Teacher working on laptop with chalkboard behind her

How An “Unconference” Can Transform Teacher Professional Development

24 Jul 2014 by Heather Breedlove

Educators gathered for an all day unconference experience the Saturday before ISTE begins at Hack Education. They created topics to discuss like building teacher and student personal learning networks using social media, how to personalize learning and meet Common Core and flipping English Language Arts classrooms. Check out their HackEd Smackdown, a fast paced session at the end where educators have three minutes to share their favorite thing they learned from the sessions.

What is an unconference?

The philosophy of the unconference is that everyone is an expert in something, instead of sessions already scheduled and experts speaking. These are “collaborative conferences” where people gather together and brainstorm topics of interest.

The moderator collects all the topics, condensing them if possible and assigns rooms or spaces for people to meet. People can choose what group they want to join based on their interests. One or two people might volunteer to facilitate the group discussion but there are no presenters. Unconferences also use the “law of two feet” where if the session is not valuable than a person can use their feet to find another session that meets their needs.

How often do teachers get a say in what their professional development looks like? What if schools took the idea of the unconference and made room for it in their professional development plan for the year?

Earlier this year I went to my first Edcamp, where the unconference idea in education started. It was amazing to see teachers taking ownership of their learning. Some teachers were a little hesitant at first but quickly enjoyed the different sessions because they chose them. The best part? Edcamp was free!

If all day event is not feasible, opt for the “mini” edcamp where teachers go through the same process to create the edcamp but the sessions are adjusted to the given time frame allotted. If there is an hour, break sessions up into 20 minute rotations.

Whether teachers go to edcamp or attend a “mini” edcamp at their own school, the unconference gives teachers a voice and “two feet” in their own professional development.

Resources

HackEd Padlet Wall

Want to go to an Edcamp or create your own?

Edcamp

http://edcamp.org/

Want to create a “mini” edcamp?

Mini #edcamps for School Level PD blog post

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