Why Can't All Professional Development Be Like an Unconference?
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September 10, 2012 By: by: Frank Pileiro
This article is cross posted at the EdTech Innovations blog.
A little over two years ago myself and a small group of educational technologists in my area discussed the unconference model for professional development (PD). We all thought that it had a lot of potential and that the Edcamp
unconferences cropping up around the country were really great. So,
one of our group said that we should put together an unconference
dealing with mobile devices, mainly tablets, that day PadCamp
was born. This summer we held our second PadCamp on a beautiful August
day at the Southern New Jersey shore. Over 300 educators and students,
yes students, ran sessions and shared ideas and resources.
they could have gone to the beach! It was a gorgeous sunny day and the
ocean water was warm! But they didn't and that's profound. They didn't
because they were "hungry" and wanted to learn and do it in a way that
was productive and collaborative. So I said, "Why aren't more school
districts holding their own unconferernces?" We all have gone through
too many in-service days where the end result was boredom and
frustration. Or, people got so "off course," due to being told what to
do, that nothing productive come out of it. Many school districts have
gone to the "turn key" approach to PD where a few staff members go out
and get trained and then come back to train their peers. Don't get me
wrong, this is can be effective, but it can be better.
imagine a day where the staff walks into the school cafeteria or
auditorium, with a blank schedule in hand, and are asked to create a PD
day that they control. I think that the thought of this makes many
administrators cringe in fear. But, as professionals we have a lot to
share and sharing is what it's all about. Remember, collaboration is a
twenty first century skill!
The unconference model fosters sharing
and collaboration. It gives a voice and platform for educators to share
best practices and resources. How great would it be if the people
that organize PD in school districts would take that chance? I firmly
believe that people would leave feeling empowered, excited and motivated
to go back and implement what they just learned. I have seen it in
person and it's too obvious to not stand up and pay attention.
are at a crossroads as educators. We are asked to teach to a test in a
prescriptive manner that stifles our creativity. If we can take take
come control of our professional growth and learn what we need and want,
instead of going through more of the same, we can grow better
professionally and our students will benefit as well. The unconference
model of professional development gives you a voice and allows you to do
what you do best - teach, learn and collaborate. Unconferences don't
have to be technology related either, just use your imagination. So, if
you haven't attended an EdCamp, PadCamp or any unconference yet please
do! It's a PD experience that will be well worth your time.
Frank Pileiro is a Technology
Coordinator in Southern New Jersey. He is passionate about educating
with creativity and innovation, as well as imparting these skills to our
students with instructional technologies. He is the author of the
EdTech Innovations blog, where he writes about educational technology
innovation and integration. He can be followed on Twitter @MrP_LPS or on Facebook.