The UnConference Movement
An UnConference is a combination of a large faculty meeting, a great workshop, presentations by speakers, and meeting place for like-minded educators searching for encouragement and more digital classroom how-to. Most are streamed live and archived, along with online docs and URLs for future attendees’ reference. The attendees actually have a chance to participate in the sharing. It’s active professional development.
UnConferences are well organized, usually take place on a weekend, and the venue is usually a district school. An example of a very successful UnConference is Edscape, held each year in New Milford, New Jersey at New Milford High School. This year’s event will be on Saturday, October 19, 2013. The host is Eric Sheninger, Principal of New Milord High School, who is known for his many administrative awards, but also just as well known for his @NMHS_Principal persona on Twitter. “Edscape’s goal is to explore how learning environments can be established to promote critical thought, inquiry, problem solving, and creativity.” If you can’t get to New Jersey, it is live streamed, too.
While most of us may be familiar with the larger educator and administrator get-togethers, such as ISTE, TCEA, FETC, and BETT, a homespun local UnConference can be a gathering worth investigating. You may discover that starting and promoting one of your own can be a valuable district or regional cross-district event. UnConferences don’t have to be extravaganzas, either. Two people who are known for leading smaller versions of UnConferences are Steven Anderson, @Web20Classroom in the US, and Joe Dale, @JoeDale in the UK. The US version is called a Smack Down, and the UK variety is Show & Tell. Both rely on audience presentations, how-tos, and demonstrations of many digital #technology tools and classroom tips. Even the smaller versions are streamed and documented.
There is no better workshop than one done by educators for educators; the online versions are still free, and the classroom take-aways are many. They are successful for many reasons, but one is that educators will take a Saturday to learn something new for their students and to improve their teaching—if offered the chance. #UnConferences are a winning experience to plan or attend.