Bo serves as the Director of Educational Innovation at Unboundary, a strategic design studio in Atlanta, Georgia, specializing in transformational change processes, communications, and brand significance. Bo remains active as an edu-blogger at It’s About Learning (http://itsaboutlearning.wordpress.com) and @boadams1 on Twitter. Additionally, Bo regularly pursues deeper understanding in the area of “schools of the future and the future of schools.”
On Saturday, September 8, 2012, I attended EdCampAtl (@EdCampAtl and #EdCampAtl on Twitter). At the EdCampAtl website, one can see a table or matrix comparing the structure of a traditional conference with the workings of an EdCamp. Without a doubt, the organizers of EdCampAtl did an amazing job at delivering the system and ethos of the EdCamp “unconference.”
Nikki Robertson (@NikkiDRobertson) and Wanda McClure (@Wanda McClure) were the primary organizers, and they gathered a team they called the Fab5 to organize and host the event. These people are educators who answered the call, “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?” Realizing that no EdCamp existed in Atlanta, they set out to make sure that this city offered such an experience for interested learners. For six and a half hours on a Saturday (and countless hours before), they facilitated the gathering of teachers and administrators who want to make a difference in the education arena. And they did so with a format that allowed for democratic, spontaneous, informal participation.
As the day began, we organized a board of session topics and offerings. There were no forms to complete before the conference. There were no acceptances or denials of session offerings prior to conference day. There was simply a blank slate for a room of educators to fill. It was up to us to make certain that we had sessions worth attending. We ended up with three, hour-long blocks that housed about seven sessions in each block. As people participated in the sessions, if they were not getting everything they needed or if they became interested in another session being discussed on the Twitter hashtag, then they could leave a session to attend another…no offense taken by the session facilitators because it’s not about the facilitators. It’s about the learners (not that facilitators aren’t learners, too).
At the beginning and end of the day, the unconference organizers had arranged for two, short, video-conference sessions – one with Skype and one with Google+ Hangouts – so that EdCamp-ers could see these tools in use, and so that we could benefit from three educators who were not physically present for the day. What a great way to demonstrate that physical presence does not have to be a limiting factor to the school day and one’s learning environment.
After lunch, a “Smackdown” event occurred. For an hour, there were 30, two-minute highlights in which anyone could take the microphone and the computer or doc-cam to show an edtech tool for the classroom or learning studio. We were carpenters sharing our favorite tools…so as to create a better toolbox for the collective. I’m not sure where the name comes from, but a Smackdown is essentially adult Show-n-Tell, which there should be more of in school!
Overall, I enjoyed the day immensely. I feel indebted to those who made such a day possible. Re-read the table at EdCampAtl to get a sense of why I might feel this way.
I see this movement as a powerful step in the direction of widening the possibilities of the school spectrum. Nevertheless, many of my usual questions remain…
EdCampATL on Flickr