I'm not sure words can do justice to the "unconference" scenario. You need to come and be a part of it to see the power of a group of adult learners directing their own learning and hashing out differences of opinion with caring and support for all involved.
The day starts with all gathering in one room to build the schedule. The leader, Scott McLeod at my location at BVU, projects the schedule spreadsheet to all of the attendees, and then volunteers take turns saying what topics they would like to facilitate sessions on. Here's the schedule we built at our site:
From standards-based grading, to recognizing the differences between students and supporting them, to imagining the perfect school, to looking at professional development in different ways, to teacher leadership compensation, to early literacy requirements; we chose what we wanted to focus on, and we hashed out both sides of many topics.
The beauty of days like Saturday's EdCamp comes from many things. First, this is a group of dedicated educators who volunteer to give up their Saturday to learn more and become better at their jobs. From administrators, to teachers, to techs, and even a few students, we had a gathering of folks who really believe in our educational system and who care about making it the best it can be. Second, EdCamps model new ways of learning that can be replicated in professional development in districts as well as in classrooms with our students. Third, controversial topics are not brushed under the carpet but faced head on and evaluated from all sides. You even see some minds being changed. And fourth, we get to hear what's working and isn't working in other districts. We learn from others' experiences.
As educators we must continue to look at the educational opportunities available for both ourselves and our students. We need to examine the best ways to implement the Iowa Core, to assess for understanding, to motivate our teachers to teach their best, and to ignite the passion in our students to learn what they need to know. A huge thank you to Abbey Green, Erin Nguyen, and Becky Brown for giving up their Saturday to attend. It's educators like you who are leading the charge to new ways of thinking and learning in our globally connected world.