About a month ago I attended Edcamp Edmonton (#edcampyeg). It was a free Saturday PD day organised and hosted by a group of dedicated and talented teachers from Edmonton and area. It was attended by about 80 teachers from Edmonton and area. It was an experiment in flexible, collaborative and meaningful PD – and it worked.
If you don’t know about Edcamp, here’s the gist: Participants (in this case teachers) gather in a large common area for the first hour of the day to meet and mingle. During this time, we write down questions and wonderings about our teaching practices on yellow sticky notes; we also write things that we want to share about on blue sticky notes. While participants continue to mingle, facilitators match the sharings to the wonderings (and group common wonderings) in order to construct the day’s schedule. So, rooms and time slots fill up in the day’s schedule and then participants decide where they want to spend their time. (Of course, if you said tht you’d share something you go to that room at that time.) Edcamp calls what happens next “voting with your feet”. If you like a session, stay and dialogue, discuss, debate. If you don’t, move to another room.
This format is quite innovative for several reasons: Without keynote speakers and presenters, the conference is free. Because participants decide the topics for discussion, the content is targeted and meaningful. And sessions are designed to capitalise on the idea that the most valuable conversations that happen at conferences happen in the hallways between sessions – and now these conversations are the sessions.
For me, I found the day incredibly purposeful. I didn’t know where the day would end up, but I was confident that if I was engaged in meaningful dialogue with teaching professionals, the day would not be wasted. Not only was it not wasted, it was some of the most valuable PD that I’ve experienced. The conversations, the ideas, and the connections… all much more worthwhile than the conferences where I am strictly a receiver of information.
Last week, as I shared my Edcamp experience with a colleague, she mused: Imagine if our days in the classroom were set up this way – asking students, “What do YOU want to learn about? And what do YOU want to share about?”
What an idea. What if…?