You can do magic: the awesome power of a participant-organized schedule
(image credit: edcamp delta)
Think about this for a moment: as of right now, more than 220 K-12 education leaders are planning to spend AN ENTIRE DAY at Edcamp Leadership, an “unconference” that:
- for some, is located hundreds of miles from home (we have registrants from as far away as Wisconsin, Illinois and North Carolina);
- requires taking a full day off work (or, for 10-month employees, giving up a full day of ‘summer vacation’); and
- for most, will be their first unconference ever.
The really amazing part, to me, is that these people made a commitment to attend despite the fact that THERE IS NO SCHEDULE YET.
We know. This really freaks some Edcamp first-timers out. They shriek: how can this possibly work? It’s actually pretty simple:
- An unconference is built around “conversations,” not presentations. PowerPoint and ‘talking at” the audience is eschewed; casual, personal connections are the order of the day.
- Since the environment is more casual, people who would NEVER take the stage at a formal conference are actually quite comfortable leading conversations at an unconference. It’s like having lunch with friends you’ve just met. Easy. Relaxed. Fun.
- Everyone has something to contribute (even if they don’t think they do.)
This translates into many things for participants. Among them: EXCITEMENT and AGENCY.
In the photo above, an unconference participant indicates his desire to lead a conversation. All he needs is a topic, a 3×5 index card and an empty slot of the schedule board. He’s excited because he can have an informal conversation about a topic he’s passionate about. He has agency because his discussion is as much to benefit him as it is the audience – he has control over his own learning. (“To teach is to learn twice.” - Joseph Joubert)
Yes, but … who is this person? What are their credentials? What will they talk about? Will they be worth listening to? What if the conversation isn’t what’s expected? Or, what if there is another session I might want to attend instead of this one?
That’s where The Law of Two Feet comes into play:
If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing: Give greetings, use your two feet and go do something useful. Responsibility resides with you.
If you’ve ever been to a traditional conference, you’ve almost certainly experienced sessions that weren’t to your liking. You probably felt trapped – you wanted to leave but didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Rest assured you will NOT have that experience at an unconference. The Law of Two Feet is a key part of the Edcamp ethos; it’s expected behavior; and it’s NOT a reflection on the discussion leader. It’s just how unconferences work.
The net result of all these factors? In our experience with Edcamps, participant-driven schedules result in deeper, richer and more powerful conversations than a traditional conference. It’s not “sit and get,” “sage on the stage” learning. It’s participatory, energizing, thought-provoking discourse that everyone benefits from.
If you’re still reading, and haven’t seen the EdCamp Philly video yet, watch it now. It will explain a lot!
See you in July!