Today was my first experience with an unconference at edcampchicago. First, I find it amazing that teachers give up a Saturday to spend time learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there, and yet we were there…Without going into great detail about the conversations that were had, I have three questions based on my experiences.
What’s more important; content or connections?
Based on the conversations I was involved in today there was some great content being discussed. From flipped classrooms and standards based grading to twitter and smackdowns, great content was being shared all over. However, I would argue that the connections made and renewed were more powerful than any content discussed. As teachers we are often isolated in our classrooms/schools/districts with very little contact with those beyond our own bubbles. This conference provided us a chance to connect with others we would never normally be in contact with. In addition, for those on twitter and other social media, it allowed us to reconnect and put faces with profile pictures. It provided that real-life human component that is not there in online conversations.
Would you stay?
As with most conferences, we as adults have the option to leave a session. If the conversation we are involved in is not what we are looking for, we reserve the option to walk out. I took advantage of this and besides a small amount of guilt; I was able to find something else that fit my own personal need. This makes me think, what if kids have the option to walk out of our classroom? What if students could get up and walk out if our teaching was not meeting their needs? Would you students stay in your room if they had the option to walk out?
Why do we not do this more often?
This is a fairly straightforward question. Why are there not more professional development opportunities such as these? I would like to see building level institute days/professional development run in the same manner. Bring your staff into a room and give them a board to fill in with topics for discussion based on their needs. Would this not be a better way to facilitate learning? Let teachers choose what their needs are and given them the opportunity and time to explore and develop.
I did have some great conversations within the sessions about some great topics and enjoyed every minute of it. The whole concept of the unconference is phenomenal and I would encourage anyone to find one near them and attend it. If there is not an edcamp in your neck of the woods, that is only because you haven’t started it.