Heralded as the leading edge of professional development in education, Edcamps are participant-driven learning experiences created by educators for educators. In the summer of 2016, York Country Day positioned itself as an epicenter of this movement in central Pennsylvania.
An Edcamp starts with a group of peers within a professional realm meeting in one place and developing colleagues as they converse and brainstorm topics for discussion during the event. Participants post ideas on the session board. Volunteer organizers then sort the suggested topics into similar groups. Once session ideas are finalized, they are titled and posted in an online shared document. A typical Edcamp may consist of six different concurrent discussions in a given hour. Three to five of these hour-long sessions typically occur during the day for a total of 18-30 total unique discussions in a given Edcamp. An individual is unable to attend every session, so notes are posted in shared documents and made public. Anyone with a computer (anywhere in the world) can access the information discussed.
Note that the terms “keynote speaker” and “slides” do not appear anywhere in the above description of an Edcamp. Instead, terms such as sharing, collaboration, and discussion dominate the day. The crux of the success of these events is that they are participant-driven. Information is not delivered to the group of participants that may or may not be useful to any one individual. In fact, one of the hallmarks of an Edcamp is referred to as the “rule of two feet.” If after a few minutes in a session, one realizes that the discussion is not going to benefit them, they are encouraged to walk out and find another more useful conversation.
The event that was organized at York Country Day focused on Leadership in Education. Over fifty individuals, including teachers, tech coaches, principals, superintendents, and heads of school from both public and independent schools, attended the Edcamp that was held in the York View Room at YCP on July 11, 2016. Topics discussed ranged from 1:1 iPad Programs and Blended Learning to Intervention Programs and School Culture. Feedback from participants was positive with many expressing that an event like this should happen again next year, if not sooner.
The sentiment about the Edcamp Leadership event was shared on an international scene. This specific event at YCDS was held concurrently with other Edcamp Leadership events in nearly all fifty states and dozens of countries internationally. The diverse physical locations conversed with one another during the day via shared documents, Twitter, and Periscope (live streaming). Combined, over 2,400 educational leaders gathered in early July all around the world in the spirit of collaboration.
The Edcamp “un-conference” style has caught on in a big way (see above graphic). If you have not yet had the opportunity to attend an event, check out edcamp.org for a list of official events. Interestingly, given the grassroots nature of the events, according to Edcamp Executive Director, Hadley Ferguson, there are perhaps hundreds of additional events that occur every year that are under the radar of the organization as a whole. Ferguson states that while this may cause some non-profit directors to cringe, she counts the organic spread of the meeting style as a success. Whether the event is an official Edcamp or an un-conference gathering in Edcamp style, ideas are being shared, and educators are learning from the conversation.