EdCampSTL – My First Brush With an UNconference

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TRUTH:  True learning comes when you want (feel you NEED) to learn something.

TRUTH:  Collaboration takes your places you never dreamed you could go on your own.

TRUTH:  Satisfaction comes from stretching yourself, pushing boundaries, and coming away invigorated.

Today was my first EdCamp.  Apparently, they occur all over the country in large cities.  Chicago had one today, too, and the official Dallas EdCamp Twitter member checked in online.  The best part about an EdCamp?  It’s an UNconference.

An unconference at it’s beginning is just a place with meeting spaces – some are smaller and more intimate for smaller conversations, some are larger to accommodate large audiences.  There is tech support, coffee and bagels, and a roster of people who have signed up (for FREE!) to attend.  That’s it.  No keynote speaker, no multi-page handout of breakout sessions with their descriptions.  No formality of sign-up sheets and stuck-in-the-boring-meetings.

Attendees check in, have an hour or so to mingle, and (most importantly) sign up to conduct the sessions.

Signing Up to Facilitate/Present

That means (gulp!) that if no one is willing to present something they are proud of or wanting to share, then there won’t be any sessions.

Fortunately, plenty of people signed up to present.  After much internal struggle, I, too, signed up.  I figured that if I weren’t going to expand out of my comfort zone of just watching, my experience would be lacking.  And what an experience it turned out to be!  We had a great discussion of what schools will have to look like as they evolve to meet the needs of the students, the teachers, and the community.

We started with literacy.  What will it mean to be ‘literate’ in 1, 5, or 10 years?  What is the future of textbooks?  That, of course, led to a discussion on authentic lessons, what the purpose of schools will be (training for jobs?  college prep?  education as a requirement for citizenship in a democracy?).  As with all discussions, the end point was not where I expected it to be, but it was the journey that mattered.

Thanks to all who participated in my session, more thanks to the organizers of EdCampSTL, and for everyone else, I hope you are able to attend an UNconference soon.

TRUTH: Professional Development should be inspirational and meaningful on a personal level – just like education.

~Matt