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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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