of coffee and a bagel and dashed off to different presentations and discussions, sometimes staying through a whole session, sometimes wandering from session to session to join different conversations.
Did it work? Ask participants:
- "I like the collaborative atmosphere of presenting but sharing at same time; like a huge thinktank!"
- "I love the interactive element and the organic feel. I like being able to interact and contribute. "
- "I liked how easy it was to pick something, go to it, and leave if I wanted to. It was casual and there was an easy way to share ideas with colleagues and other teachers in other schools"
- "The flexibility of topics was helpful. It was also great to talk to teachers from other schools."
To go to a free day-long conference, to teach and learn from your peers, to collaborate for a common goal; EdCampMe was an incredible experience. It was empowering to teachers as they not only got to share their incredible classroom practices with technology, they also got to set the mood and tone of the conference. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with information, practical lessons and sharing of problems and ideas left most feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Here is the video and story from the Channel 6 News report: