"Unconference" Draws 150 Educators to Walker's Campus
"Unconference" Draws 150 Educators to Walker's Campus

On Friday, August 18, 2017, The Ethel Walker School was the site for Edcamp Connecticut, an annual educator-led "unconference" that draws nearly 150 teachers, school leaders, and parents to Simsbury each August. This year marks the seventh year of the program in Connecticut. At edcamps, there is no pre-set agenda, and there is no conference fee. Sponsors for this year's event include: The William and Alice Mortensen Foundation, the Neag School of Education at UConn, and CECA (Connecticut Educators' Computer Association).

When registration opened in July, nearly 100 tickets were claimed within 15 minutes. In a more than an hour, registration was full and a wait list began. Participants are educators from public school districts, independent schools, higher education institutions, and homeschool environments. Attendees drive to Simsbury from as far away as Maine and Pennsylvania.

Participants generate the session topics at the start of the day and then select conversations that suit their needs and goals. Lecture-style presentations are discouraged as edcamp sessions are designed purposefully to be active group conversations.

Sarah Edson, Walker's dean of academic technology and innovation, co-founded Edcamp CT in 2011 with two colleagues. "Edcamp Connecticut is led by a team of volunteers who believe in the power of connecting, networking, and collaboration among educators. This non-traditional conference format allows participants to choose which topics are most relevant to their teaching. More importantly, everyone learns from each other," said Edson.

As the global edcamp movement has strengthened, so has its recognition as a meaningful format for teachers to network and collaborate. Since 2010, there have been more than 1,500 edcamps in 35 countries. In 2015, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the national Edcamp Foundation a $2 million grant to scale the organization, expand its programs, and support the development of local edcamps.