Have you ever heard of Edcamp or maybe the word “unconference"? An edcamp is basically a gathering of people who have the desire and passion to learn in an open environment. Sessions are not planned until the morning of the event, and everyone in the a session has a voice. To be simplistic, think of it as a coffee shop type conversation about a particular subject. Where that conversation goes depends on who is in the room.
I was first introduced to the idea by a fellow educator I follow on Twitter. When I found out there was a technology edcamp forming within driving distance, I encouraged a couple of colleagues to attend with me and set out on a Saturday to see what it was all about.
This is what I discovered. There was no high-paid keynote speaker and definitely no death by powerpoint. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and conversational from the moment we walked in. There was a huge board with sticky notes close by. The board was divided into sessions times and room numbers. We were encouraged to think of a topic we wanted to know more about or that we knew something about, write down the topic, and stick it on the board in one of the session slots. If we chose to do this, we “owned” that session...which meant nothing more than we started the conversation.
It was the most amazing day of learning because every session was exactly what we made it. Conversation flowed freely. There were no stuffy, prepared presentations - everyone contributed and took control of their own learning.
I knew this was a great model that I wanted to share, and I am extremely thankful for an administration that allowed us creative freedom in designing this opportunity. The impromptu sessions are a little intimidating at first, so the "unconference" idea morphed into a mini technology conference. Our staff was given opportunities to volunteer (ahead of time) to lead sessions on topics of their choosing. Kristy Graham and I organized the event with several priorities in mind.
We called the event Technology Show and Share. After a brief opening session with instructions and encouragement, everyone was able to choose three sessions from a list of topics. We had 18 staff members step up to lead sessions, and based on the conversations we heard and exit tickets we read - “This really provoked thinking!”, “I loved this format.”, “...great day of learning” - the day was a success!
Dana Lane is a Technology Coordinator, and Kristy Graham is an Instructional Technology Specialist - both at Rivercrest School District. They are passionate about technology and learning and enjoy sharing this passion with teachers and students.