Professional Learning with an Edcamp Model

Professional learning (still called professional development or PD by some) has gone through a lot of changes since the Internet hit us. Virtual or online learning, webinars, the MOOC and Personal Learning Networks have all been covered on this blog over the years. 

An Edcamp is a kind of unconference designed for teachers by teachers.  Unconferences are not like the traditional conferences that many of us attend. The usual call for proposals and schedules set up months in advance by the organizers are not a part of the process. The bulk of the agenda is created by the participants at the start of the event. The events are usually held in a school building on a Saturday or during a school break with the district donating the space. There are also very few person-in-front-of-the-room sessions and more discussions and hands-on sessions.

All these events are based on the principles of connected and participatory learning. And that makes me think about how this model makes sense for at least some of the professional learning we do with faculty or employees. Edcamps and unconferences have a strong presence in K-12 than in higher ed and I'm not sure why. They attempt to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them. The closest model I have for this are some of the Teaching, Learning & Technology days we have offered at NJIT since 2000.

Sponsors are still a part of Edcamps and unconferences as a way to provide money for materials and refreshments, but they may not have special sessions or the tables and booths we are used to seeing. Oh yeah, these unconferences, as with our TLT events, are free.

On the website, they give the criteria for an Edcamp as:
- free
- non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
- hosted by any organization interested in furthering the Edcamp mission
- made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
- events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
- reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

How might this model work for training? Dare I ask if it could even work in some courses? Is it too unplanned for those of us in academia used to highly organized events? Too many unknowns?


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