Education is going through an evolution in the way we think about and conduct professional development for educators. This evolution is driven by the “unconference” movement.

My first unconference experience was with an EdCamp on July 26, 2012. After researching the Edcamp concept, reading the hype about it in articles, and seeing testimonials from past attendees on Twitter, I finally had the chance to participant by attending Edcamp Leadership.

My first Edcamp was an exhausting but professionally rewarding day of professional development that lived up to and beyond my expectations. One of the many great aspects of an Edcamp is collaboration among educators. Edcamp Leadership (#edcampldr) was attended by educators from not only New Jersey, but also New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Canada.

For those not familiar with the Edcamp concept it’s called an unconference because it’s not about the presenters and their knowledge or expertise on a specific subject. It’s about the participants. Those in attendance identify topics of interest they want to learn about and discuss. Ideas are posted on a board, rooms are assigned and participants are free to attend sessions they are interested in learning about and participating in throughout the day. For a more detailed detailed explanation, click here or view this quick video. Learning at Edcamp occurs on two levels:

  • Networking – Participants talk before, in between and after sessions. Lunch time was a great time to talk and network too. For those of us on Twitter it was also a great time to put a “name to a face” for those we follow.
  • Session Participation Learning begins the moment you arrive at a session. Unlike traditional professional development, the sessions at an Edcamp are participant driven.  Educators are encouraged to add to the conversation by sharing their own experiences and stories. This results in an open dialogue among all participants in the room. Anyone can add to the value of the topic. The experts are in the audience.

Other benefits to the Edcamp concept:

  • Creates a collaborative learning and sharing environment. Educators now have a way of learning from each other, sharing their successes and helping colleagues improve education in a positive and productive environment.
  • Focuses on educators as the experts. We all have experiences to share and should view Edcamp as on the spot mentoring and support, which I believe helps our profession as a whole by validating the knowledge and expertise of fellow educators.
  • Engages educators in the use of social media. Those not attending receive updates and information from these events through various social media outlets. Therefore, the learning and sharing extends beyond the walls and is truly asynchronous.

The Edcamp model is gaining in popularity and I found great value in the sessions. New Jersey has a number of events in the upcoming months. They include:

  • TeachMeetNJ on August 23, 2012 at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
  • The Edscape Conference on October 13, 2012 at New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey
  • EdCamp New Jersey (#edcampnj) on December 1, 2012 at Linwood Middle School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This one I am helping organize and very excited to help.

The evolution in professional development, collegiality, and support for educators is being led by the Edcamp model. It is all of our responsibility as educators to promote what will help improve education.  Professional development through Edcamp, and similar unconference concepts, is an idea that deserves promotion and more educators need to engage in it. I hope you will join me at an upcoming unconference, maybe I will see you at EdcampNJ on December 1st.