Last month I attended my first “unconference” which was called Edcamp Denver. Initially I was a little skeptical since I was giving up a good part of my Saturday to attend a conference where I had little to no idea of what the sessions would cover. The fact that it was held at a “Creative Academy” and the likelihood that some of my fellow DPS staff would be there gave me some level of comfort and hopefulness though.
For those of you who have never attended an Edcamp or an unconference I will describe some of my experience. When I arrived on this snowy morning we gathered in the cafeteria and enjoyed free coffee and pastries. Have I mentioned yet that this Edcamp was totally free? Yes, a free conference with breakfast and lunch provided thanks to sponsors. Soon the mapping of the unconference began. On a large sheet of paper participants wrote topics in which they were willing to lead discussions and perhaps make a brief presentation. There was no keynote presentation, just some brief introductions.
Since I had just been part of a digital storytelling workshop I volunteered to lead a session on that topic. Why not dive into the pool, right? After starting my session though I learned quickly that the aim is to encourage discussion and collaboration over traditional conference presentations. So rather than take up all the time with me sharing information I asked other attendees to share their experiences and resources. Fortunately at DPS we have our core values highlighted at many meetings and one of them is collaboration.
One of the nice things about this unconference was how technology was applied all along the way. All the session listings were transcribed into a google doc so we could all refer to it for choosing topics and room locations. In addition to the online schedule each session was given a google doc to document everything that was shared in the session. You can see these docs here. (Be sure to scroll down the list and realized that some folks took notes diligently while others were left blank.) After lunch we reconvened as a full group in the auditorium for a demo slam. Participants shared (in 5 minutes or less) an app that they found useful for education. For more info on what an Edcamp is, check out this link.
Of course, given my featuring this event on my blog you can be sure that I’ll be attending more Edcamps and other unconferences in the future. But I also have the idea to incorporate unconferencing into part of a future conference I’m planning so that half the day will be traditional and the other half on free-ranging topics ala the unconference. What’s really amazing is that some DPS schools have now adopted the unconference model for their professional development meetings so that teachers can tailor the workshop(s) to meet their specific needs.
Tags: conference presentations