Edcamp founders share vision, inspire action at #ASCD12

They just weren’t buying it.

The passionate, fact-filled, presentation by Chrissi MilesDr. Kristen Swanson and Ann Leaness didn’t seem (at first) to be reaching everyone in the audience in Room 120B.

Consider the quote below from this blog post by attendee (and edcamp veteran) Gerald Aungst:

The idea of putting a bunch of edu­ca­tors in a room and just let­ting them be, well, edu­ca­tors together was just not work­ing for many of those in attedance. Sev­eral com­ments were clearly com­ing from a per­spec­tive where there was fear that the time wouldn’t be pro­duc­tive and the teach­ers would goof off, grade papers, or sim­ply cut class. Behav­iors which, frankly, we often see in tra­di­tional pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment ses­sions. If we don’t closely con­trol the day, the think­ing goes, nothing will get done.

And then, something powerful happened. Slowly but surely, the crowd seemed to shift. But not, to be honest (and with all due respect) because of anything my colleagues shared.

The expertise IN the room – not just IN THE FRONT OF IT – came to the fore.

Josh Stumpenhorst, Tom Whitby,  JoeMazza

In true edcamp fashion, the conversation became what mattered most. Yes, inspiring notions were shared, including many helpful operational tidbits, the brilliant edcamp video, and so on. These helped.

But in the end, contributions from the audience (especially, in my view at least from Josh Stumpenhorst) tipped the balance. [DISCLAIMER: any reader of this blog should understand that posts  are written by Edcamp Foundation Board Members. I am one.]

Josh’s key point (I’m paraphrasing): teacher-learners at any school run the gamut, from the passionate and intrinsically motivated … to the skeptical and [at worst] completely withdrawn. His school just ran an edcamp-style PD event this week. He missed it (he was here at the ASCD conference) so called to see how it went. He was particularly interested in the reactions by those “typically less enthusiastic” teachers (my words). The result? He was told…


How could they not react that way? Edcamp-style PD:

  • respects the individual and their professionalism;
  • trusts participants to reflect on their practice and do meaningful work to improve it;
  • pushes people to consider new ideas and perspectives; and
  • respects everyone’s time by letting THEM DECIDE – not some arbitrary schedule or expensive out-of-district “guru” – how to spend their day.

If you have never been to an edcamp, it can be hard to grasp.

By the end of the session, we sensed a palpable shift in the audience. While there is no way to know how EVERYONE felt (we could have included some Poll Everywhere-style questions at the beginning and at the end) but we do have some data: requests to join the edcamp wiki, the central resource for people interested in the edcamp model.

Here’s an example:


Let’s be clear: we are not saying edcamp-style PD should be the ONLY form of PD in a district. There are plenty of topics that require outside expertise to be brought into a school. Well-respected, experienced experts can do much to help processionals hone the skills they need to be effective in the classroom.

But for many, and for too long, that has been the ONLY FOCUS OF DISTRICT PD. And, all too often, those well-respected, experienced experts fail to engage their audiences. The result? Where we are today.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for your district to consider putting the learners – in this case, the teachers – first.

Here’s where YOU come in.

Find and attend an edcamp, teachmeet or other unconference-style event, like EduBloggerCon.  Maybe even a barcamp (edcamp philly was inspired by Barcamp Philly).

Afterwards, go back to your district and share what you’ve learned with your district leadership.

Then, plan to put your learners first at your next district PD day with an edcamp or unconference style event.

We’re here to help!