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Edcamp Literacy: The “Unconference” Within Conference

Jacie Maslyk
 | May 24, 2018

Edcamp LiteracyOften called an “unconference,” Edcamps do not have preplanned sessions, presenters, or subjects. Everything is created in the moment by those who gather to pursue new knowledge together. To start, the participants will often write topics of interest and lessons they are willing to facilitate on sticky notes, which are then displayed on a board.

Edcamps are about the experience, not the experts, so the discussion values all contributions. The informal learning experience welcomes “new campers” as well as veterans. Edcamp Literacy at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits was my fifth Edcamp experience and I continue to be a believer in this type of learning for two reasons: connections and collaboration. 

I love the opportunity to connect with educators, especially those whom I’ve only “met” through social media. One of the moderators last year was Jennifer Williams. I’ve followed her on Twitter for several years and have engaged with her through Twitter chats, but meeting in person creates another layer of personal and professional connection. I met education professionals from across the country who served in various roles—from primary teachers through college administrators.

Edcamp 2017Edcamp kicked off with each participant writing their name, location, and an interesting fact on a sticky note. Each note was then added to a board, allowing participants to make connections through educational roles, interests, or geography. The end product demonstrated the interconnected nature of the Edcampers; the diversity of participants only magnifies the excitement of the experience.

Edcamps also provide opportunities for collaboration. In one Edcamp Literacy session on professional development, participants connected around the idea of online learning and planned to meet later in the conference to continue their conversation. Another group of educators learning how to use Sketchnotes talked about exploring Twitter hashtags like #sketchnote and #readsketchthink to gain new ideas and practice sketchnoting techniques. The makerspace group shared ideas on how to foster maker learning through partnerships between classrooms and other institutions,  such as universities, libraries, and museums.

My fifth experience only reinforced my belief that Edcamps are a powerful way to engage in professional learning. Edcamp Literacy provided a great start to ILA 2017 by kickstarting connections and creating opportunities for collaboration. Learn more about the Edcamp model here.

Edcamp Literacy will return to the ILA 2018 Conference on July 20 in Austin, TX. Read more about the event in the iPlanner and register here

Jacie Maslyk is an educator, presenter, and the author of STEAM Makers. You can find her on Twitter @DrJacieMaslyk or on her blog, Creativity in the Making.

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