In all my years of going to professional development I have experienced both good and bad workshops. How did I find out about these workshops? Most times I received something in the mail, most likely a brochure which had a list of speakers listing the topics and their credentials. Other times I heard about a workshop from a colleague. When I attended these workshops I knew the specific topic of the presentation and how much it would cost.
This past Saturday I attended ntcamp (new teachers) which was held at Burlington High School. How did I find out about this workshop? Twitter. Yes, Twitter. Most of the attendees found out about this way. I followed a few people who were talking about ntcamp, edcamp and I was interested in learning about this “unconference” style. I heard that they were going to be holding one in Burlington and signed up .
In an “unconference” you do not know who is speaking or the topics to be presented and when you attend you are also prepared to be part of the discussion and possibly even present although it is not mandatory. The cost? It is free!
The spirit at ntcamp was to share your expertise or knowledge and get engaged in discussion. You don’t need to be an expert and no one expects you to be one!
This “unconference” style exceeded my expectations. It was discussion based, you learned from sharing, interacting, and engaging in a discussion. Conversation was relaxed, interactive and open, building a comfortable forum to participate.
During a session we could get up at anytime and move to a different workshop and that is not considered rude; you just may wish to pop into another session to check it out. If we felt inspired to present a topic, we had the opportunity to go to the schedule board and write our presentation topic on a sticky note and post it the room and time slot available. The building was wireless and everyone is encouraged to bring a laptop, ipad or notebook and we were able to connect to the internet anywhere in the building. We were able check out the schedule at anytime that was posted on-line and it was updated as new workshops were added.
All of the sessions were streamed live through Justin TV. Many people tuning in via live streaming were tweeting comments about each of the workshops. I had to leave in the early afternoon and when I got home I watched one of the sessions via live streaming.
I encourage you to try one of these “unconferences.” They are certainly new and different, but it was well worth going on a Saturday. This is going to be our future of professional development. We need something different in education for professional development and it was so encouraging to see people interested in finding a way to share knowledge and give fellow educators this experience for no cost. We need to promote more interaction, engagement and sharing among our colleagues.
Check out the edcamp in Boston if you get a chance, all of these workshops are free. Here is the link: edcamp Boston