Rethinking Professional Development with EdCamp

How many times have you found yourself in professional development wondering who chose the topic for the day? There has been significant pushback to one-size-fits-all teaching, and that is beginning to spill over into the PD world. So, how are teachers finding development opportunities which meet their needs?

Social media is one way. Outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn help individuals connect to larger networks around various topics. It might be a hashtag like #edchat (education in general) or #edtech (education technology discussions) which draws both questions and answers from educators globally. The ease of use of most platforms is a low-barrier way for people to get connected to learning groups.

Face to face learning is also being revitalized. The EdCamp Foundation is trying to meet that challenge.

EdCamp Logo Collage

The idea

If you’re not familiar with EdCamps, picture a traditional teacher conference with a published schedule, featured strands, and a keynote each day. Now, erase that completely and you have an EdCamp.

In short, an EdCamp is an “unconference.” There are no keynotes. There is no published schedule. In fact, when you arrive at an event (which are completely free, by the way), you are tasked with putting a discussion topic on the official schedule board. The idea is that everyone at a conference has something of value to share, and everyone gets an equal opportunity to do so.

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kjarrett

Why are they so popular?

In short, teachers are empowered. The conferences themselves are relaxed and focus on conversations, not schedules. There is no stigma for bouncing from session to session throughout the day. Ad hoc discussions turn into sessions where every voice is given an opportunity to share.

“With so much of educator PD, we are given one-size-fits-all PD that may or may not be relevant to us. Edcamps allow choice over what you learn, which is always valuable.” – Karl Lindgren-Streicher, EdCamp:Home co-organizer.

EdCamps are locally run by educators. They can get small grants from the EdCamp Foundation to help cover costs, and they often look to local companies to sponsor costs, offer door prizes, and to come hang out with teachers. In 2010, there were eight events held in the US (according to the official EdCamp Event Wiki). There are currently 167 on the schedule for 2014 with more constantly being added (there are even three scheduled for 2015 already).

How do I find one near me?

The EdCamp Foundation keeps a running list of (nearly) every EdCamp happening each year. You can also see an archive of events back to 2010. This list is updated constantly, so make sure to check back every now and then to see if there have been any additions. Remember, though, if there isn’t one already scheduled for your area, take up the responsibility and hold an inaugural EdCamp yourself! The Foundation has great tips and suggestions for organizing your own event, so take a look if that’s something you want to do.

Why does TechSmith care?

TechSmith is committed to helping educators grow professionally. Part of that commitment has been an involvement with EdCamp events all over the world since 2012. Below is a list of events we’re already sponsoring this year. We’re happy send door prizes, other swag, and information to events, all you need to do is ask.

Upcoming Sponsorships

5/3 – EdCamp Fort Wayne
5/3 – EdCamp Region 4 Texas
5/21 – EdCamp Cleveland
8/13 – EdCamp Oshkosh

…and more to come!