inService to unService and the addition of the Student Voice.

If you have never attended an unconference before I would highly recommend it.  I recently attended EdCampNYC (My day at EdCamp NYC 2010) and loved it.

If you are not familiar with what a unconference is or how it is organized the basics are as follows (’Rules’):

The event starts with an introduction by the organisers rearticulating the purpose of the event, the guidelines for conduct during the day and the parameters of the event.

The organisers then explain the start and end time of the event, duration of the sessions, breaks for food, how to access the network etc.

The basis ‘rules’ of the Unconference……

  1. The people who come are the best people who could have come.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
  3. It starts when it starts.
  4. It’s over when it’s over.
  5. The Law of Two Feet (“If you are not learning or contributing to a talk or presentation or discussion it is your responsibility to find somewhere where you can contribute or learn”).

Like all ‘laws’ or ‘principles’ at a Unconference, participants should feel free to break any or all of these rules if they feel that they are not contributing to the intellectual rigour or content of the event.

All of the sessions are posted on a grid and attendees can simply choose from the sessions offered.

People can come to the conference with sessions/presentations already developed or, like me, feel inspired to post their own session once they got there – – “Are your ideas your own“.

At these events there is a strong sense of wanting to share, contribute and learn.

What if you could bring this model of professional development to your schools insevice offerings?

What if you could inspire teachers to bring their ideas and share?

What if you even included students?

That is exactly what is happening at my school.

After attending other unconference like EdCampNYC – – the NYSAIS Education and Information Technology conference at Mohonk – – leaders at our school (Jenny Zagariello – @jennyz49 & others) decided to try this model in our summer professional development offering.

We would take a portion of the day from the 4 day technology and learning workshop and offer an Open Space/unconference session.  We would introduce the idea before lunch and allow people to post their ideas for sessions, allow them to vote on what they would attend during lunch and then organize the sessions and rooms and go from there after lunch.

The session was a huge success! When is came time to end and move on to the next portion of the day it was hard to break things up, people wanted to continue their conversations, continue sharing and learning from one another.

Another thing to note during these summer workshops is the fact that we use students to help us teach.  These same students would offer sessions during the Open Space time as well.  The faculty enjoy hearing their perspective on the topics being discussed and it allowed us to change the student/teacher dynamic around.

Both the Open Space session and the us addition of the student voices to our professional development was inspiring.

The next step would be to adopt this model with the entire faculty.  The summer workshop get about half to two-thirds of our entire faculty and to do this during a full faculty inservice day would be the next big test.

This past November we did just that.  We took a portion of the day to offer an Open Space time during one of our two days of inservice.

There were eleven sessions offered, four of which we led by students.  Their topics ranges from the our newly established 1:1 program to ethics in and out of the classroom.  We had the students from our Middle and Upper school participate and all of the students sessions were well attended.

What follows is some video shot from the day. It includes the opening meeting with the entire faculty, some descriptions of the sessions being offered and a look into the student sessions.

We we very excited by how well the day went, the reaction the faculty had to the offerings and the new unservice model.  We will continue to explore ways to refine this form of professional development in our school.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or questions on  any of the things described here I would encourage to leave a comment.


About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
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