Edcamp Unconference: A Professional Development Model

While taking Seattle Pacific University’s EDTC 6103 Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 2 class, we are asked to investigate the following ISTE Educator Standards:

Learner: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.

Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.

While researching these standards I saw an opportunity to connect what I am learning within my MEd program to a struggle I have been experiencing within my school. In our school we are actively searching for ways to enhance and develop engaging professional development opportunities for both new and experienced teachers. I have attended a few professional development conferences and workshops before, but one that I always felt I learned the most from was an Edcamp Unconference I attended with a few of my cohort members. This blog post will serve as way for me to introduce the Edcamp Model to my school as well as address the following standard indicators within my program:

  • 1b. Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
  • 2a. Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.

What is an Edcamp?

For those of you who have never heard of an Edcamp Unconference before, you are not alone. Before joining my Med program I also had no experience with this type of professional development model. In one article on professional development I found the word “Unconference” defined as ” Voluntary, informal learning experiences that reject traditional conference structures such as a predetermined slate of speakers and sessions.” (Carpenter, 2016)

This definition fit well with my experience for when you first enter the unconference there are no pre-planned sessions or speakers rather there is a place for you and others to write about what you want to take away from this experience and learn from one another. Once everyone wrote down their ideas we worked as a group to determine which concepts could be merged into one session, and the order the sessions would take place. In my experience there were 3 different time slots with 3 different sessions happening at the same time. As a participant you would then select which sessions you would like to attend and the best part was if you chose one session, but then felt the conversation wasn’t what you expected, they allowed you to simply walk out and join another session! The experience itself felt catered on what you wanted to learn and what was going to help you grow as a leader within your school.

A photo of sessions being built during an Edcamp Unconference.


In a New York Times article written by Katherine Schulten, she defines the Edcamp Model as a place where “Teachers teach themselves”.(Schulten, 2018) In every session during an Edcamp you see educators working together to share resources, advice, and personal experiences with one another. The collaboration is unlike any other and till this day I use the resources that were shared in each session. What I also liked was that you also had access to sessions you did not attend and the leader of that session would write about what was discussed, the topics covered, and any resources shared within that session. At the end of the session we grouped back up and each shared something we learned or took away from the experience. It shocked me that this Model involves no fees and is solely based on the participants interests. The experience as a whole is unlike any other; you gain knowledge on a variety of concepts and only need to bring a laptop to access the information shared!

Edcamp founder Kristen Swanson explains, “Since Edcamps are free by design, they draw people together for face-to-face interactions. These types of interactions help teachers to build relationships with colleagues facing similar challenges in similar systems. This makes the learning opportunity uniquely different from traditional ‘sit and get’ workshops or widely dispersed online professional development programs.” (Getting Smart, 2012)

Impact on Student Learning

Kriten Swanson states that, ““Edcamps strive to provide space for teachers to learn from each other. They give everyone a voice and a forum to explore new ideas and strategies”. (Getting Smart, 2012) The impact on teacher learning is clear, but how does this type of professional development impact student learning?

In a book written by the Edcamp Foundation, the authors describe the success of an Edcamp as having influenced a “change in teacher practice and classroom learning.” (Edcamp Model, 2014) They then pose this question to anyone who has attended an Edcamp Unconference before: “Has an Edcamp session significantly impacted your practice?” (Edcamp Model, 2014) Here are a couple of real responses from Educators on how Edcamps impacted their classroom and their students learning:

  • Craig Yen: During his Edcamp experience Craig learned about global collaboration and resources such as Mystery Skype and Global Read Aloud. He began implementing these resources into his 5th grade classroom. He explains that these resources allowed his students to think more about “geographical terms “in order to successfully answer questions they were given through Mystery Skype, such as ” Are you Landlocked?” (Edcamp Model, 2014)
  • Sean Wheeler– Before attending Edcamp Sean was planning a “deign-centered unit” for his high school students. One of the sessions that was agreed upon during his Edcamp was “Human-Centered Design”. Through that session Sean gathered information and resources to help plan a beneficial unit for his learners. (Edcamp Model, 2014)

Through these examples it is clear to see the correlation between what teachers learn from Edcamp Unconferences to how this knowledge is then presented into their classroom and ultimately impacting the students learning.

Edcamp Resources

Offical Edcamp Website: https://www.edcamp.org/

Edcamp Puget Sound: http://www.edcampseattle.org/



Carpenter, Jeffrey. (2014, August 18). Unconference professional development: Edcamp participant perceptions
and motivations for attendance.
Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19415257.2015.1036303?needAccess=true

The Edcamp Foundation. (2014). The Edcamp Model, Powering Up Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=IXhZDwAAQBAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PT4

George Lucas Educational Foundation. (2016, April 12). Resources for Organizing an Edcamp. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/edcamp-organizer-resources

Getting Smart Staff. (2012, January 23). Edcamp: Innovation In Professional
Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2012/01/edcamp-innovation-in-professional-development/

ISTE. (2019). ISTE
Standards for Educators.
Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Schultan, Katherine. (2018, June 5). Edcamps: The ‘Unconferences,’ Where Teachers Teach Themselves. Retrieved
from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/education/learning/edcamps-teacher-professional-development.html

Selak, Bill. [Bill Selak]. (2012, December 18). EdCamp. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=68&v=gr7teMAk-hA

Swanson, Kristen [Tedx Talks]. (2011, July 27). TEDxPhiladelphiaED – Kristen Swanson –
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVDUIoMavLM&feature=youtu.be

Comments are closed.