The UnConference Movement

edscapeESAn 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.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
2 Comments on this post.
  • Shannon Betts
    Shannon Betts
    8 August 2013 at 3:06 pm -

    Love the unconference model! Here in CT, Region 6 has hosted the EdCampRsd6 over the month of July with on-the-spot, interactive presentations led by teachers on an array of topics. Attendees gather in the morning and decide on a range of mini-seminars based on needs, interests and expertise. Amazing and fun. Thanks for posting this, Ken.

  • Noah Geisel
    12 August 2013 at 10:05 am -

    What I appreciate about attending an Unconference is the value placed on the individual. Step 1 is to ASK me what I want to learn, share and network about and then include me in building a day that will meet my needs. I also appreciate the guerrilla nature of this movement; because your boss doesn’t even know it exists, she’s not forcing you to attend…everyone there WANTS to be there so the building is brimming with positive joo joo. Finding your next local EdCamp is a great starting place to experience the phenomenon for yourself. Thanks for sharing, Ken!