Apr 292012
The Edcamp Unconference schedule being created!

The Edcamp Unconference schedule being created!

Everything I know about learning has shifted.

Today I attended my first UnConference: EdCamp Boston 2012, and it was a day-long revelation. To explain what happened today, let me awkwardly interview myself.

Q: What the heck is an UnConference?

A: In an UnConference, a bunch of like-minded people get together at an appointed venue and time. In the case of EdCamp Boston, 400 folks interested in Education converged on a gloriously sunny day at the Microsoft NERD center. (Yes, it is really called “The NERD.”)

There are no official speakers. Instead, the conference launches in the morning with anyone who wants to present a workshop writing their proposal onto a giant sticky note and slapping it into a massive schedule posted on a wall.

An UnConference must take place in a venue with many different rooms or nooks so that several workshops can take place simultaneously. At EdCamp Boston 2012, there were 15 presentation spaces and seven time slots to sign up for.

The central meeting area which launched and concluded EdCamp Boston.

The central meeting area which launched and concluded EdCamp Boston.

After everyone who wants to present has posted their workshop proposal, conference volunteers copy the schedule on a communal online Google Spreadsheet. (Click here for the completed schedule for EdCamp Boston 2012.) Participants can then walk in and out of any workshops they desire. “Vote with your feet!” urged one of the organizers. “If a workshop doesn’t match what you’re seeking, walk out and find one that does!”

Our day ended with a 50-minute “Smackdown” in which anyone could get up and present anything for 2 minutes to the entire 400-person audience!

Q: Did you present anything during EdCamp Boston 2012, Lillie?

A: Why, thanks for asking, Lillie! Indeed, I did. In the first slot, I ran a workshop on Global Education: Ways for teachers to travel cheap or free (with or without students), and methods of “Cyber-Traveling” without leaving home through online GlobalEd resources.

The view from the Microsoft NERD Center is beautiful!

The view from the NERD Center is beautiful. And I ran into my high school ELA teacher at EdCamp!

Next, I called a meetup for Education folks who run websites, and we launched a new online discussion group for Education Bloggers. Third, I ran a simulation of the BoomWriter.com online writing competition site. Finally, during the Smackdown, I shared 7 of my favorite Education sites, including FreeTech4Teachers.com, TurnItIn.com, and GlobalEducation.ning.com. So many ideas and resources exchanged today!

Can you tell how enjoyable UnConference learning is?

Can you tell how enjoyable UnConference learning is?

Q: What were the people like?

A: It was absolutely INSPIRATIONAL to interact all day with such brilliant, fun, fascinating educators.

Q: How has this altered your understanding of learning?

A: This UnConference was one of the most effective Professional Development and learning structures I’ve ever seen, because it is so democratic, participatory, and stimulating.

There’s nothing like having CHOICE and VOICE to make you pay attention and care!

Word is that several schools and districts (and even some individual classrooms) are adopting the UnConference model for learning…

Readers, what do you think of this UnConference idea? Have you ever been to one? Would you like to?


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  35 Responses to “Edcamp: Is an UnConference the Best Way to Learn?”

  1. Dear Lillie,

    Thanks so much for sending me the link on facebook. I’ve never ever heard of an” ünplugged” version of a conference, where everyone seems to have an equal opportunity to speak or present. I think it truly gets the adrenaline going. Amazing idea, I’d definitely love to have one on Malaysia.


    • So glad it’s helpful! EdCamp really opened my eyes to teacher-led professional development. It’s a worldwide nonprofit, so see if there’s one already organized near you: http://edcamp.org/ !

  2. […] takes place on Sunday 9th Sept from 2pm onwards and is an idea we came up with after reading this article on UnConference:EdCamp Boston from Lillie at AroundTheWorldL.com An UnConference is just like a regular conference, in that like […]

  3. That was great how you got up to speak four times in front of 400 people. This conference reminds me about the Symposium. It was weird how you interviewed yourself.

  4. I would never stepped in front of 400 people! I can barely present a project in front of our class without getting nervous!

  5. I am going to EdCamp Indy in Indianapolis June 13 and SO looking forward to it! Teachers at my school just got iPads for themselves and 4 for each classroom. I am hoping to quickly bone up on some ideas to use in the classroom, but also use for my travel this July. I am going to teach English for a month in Shanghai, China. I have never done this type of travel (international nor teaching/travel) and know it is going to be absolutely life-changing. I want to be able to journal/blog/photo essay to use most effectively for my students and others who may be considering the same experience. Your site is amazing and so helpful! Thank you for your example.

  6. Did you have fun?
    You’re extremely brave to step infront of 400 people. 😮

  7. Awesome article! I’ve never been to an un-conference, but I really want to (I’ve heard this approach called “open source technology”).

    On another note, can you post your full list of 7 tech websites for teachers? I’m curious!

  8. Does the “NERD” stand for something, or is it really called “NERD”?

  9. I don’t know if I could present something in front of 400 people. I get scared just doing something in front of my class. I also find it really funny that it is called “NERD”.

  10. Did u meet any new friends there?

  11. Wow! That is what an Unconference is. I never knew that.

  12. I love the way the building is named “NERD.” I like how it seems really comfortable to be in; instead of sitting on those metal fold up chairs. 😛

  13. I think that the UnConference was a great idea. I honestly really dislike conferences, because you just sit there and hear one person speak about their topic, and then they rotate off, and even if you don’t like what they’re saying, you still have to stay and listen. I like how if you don’t like what they’re talking about you could just walk out the room. I think it would be nice to go to an UnConference one day.

  14. Exchanging information seems fun at the Microsoft NERD Center and the experience must be like an entire notebook begging for the release of its information. What did the speakers talk about and was everyone there teachers?

    • Poetic simile! 🙂 Click the link in the article to see the full schedule! Most of the attendees were teachers, but there were also a lot of librarians and school administrators, as well as a few representatives of education companies and organizations.

  15. This “UnConference” thing sounds really uninspiring to me at first when I looked at the definition. But when you said how inspirational and fun this can be, really caught my attention.

  16. It was great to meet you yesterday. I love that picture, what a great combination of socks, shoes and boots. I’m proud to be a part of such a colorful community. This post does a wonderful job of explaining the unconference model. I’m glad you enjoyed the day.

  17. That is crazy! I would never have enough courage to get up in front of 400 people. I would probably run off with stage fright. That is kind of creepy how you interviewed yourself.

  18. Great thoughts. I have been putting together my thoughts, thinking about how I want to blog about yesterday. Mostly, I am really thinking about what this model means in our classrooms. How it would be modeled, assisted by paraeducators…so many questions.

    • Exactly. How can we integrate this structure (especially its emphasis on CHOICE and VOICE) into our classrooms while still ensuring rigor and covering what we need to cover?

  19. Attended your session and took away many good ideas. Am already a world traveler–been to more than 45 countries and traveled throughout the states. Agree–we need to encourage teachers to travel and share experiences with students. Taking plenty of photos is a first step to sharing these experiences. Blogs, wikis, websites, etc. all help. Thanks for sharing a wide variety of resources at your session and for this excellent blog post capturing the flavor and spirit of edcampbos and edcamps.

  20. Great to meet you yesterday, Lillie. I shared your wonderful post with my colleagues. I can’t wait to read more of your posts and teacher travel stories and tips.

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