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Professional Development Strategies| Build your PLN by Attending an EdCamp

By Malia Hoffmann, Ed.D.

Professor, California State University Fullerton

On Saturday, November 7th, 2015,  I had the pleasure of attending an EdCamp on Cal State Fullerton’s Campus (search the #EdCampNOC to access the resources and what people were saying that day). If you have never attended or heard of EdCamps you are not alone.

Many well connected educators are just learning about them, even though they have been around for five years. In short, EdCamps are free “unconferences” founded by educators for educators.

Organic, participant-driven professional learning experiences created by educators, for educators.
— edcamp.org

The first EdCamp was held in Philadelphia in 2010 initially for teachers to get together and share ideas. Since 2010, they have continued that model and have had over 700 events, across 25 different countries, reaching over 50,000 educators (Edcamp.org, 2015).

These events provide teachers with just-in-time training from a group of their peers within the local area. This weekend’s event was comprised mostly of educators in North Orange County; however, the events are not exclusive to locals.

Rather, anyone who is willing to travel is welcomed, and your time is your only investment.



With schools’ budgets tighter than ever, events like these are more appealing than ever. Attendees can register online, usually through Eventbrite, up until the day of the event, pending capacity of the venue.

In most cases, registration fills up fast, so proper etiquette asks participants to cancel if they cannot attend. Additionally, these popular events are not a case of 'you get what you pay for'.

For the cost of your Saturday you are connected with experts and professionals that are worth a hefty conference fee. These prominent attendees are also seeking to grow their networks.

Being an educator in today’s ever changing world, it is no longer enough to have your formal education but you must be a Connected Educator (Beach & Hall, 2012; Siemens, 2005; Siemens, 2008).

EdCamps are the model for becoming a connected educator and building your personal learning network (PLN). These organically formed conferences meet the learning needs of the attendees at that event on that day.

No two EdCamps are alike, as the participants vary from event to event. Conference sessions emerge through the use of  a board with sticky notes where teachers place ideas of what they want to share, discuss, or learn. When commonalities arise, a network forms.

Those individuals disperse  to a designated room and discuss the topic for about 50 minutes. Contact information is exchanged, usually in the form of Twitter handles and shared Google Docs.

This allows the conversation  to continue to evolve well past the 50 minutes or the day’s event. The day is comprised of four to five sessions like this and participants leave with a virtual tool belt of new ideas to implement into their practice.

If you are looking to build your PLN, enhance your craft, or if you are just bored on a Saturday, check out EdCamp.org and find an event near you to check out. You won’t be disappointed.



References

Beach, S., & Hall, L. (2012). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.  

EdCamp Foundation. (2015, November 9). Retrieved from www.EdCamp.org

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from here.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Retrieved from here