Chances are, you’ve heard of EdCamp before, even if you’ve never attended one. If you’re new to the concept of EdCamp, the idea is pretty simple: rather than having a conference style professional development event, get a group of educators together who want to share ideas and learn in a collaborative and fun environment. Rather than lectures with a quick q&a after, there are discussions, demonstrations, and all participants are able to interact as much or as little as they choose. As an attendee, you can sit back and absorb information on a topic that may be totally new to you, or you can jump in and offer best practices and anecdotes on topics that you’ve worked with a lot.
So why should you attend an EdCamp, versus a large scale, well known conference type event? While everyone is different and will have a preferred type of professional development, EdCamps are not to be missed. While there are a lot of good things about them, we’ve narrowed it down to three reasons why you should attend.
First of all, EdCamps are free. Each camp is organized by schools or individuals with only altruistic motives. The goal here is to share information and learn from likeminded educators, not to make money, hawk products, or sell textbooks. Sponsorships with promotional materials may be offered at an EdCamp but nothing is for sale there. It’s more about getting the word out about really good products. This ensures that everyone stays focus on learning.
EdCamps are professional development in its purest form. Every attendee has the opportunity to contribute to the organization and types of sessions that will be offered throughout the day, as the schedule is set organically and is participant driven. Each attendee can choose what sessions to attend, how they want to participate in each session (and it can be different for each one!), and have the flexibility to learn at their own pace.
Have you ever attended a session at a traditional conference that you realized part way through was totally irrelevant to you? Or the presenter was just telling you things you already knew? While it may be awkward to stand up and leave the session in that setting, EdCamp attendees are encouraged to explore more than one session at a time if they wish, especially if they realize they aren’t getting what they wanted or can’t contribute to a particular session.
Beyond that, every participant can be an attendee or a facilitator of a session, and can contribute as much as they have to offer and can learn as much as they wish. There is no power differential between presenter and attendee at an EdCamp, just collaboration and sharing among peers.
Finally, one of the greatest things about EdCamps is the connections one can make. Due to the fact that attendees range from elementary, middle, high school teachers, professors, librarians, consultants, etc., an attendee has the opportunity to meet and collaborate with professionals that come from different backgrounds and with a different set of experiences. We’ve all experienced what a different set of eyes can offer to a situation in our classroom or school – sometimes a fresh look or anecdotal experience from another perspective can really change how you go about doing something!The veterans, the seasoned teachers, and the newbies come together in an environment that promotes collaboration and reignites their passion for learning new things. That makes the conversations quite lively and pertinent to everyone, which can be an extremely rejuvenating experience. You can keep up with everyone via Twitter and social media after EdCamp has ended!
If you’ve never attended an EdCamp before, they’re cropping up just about everywhere – hit up your pal Google and find out when one will be in your area. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you’re in luck – EdCamp Tampa Bay is coming up soon!