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Edcamp: Is an UnConference the Best Way to Learn?

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. 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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Ratna

Monday 18th of March 2013

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.

Regards, Ratna

Lillie

Monday 18th of March 2013

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/ !

TBU Porto UnConference Afternoon

Tuesday 31st of July 2012

[...] 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 [...]

Lillie

Tuesday 31st of July 2012

So happy and honored you are using this idea!

Raymond Wu

Thursday 14th of June 2012

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.

Caitlin M.

Monday 4th of June 2012

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

Rebecca

Saturday 2nd of June 2012

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.

Rebecca

Saturday 2nd of June 2012

btw... Another fantastic conference (yet expensive) takes place in your beloved Boston each summer, BLC Conference presented by Alan November of November Learning. http://blcconference.com/ I was lucky enough to attend with several staff members sponsored by a technology grant. It was an unforgettable experience with not only time and encouragement to try new technology for the classroom, but invaluable networking.

Rebecca

Saturday 2nd of June 2012

Thanks, Lillie, for the toilet link! Laughing hysterically as I have heard and am prepared (lots of skirts) for the "squatty potties" of Shanghai! I would be happy to be featured and interviewed for your Teaching Traveling site. I will also post about the EdCamp experience. Any quick hints for techno-journaling to make it easier to post when I return?

Lillie

Saturday 2nd of June 2012

Have a wonderful time at EdCamp, and let me know how it goes! Your summer travels sound AMAZING. Make sure you find this toilet: https://aroundtheworldl.mystagingwebsite.com/2011/12/08/shanghais-great-1200-foot-building-and-its-bathroom/ and let me know if you want to be featured on www.TeachingTraveling.com (about the teaching, not the toilet)! My contact email is in the "Lillie" tab at the upper left.

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