EdCampChicago 2011

Today was my first experience with an unconference at edcampchicago. First, I find it amazing that teachers give up a Saturday to spend time learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there, and yet we were there…Without going into great detail about the conversations that were had, I have three questions based on my experiences.

What’s more important; content or connections?

Based on the conversations I was involved in today there was some great content being discussed. From flipped classrooms and standards based grading to twitter and smackdowns, great content was being shared all over. However, I would argue that the connections made and renewed were more powerful than any content discussed. As teachers we are often isolated in our classrooms/schools/districts with very little contact with those beyond our own bubbles. This conference provided us a chance to connect with others we would never normally be in contact with. In addition, for those on twitter and other social media, it allowed us to reconnect and put faces with profile pictures. It provided that real-life human component that is not there in online conversations.

Would you stay?

As with most conferences, we as adults have the option to leave a session. If the conversation we are involved in is not what we are looking for, we reserve the option to walk out. I took advantage of this and besides a small amount of guilt; I was able to find something else that fit my own personal need. This makes me think, what if kids have the option to walk out of our classroom? What if students could get up and walk out if our teaching was not meeting their needs? Would you students stay in your room if they had the option to walk out?

Why do we not do this more often?

This is a fairly straightforward question. Why are there not more professional development opportunities such as these? I would like to see building level institute days/professional development run in the same manner. Bring your staff into a room and give them a board to fill in with topics for discussion based on their needs. Would this not be a better way to facilitate learning? Let teachers choose what their needs are and given them the opportunity and time to explore and develop.

I did have some great conversations within the sessions about some great topics and enjoyed every minute of it. The whole concept of the unconference is phenomenal and I would encourage anyone to find one near them and attend it. If there is not an edcamp in your neck of the woods, that is only because you haven’t started it. 


Aaron said...

Josh, I'm not K-12 (I haven't been a classroom teacher since late '99). But I'm still in learning (technology side), I do meet-ups and unconferences to share stories and ideas. Anytime you want to do a meet-up, let's just get some people together and do it. It takes a quiet pub or coffeeshop (or in the summertime, a park).

I'm in Portage Park and can bus/train/cab it pretty much anywhere in the city.

Unknown said...

Josh, you shared some great thoughts. I was glad to be able to follow the edcamp hashtags on Twitter yesterday. Being in the Louisville, Kentucky area, there aren't any upcoming edcamps in my area. Unfortunately, I missed on in Cincinnati last fall. I keep trying to find like minded educators around Louisville to plan an edcamp. If you run into any educators on Twitter in my area, please point them out to me. Thanks again for sharing your reflections on edcampchicago.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Looking forward to my first unconference - waiting for the time to be right.

Gary Anderson said...

Although it didn't work out for me to physically attend EdCampChicago, I followed the Twitter hashtag for most of the day.

"Why are there not more professional development opportunities such as these?" That is a great question, and I'm guessing that the success of the EdCamp concept will help make similar experiences more common.

When teachers create their own professional development experiences, you will see things like EdCamp. When professional development experiences are designed in a top-down, mandated fashion, they will tend to be the same old irrelevant, boring stuff that makes no difference to teachers or students.

I also like how the EdCamp experience brings online professional relationships into a face-to-face situation.

Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

mego said...

Thanks Josh for the post! I also attended EdcampChicago and I love your point of "would you stay". I wasn't sure what to expect on Saturday, but it was a fantastic experience with great people. I had so many rich conversations that at a "traditional" conference just don't happen. At face to face conferences people are always rushing from place to place and the rich conversations seem to get lost. Last week was a long one and as I left the house early Saturday I told my family that I would probably be able to leave about noon. I so enjoyed the sessions and conversations I stayed not only for the entire conference, but also the refreshments afterwards. I really enjoyed the experience and I learned so much!

Altarene Brown said...


I think that I would like to meet face-to-face with people to communicate on technology topics. But, thanks for sharing your perspectives. I guess it is what each individual likes.

Altarene Brown said...

Thanks for sharing your personal point of views. But, I think I would like to meed face-to-face to discuss such a wonderful topic as technology.