Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in Barcamp Philly '09. Barcamp Philly defines itself as an "unconference." Essentially, everyone comes to the day prepared to share and interact around sessions that members find interesting. Anyone can post a session, and you can attend any session you like. The fluidity of the day allowed for the conference to respond to everyone's interests and needs. Most of the sessions focused on social media, web development and other "techie stuff," but there were also lots of sessions on leadership and team building.
During the day, I had the amazing opportunity to connect with 5 other educators that I had never met before (Dan Callahan, Mary Beth Hertz, Anne Leaness, Rob Rowe, and Kevin Jarrett). Throughout the day, we planned a session on social media in schools. It was extremely rewarding to work with such passionate, informed individuals in the field. The conversation was rich, engaging, and relevant to me.
In addition to facilitating a session on social media with my five new buds (See our session agenda here). I also got to attend a variety of sessions.
For me, the most important revelation of the day was this: Professional development (and learning) is all about dialogue. It is not solely about talking. It is not solely about listening. It is about the equal exchange of knowledge, opinions, and idea. As a trainer, I sometimes feel that it is my role to "present" all of the information that participants will need to know. Barcamp Philly showed me that "presenting" does not elicit meaningful learning for either parties.
After my experience at this "unconference" I feel empowered to cultivate change in my profession. Teachers need the autonomy to guide their own professional development. When "presenters" step back, teachers can step up and take ownership for their learning.
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