What is an Edcamp?
Let’s begin with a definition. In short, Edcamps are:
Free: Edcamps should be free to all attendees. This helps ensure that all different types of teachers and educational stakeholders can attend.
Non-commercial and with a vendor-free presence: Edcamps should be about learning, not selling. Educators should feel free to express their ideas without being swayed or influenced by sales pitches for educational books or technology.
Hosted by any organization or individual:Anyone should be able to host an Edcamp. School districts, educational stakeholders and teams of teachers can host Edcamps.
Made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event: Edcamps should not have pre-scheduled presentations. During the morning of the event, the schedule should be created in conjunction with everyone there. Sessions will be spontaneous, interactive and responsive to participants' needs.
Events where anyone who attends can be a presenter: Anyone who attends an Edcamp should be eligible to present. All teachers and educational stakeholders are professionals worthy of sharing their expertise in a collaborative setting.
Reliant on the "law of two feet" which encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs: As anyone can host a session, it is critical that participants are encouraged to actively self-select the best content and sessions. Edcampers should leave sessions that do not meet their needs. This provides a uniquely effective way of "weeding out" sessions that are not based on appropriate research or not delivered in an engaging format.
Despite the concrete definition, it can be difficult to truly capture the Edcamp experience. That's because a "typical" day of learning at an Edcamp doesn't really exist. Each Edcamp is unique and based on the needs of the participants. When you arrive at the location (usually a school or university) on the day of the event, there is no pre-set schedule of sessions or presenters. Instead, there's just a blank sheet of big paper with a grid on it.
From that blank slate, everyone builds the session schedule together. As people mingle and chat over free coffee and donuts, they put up potential discussion topics on a board. Since it's my job to build the schedule at the Edcamp events I organize, I can truly attest that the entire process is positive and organic. Occasionally, people who don't even know each other realize that they have similar interests and end up running a session together. Other folks come with an idea, throw it out to the group, revise it, and end up posting it with a refined focus. Since anyone who attends an Edcamp event can be a presenter at the event, it's a very empowering experience for everyone involved.
The skeptics are likely wondering, "What do you do if no ones signs up?" (I get that question a lot.) And while there are certainly specific strategies you can use to ease your anxiety (building an idea board on the event page, having conversations with amazing educators who are planning to attend, etc.), they usually aren't needed. I've never attended an Edcamp or heard of an Edcamp where the schedule board didn't fill. It just doesn't happen.
From Kristen Swanson, www.edcamp.org
WHAT TEACHERS SAID ABOUT EDCAMP UTAH
"Edcamp is what professional development should be about. Teachers coming together to discuss individual challenges and interests, while sharing resources or possible solutions based on real needs, interests, and experiences. Participating in Edcamp Utah was one of the most authentic professional development experiences I have had in years." Jeremy Smith
"I had no idea what to expect at this event. I was pleasantly surprised as so many teachers were very willing to share their experiences with different technology. I felt like the sharing of the collective knowledge regarding technology was very valuable." Jean Robinson
"I really enjoyed the open format of each session. Everyone's ideas were heard and addressed within each session, regardless of current level of understanding." Kathryn Morrison
"I have been hungering for a collaborative experience like this. Edcamp Utah met my expectations and beyond." Sharon Moore