Questions about Edcamp & professional development

If you’ve not heard about Edcamp, I recommend first reading this blog post by Mary Beth Hertz on what Edcamp is. I absolutely think that educator centred professional development, like the Edcamp model, is a necessary part of our future professional practice.

The descriptions of edcamps, according to the foundation statement of the Edcamp foundation is:

  • free
  • non-commercial and 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

These are all great attributes of the Edcamp model, but I have some questions, and wonder if we can push the Edcamp model to be a more robust replacement for traditional professional development.

  • How can we encourage follow-up and continued conversations after the Edcamp conference day? One common complaint of traditional professional development is that it’s like a drive-through at a fast food restaurant. It tastes great, fills you up, but leaves you hungry for more in a few hours. Traditional one-off professional development is equally ineffective, except when it inspires educators, and makes them want more.
  • The traditional presentation style of workshops is itself problematic. How can the edcamp model support a more learner centred model? In a traditional professional development model, the learner is expected to sit and passively absorb knowledge from the presenter, and while the edcamp model addresses this to some degree (in their "law of two feet" & Twitter backchannel chats), under the existing guidelines, an Edcamp could end up looking very much like a more traditional conference. At Edcamp Vancouver, we at least partially addressed this last April by forcing presentations to be limited in length, and opening up more time for a discussion about the presentation.
  • How do we address feedback to the learner in the Edcamp model? In the learning process, getting feedback about your own perspective is critical. Discussions are one way to get feedback, but not everyone is comfortable jumping into discussions, but every learner requires some feedback on their learning.

The Edcamp planning commitee for Edcamp Vancouver will be meeting in a couple of weeks, and I plan on bringing these questions to them. If you have suggestions on how we can address these questions using the Edcamp model, I’d love to hear them.


One Comment

  • Another way that edcamp is different is that the audience members are not necessarily the learners. Maybe the person running the session is the primary learner in the room. This certainly holds true for my experience presenting in this forum. On every occasion, I presented projects that I have been working on and the discussion with the audience helped me to refine my thinking and make improvements. I then went into the backchannel to see what aspects resonated with people. I am sure others learned some things from sessions but I am sure that I gained the most. I feel that I received invaluable feedback from my presentations and, since the speaker IS the learner, it does not get much more learner centered than that.

    At Barcamp, the model upon which edcamp is based, one rule is that all newbies must present. This could be a great way to replicate the experience that I describe above. It also helps to address bullets two and three.

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