What Exactly Is Edcamp? A Teacher’s Perspective

E-learning support program branches out beyond just Elkhart students | WSBT

What exactly is Edcamp? In short, Edcamp is a low-cost, “bottom-up” approach to teacher development in which “conference” participants convene, decide what will be learnt, and then go out to educate one another in a relaxed, communal setting.

Obviously, the big idea is in contrast to large conferences or formal professional development (which we also offer and believe has a role in education improvement) that is more ‘top down’ and pre-determined–that is, where a few people come and deliver content to a large group of people about a subject that is largely out of their control. Edcamps are commonly referred to as “unconferences,” as explained in the video below.

Educators just assemble to learn during an Edcamp event, according to edcampnepa.org:

EdCamps are educational and learning-focused “unconference” activities. The majority of professional learning takes place in a setting where participants listen to a single speaker who then shares their presentation with the rest of the group. EdCamps, on the other hand, are designed to encourage attendees to talk and participate. Participants choose the day’s subjects and play an active part in determining the conference’s direction. Over coffee and a small breakfast, EdCamp NEPA attendees will meet and socialise for the first hour. Everyone will have access to an empty session board where they can publish session titles. From there, a session board will be created, which will serve as the day’s schedule.

The Components of an Edcamp

A session board for arranging the day of the session
‘PD’ that is driven by the participants

Collaboration between teachers

Snacks and swag

Sponsors (low-cost does not imply free)
Sessions are 30-60 minutes long.

Using Twitter and hashtags like #edcamp and #edcampusa, for example, to share learning and engage with teachers both inside and outside of the Edcamp event.

Edcamp event ‘promotion’ by teachers, which frequently involves blogs, digital/social ‘groups,’ and larger sign-up methods like Eventbrite.

What is the purpose of Edcamp?

Dawn Casey-Rowe gave her perspective on TeachThought in a 2014 piece.

EdCamp is the epitome of collaboration–the coming together and sharing of ideas in the spirit of adventure. How many school professional development days have instructors been disappointed because there weren’t enough slots to cover all of the fascinating topics?

Consider the following scenario. Consider what would happen if your faculty meeting had no agenda. Consider a grid in the front of the room with a given number of vacant places and corresponding rooms, where participants may write “I’m going to present this!” There could be (academic) standards in some rooms, co-teaching in others, and “physical fitness and student/teacher wellness” in others. Anything might be the case.

People vote with their feet, thus the sessions that were the most beneficial to them would be the ones that were the most popular. It’s possible that a couple of necessary sessions were held. It’s possible that the participants will have complete control over the day. But if you really wanted to do it right, you’d set up a lovely table with coffee and cookies and simply relax for the day.

Consider hosting an Edcamp or Edcamp-style professional development event at your school and having your rock star instructors take ownership of the topic content. You’ll save money, show your appreciation for your in-house expertise, and enjoy a fun day of community building and collaboration. Create a Twitter board and use it to tweet in between sessions.

Create a Twitter board and use it to tweet in between sessions. I assure this is a PD format you’ll want to keep using.
The Origins of Edcamp

According to their About Us page, Edcamp began when educators came together to better their teaching skills without the need for a conference, a municipal requirement, or large-scale training. They simply grew and grew.

Edcamp was founded in 2010 by a group of Philadelphia teachers who got together for a computer science “un-conference.” They cooperated with others at BarCamp to design discussion sessions depending on the interests of the attendees. There was no presenter, and the slideshow was dull.

The entire day was tailored to the needs of the participants, with everyone in the room offering their knowledge and experience. Finally, the teachers felt that this model was too amazing to be contained! They exchanged contact information, and within a few months, they targeted educators using BarCamp’s “unconference” approach.

We’ll have more on Edcamps in the near future. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for Edcamps near you, this is the place to go. You can also check out Why do schools sell popcorn?

If you want to see what they look like in person, here are some photos from previous Edcamps that participants have contributed.

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