edcamp philly: “Do-It-Yourself” Professional Development (by Kevin Jarrett)

10/21/2011 1:18:16 PM

{Cross posted on Welcome to NCS-Tech!}

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Q: What are these people doing? A) They are in a workshop. B) They are part of the DIY movement. C) They are getting professional development not available in their district. D) All of the above. According to Wikipedia, the DIY ethic (Do It Yourself ethic):
...refers to the ethic of being self-reliant by completing tasks oneself as opposed to having others who are more experienced or able complete them for you. It promotes the idea that an ordinary person can learn to do more than he or she thought was possible.
This, to me, was the essence of edcamp philly, a day-long, completely free, user-driven "unconference" held this past weekend that I and ten other educators spent the last seven months planning. You can find hundreds of photos from the event in our #edcamp Flickr pool. Our story begins in November 2009 at Barcamp Philly, where most (but not all) of what would become the edcamp philly organizing team met in person for the first time. We came as individuals to learn, to teach, and to see what a true "unconference" looked like. We left as a team with a shared vision of leading our own event for local educators. Little did we know what lay ahead for us!

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Fast forward seven months ... after an enormous amount of planning ... on the day of our event, we welcomed over 100 people from as far away as Florida, Illinois and California to Drexel University (our lead sponsor and venue provider) for edcamp philly. True to the barcamp model, there was no pre-defined schedule; Instead, we set up a grid for participants to build it that day:

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And so, attendees (like Karen Blumberg, below) stepped up and offered to lead sessions, by writing a title of their talk on a Post-It note and sticking it on the schedule grid. Low-tech? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

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Soon, we had a complete schedule, loaded into a Google Doc for all to see:

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While this was all happening, edcampers relaxed and networked over coffee and doughnuts, discussing which sessions to attend, making new friends, and visiting with old ones. Shown here: Shelley Krause and Karen Deaver.

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After a few welcoming remarks, everyone made their way to the sessions at Drexel University's Matheson Hall. That's when the learning started, and kept going, all day.

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So why does any of this matter? Why does edcamp philly matter, specifically? It matters because these hundred or so people decided to give up their Saturday and give something back to their peers, getting knowledge they couldn't get from their own home districts in the process. It matters because although this wasn't the first time such a gathering took place - TeachMeets have been happening in Scotland since 2005, and the higher ed community has had a similar event right here in Philadelphia for years - it was the first time, as far as we know, that it's happened for K-12 in this area. We're very proud of that. It matters because people were straight-up inspired:
When I enter my classroom today, I bring with me my day at #edcamp. Can you ever say thank you enough for an inspirational day? - @NancyTeaches

 #edcampnyc, boston, kc, detroit @thenerdyteacher, florida! #edcamp definitely going viral! Props to the orgs of #edcamp philly - @rchuhran

So excited that planning for #edcampnyc is already starting! Please add your thoughts, comments etc to the gdoc http://bit.ly/d0TXk8 - @nykat4

It matters because we have evidence - there are over 2,000 tweets tagged #edcamp as of this writing - with even more to come, surely, as edcamps spread virally across the US and the world. It matters because although many veteran educators attended, some people presented for the first time ever - edcamp philly gave them a platform and voice. It matters because edcamp was about new people with new ideas - certainly not the "echo chamber" we often hear so much about in the edublogosphere. It matters because we are putting all the details about planning our event on a wiki for everyone to see. Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial 3.0 Licensed, of course. It matters because if you're reading this, you too have an opportunity to run your own edcamp - "Do It Yourself" Professional Developent at its finest - in your district or community. Be sure you put together an outstanding organizing team - that's what matters most. (Thanks guys!) You never know who you will inspire! -kj-
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