"Do I have to go?"
"No, you GET to go!"
For several years I have been exploring the Edcamp format and learning about Open Space Technology and unconference-style professional development. Personally, I believe there is tremendous potential for the format to build more robust professional networks, propagate ideas through an organization, and contribute to individual professional growth.
In 2016, some brave colleagues agreed to use the Edcamp format for a district PD day bringing several schools together for a day of open conversation and collaboration. Part of the challenge was the captive audience. The rapid and widespread adoption of Edcamps around the globe could be attributed to the self-selected, highly motivated individuals who volunteer to give up a Saturday to pursue professional development. The Edcamps we were proposing, on the other hand, would be attended by educators who were required to be there. The preparations and planning that occurred beforehand are the subject of an upcoming article.
The feedback gathered at these events form the basis of a new research article by me and my colleague Dr. Jeffrey Carpenter titled, "Educator perceptions of district-mandated Edcamp unconferences." (This link will give free access to the article until August 1, 2018 after which it will be available to purchase or with institutional access.)
The data gathered at these events are a rich trove of information which is illuminating the affordances of the format, the things that participants value, the skills needed to fully participate, and how organizers need to structure the experience to maximize value in the day for the participants, for the organization, and, most critically, for the student population being served.
This article represents a first wash through the data and explores participant experiences, highlights the salient elements of an Edcamp for participants, as well as opportunities for improvement based on participant suggestions. In light of the Edcamp Foundation's recent (4 months ago, at the time of this writing) announcement of their Edcamp District Initiative, these findings are particularly timely.
Edcamp unconferences are a non-traditional participant-driven form of educator professional learning. Although Edcamp participation has typically been voluntary, this mixed-methods paper presents participants' (N = 252) perceptions regarding their experiences at Edcamps run by their school districts and where their attendance was required. The majority of participants rated their Edcamp experiences positively. Many participants compared the content and format of their Edcamps favorably to the professional development available to them. Participants also offered feedback regarding how their Edcamp experiences could have been improved. We discuss these results and their implications for the Edcamp model and educator professional learning.