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 — along with networking. At EdCamp Boston 2012, there were 15 presentation spaces and seven time slots to sign up for.
After everyone who wants to present has posted their workshop proposal, conference volunteers copy the schedule on a communal online Google Spreadsheet. 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.
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!
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?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!