It’s mostly true that Educational Technology Conferences and Workshops are very exciting, both the lead-up hype and the actual day’s events. What is even truer, though, is that the people who attend Educational Technology conferences are generally fun, energetic, creative, and hard-working educators.
Enter Edcamp . With Edcamp, these fun, energetic, creative, and hard-working people have the opportunity to take part in spur-of-the-moment sessions that they can CHOOSE to attend (or leave, as they like)… and suddenly the first statement becomes even more accurate.
Edcamp is a phenomenon that is sweeping the globe. With more than 700 events worldwide already, this organization/movement/“unconference” is constantly adding more events. The most recent Boston event was this past Saturday at the Microsoft offices in Cambridge.
EdCamp Boston , in its fifth year, hosted more than 200 educators from across Massachusetts. Session topics ranged from “Digital Storytelling” to “Student Tech Support Teams” to “Constructive Ways for Teachers to Interact with Edtech Companies.” There were even opposing sessions like “Grades are Bulls*#t” and “Standards-based Grading in the Humanities.” Anything that anyone would like to facilitate a session on could—and did—appear on the schedule board .
Tickets for EdCamp Boston went on sale on April 27…and sold out on the 28th. People have been so excited about these events that they are literally going online to book as soon as the tickets go on sale.
Karen Winsper , Director of Technology from Norton Public Schools, had this to say, “I love EdCamps because they are spontaneous. During a session on ‘Passion and Creativity in Our Schools,’ a shout out was given to Dave Burgess’s book Teach Like a Pirate. I tweeted it, as did other attendees, and the next thing we knew Dave Burgess was willing to Skype into the session.”
Winsper is on her fourth EdCamp Boston and eighth EdCamp overall. And she is not alone. Jacqueline Prester , the 2015 Massachusetts Business Teacher of the year from Mansfield, had this to say about EdCamp, “For me, EdCamp is like a homecoming. It’s an opportunity to connect with amazing people who you likely already collaborate with in one form or another and to meet new friends… I can’t wait to get to school on Monday to start working on some of my new EdCamp tricks. I’m already registered for my next EdCamp.”
John Breslin , Systems and Database Administrator for the Somerville Public Schools, was attending his first EdCamp event and was very impressed with the concept of how the schedule was designed and was able submit an idea for a session that ran with great success. He noted how all of the participants there early on a Saturday were very passionate and eager to share their successes.
The excitement around Edcamps, but more importantly what Edcamp stands for, is contagious. The vision statement simply reads, “We are all self-directed learners, developing and sharing our expertise with the world.” Their mission explains that they are seeking to, “build and support a community of empowered learners.”
With five more Edcamps in Massachusetts in the 2015 calendar year , there is still time to experience the sensation. If you are a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, you can contact Dan Callahan  for help converting your school professional development into the Edcamp model. If you teach or work in a nonunion district, you can contact the Edcamp Foundation  for more information.
Winsper’s words remind us why Edcamp is so popular: “People who care about teaching, learning, and schools attend an EdCamp because they want to learn something new.” If this statement rings true with you, consider checking out an Edcamp and seeing what all the hype is about. Perhaps you have something to share with your larger community that will change the way others think and teach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Perrine is the Technology Integration Director of the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School . He is the Coordinator of the school’s Adventure Club  and co-founder of RunBoston Running Tours . He is also a proud member/committee member of MassCUE  and a board member of METAA . You can follow him @wiredpilgrim .