How a one-hour School Edcamp transformed our PD / by Laura Gilchrist


If you've been to an edcamp, you get it. You've experienced the freedom and joy of choice-based teacher-led learning.  I left my first edcamp in 2012 on a high. I still remember driving back from Omaha to KC--so many thoughts going through my head!

Since that 1st edcamp, I've been to oh, 12 or 13 more and I organize one as well--EdcampKC with Kyle Pace, Michelle Nebel, Mimi Jones, Julie Robaska, and Ken Corum. Luckily, I can add #edcampNEWMARK, my school's edcamp, to that list!

So if this is the way professional learning should be done, can we move the #edcamp model INTO SCHOOLS?

The answer is yes. Yes, YOU can start an edcamp at your school/district...and you don't need to be an edcamp expert to do it.

1. It's Free.

No need to spend money to bring people IN to work with staff.  Use your own staff. Use the staff of other schools, other districts.

2. It's Simple

You can plan and implement one in your school with a little Google help (forms and docs) and just one or two people! See planning below.

3. It's Teacher Driven

Topics are based on what educators are interested in and the sessions are led by teachers themselves. Edcamps in schools run on choice and conversation; they nurture teacher voice.

4. It's Adaptable to different situations.

Teachers thrive on and request #edcampPD once they experience it. It is not a one size fits all and can be adjusted to meet needs of your particular group or situation.

5. It's Revolutionary and Beautiful

It supports, connects, and empowers your lead learners. It's a sight to see, hear, feel. It will transform your school culture. Every school edcamp model I've had myself and heard about is positive--teachers want it, crave it, need it--and they don't want the old way back.

How a one-hour school edcamp changed the PD at my school, for good.

So, my principal asked if I'd like to lead a 1-hour Twitter session to the entire staff during a PD day in late October of 2013.

She knew I was passionate about the power of Twitter for teachers and I was thankful she'd asked me. Visions of checked-out looks floated around in my mind. What else could I do besides a one-size fits all Twitter PD for our entire staff? Hmmm. I proposed something *else* to my principal. I asked if I could use the hour to do a mini-edcamp--an hour of teacher-led, choice-based PD. As an EdcampKC organizer and a frequent supporter of midwest edcamps, I KNEW the potential it held for us as a staff.

She said yes. (Yippee!)

PLANNING a one-hour edcamp

So, we had 35-40 teachers in the building in the afternoon. Only a few had been to an edcamp. Decisions I had to make:

  • One one-hour session or 2 30-minute sessions?
    • I chose 2 30-minute sessions so teachers could get more exposure.
    • I settled on 4 choices per session--putting approximately 10 teachers/session if split evenly, which it wasn't.
  • Full edcamp model (where teachers fill out the session board right before the edcamp)... or modified edcamp model?
    • I did a modified so teachers could experience it without fear and get their toes wet.
    • I sent out a Google Forms survey to find hot topics they were interested in learning about.
    • Using the responses, I picked the topics you see in the session board picture below. I went to teachers who I knew might lead. They were hesitant. They thought they had to have a full 'presentation' ready. I assured them they didn't.

EdcampNewMark's inaugural session board!

I posted the chart paper (in picture above) in the Commons. All teachers joined me 10 minutes before #edcampNewMark and I gave a *brief* introduction to edcamp.

  • This hour is about YOU as a learner
  • This is about conversation with colleagues--TALK (not sit and git)
  • Presenters lead conversation--they share, ask for others to share, talk
    • not about fancy presentations and filling the time
  • 'Vote with your two feet' or 'Go where you Grow' (<--phrase from Kristina Peters)! If you find that a session is not what you need as a learner, go where you grow. Go to another session. We will not take it personally. This day is not about a presenter, but about all of us as learners.


Feedback after our one hour Edcamp

  • Informal - learner led
  • Gave me time to talk to my colleagues about things we wanted to discuss
  • Teacher led. Teacher choice. Teacher awesome.
  • Laid back. No specific agenda.
  • I liked that there was choice and we learned about things that concerned us now.
  • got to choose what you needed
  • I didn't go home angry
  • Choices!
  • loved deciding what to do and the casual conversation that flowed in the sessions
  • We actually got to participate and learn from each other, not sit and get information.
  • Choice, conversationwe had some say/control :)

Teacher Suggestions

  • Longer time. I missed half of the second session because I was still in the first session.
  • loved it. longer time
  • We are all trying to learn new practices this year, so I think having some other "experts" on workshop or technology would benefit all of us.
  • more tech info to make our life easier/engaging for the kids
  • Longer, more sessions
  • I think we could start the board the week before so people might be more likely to host a session.

The presenters reported it was easier than they thought. They gained confidence and reported they'd lead again. The teachers gushed about how much they benefitted from CONVERSATION and CHOICE.


Here's where the story gets deep. We had no more edcamps that year after the single, solitary HOUR in October. Seven months later, in May, our principal asked teachers in grade level meetings what they wanted in PD next year (this year). The answer, loud and clear, was EDCAMP. (That was after one single, solitary hour of edcamp.) I didn't say a thing, by the way. I just listened. And our principal listened as well.


Click here for the rest of the story: Planning a School Edcamp using Google Docs