A month or so ago I posted about the EdCamp St. Louis event that was coming up. Well, it’s here. As I said before, I’ve found that some of my best learning has come from other teachers, not necessarily in organized professional development opportunities, but in impromptu conversations in the hallway, at conferences, and online. However, what I like best about going to conferences is the fact that I can get a broader perspective on the world of education and the ideas of others outside my own district and school realm. There are plenty of smart people around and if we only look inward (be that district, building, or even team) there is so much innovation and learning that we are missing because of the limited view. Conferences are hard though. Typically, travel and expense is involved, both of which are major barriers to the conference experience.
To get around such barriers, a number of educators around the world have begun to organize free, personalized, professional development opportunities that they call Edcamps. I’m not sure which Edcamp can be considered the very first one, but they arecropping up all over the place now. The Edcamp experience has many benefits, but probably the biggest draw is that these events are FREE opportunities to meet, network and collaborate with other teachers outside your building and district to provide that additional perspective and ideas. The event itself is typically sponsored by a variety of companies and organizations who see value in education and want to give educators development opportunities.
One thing that you need to know is that these events are not your typical conference experience. Edcamps pride themselves on being what’s called an “Unconference“. An unconference, while not unique only to the world of education, is a participant-driven meeting where those in attendance decide, on the spot, what will be presented at the conference that day and organize the sessions accordingly. You may not know “what” you will learn when you arrive that morning, but you do know that you will definitely learn “something”. In this format, there are no presentation proposals or approvals. If you want to talk about and present on something, you can sign up to do just that. Others who are interested in the topic can come and listen, learn, and talk with you. To a certain extent, it gives structure to those “hallway conversations” that are so valuable.
Last February was the inagural EdcampSTL held in the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District. It was a great day of learning and networking and I would encourage any educator in St. Louis area to go to the EdcampSTL website and click on the “Register Now” link to reserve your place at this year’s event. It’s well worth the time to learn from other educators in the area. Just a side note, when you go to register, you’ll probably be placed on a waiting list. I have assurances from the organizers that those on the wait list will absolutely be admitted.
Next Saturday, February 9, 2013 from 8-3, the second EdCamp St. Louis will be held at Hixson Middle School in the Webster Groves School District. It’s a good day and a great way to expand your thinking, be inspired, and get ideas for the classroom that you can use the following Monday. I’ll be there and I hope you’ll consider joining me there and learn from your fellow educators.