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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Conference Burnout: Reviving Educators in a Most "Un"Common Way

Group Selfie at #Txeducamp 2016
sponsors Tom Kilgore and TWU's  Dr. Krutka
It's that time of year when educators are submitting workshop proposals for 2017 or frantically registering for the next biggest, hottest conference.

I confess that I've never been to an educator conference outside of my school district or University. Really. But I have plenty of teacher friends who return from places like Las Vegas or West Palm Beach raving about the bigger-than-life keynote or big-name vendors that gave them free book markers and razzle dazzle trinkets.

I've also talked to educators who are ready for something different. They are tired of the same old, same old conference agenda and they feel like they are no better off than if they had stayed home and washed the dog. Let's be honest. Conferences aren't for everyone.
One size does not fit all.

TOY Whitney Crews, Debbie Turner
What if there was a new model? Not a top-down frame that elevates a few high profile speakers who hold the keys to the kingdom; but rather a bottom-up frame that distributes the power and knowledge equally among the attendees.

There would be no vendors or registration fees. A district administrator or school board member would have the same privileges and opportunities as a first year teacher excited about some new strategy that has worked in the classroom. No special seating. No ego stroking.

TWU Txeducamp session; Using Twitter in the Classroom
The Edcamp model does this. It creates a learning space where people come together to share freely and the agenda is participation driven. In fact, there is no agenda until the attendees show up! What makes this "unconference" even more unique is that is builds upon the "Law of two feet". If, at any time, a person feels like they are neither learning nor contributing, they simply leave the session and go someplace else.

TxeduCamp Organizer, Tom Kilgore
My fav school board member: Tracy Fisher
Furthermore, sessions are led by ordinary educators. There is no one person who holds all of the knowledge or is the "expert" on any given topic. The sessions feel conversational and allow everyone attending to participate and have an equal voice.

Session leaders keep the flow of conversation and ideas in motion (facilitator). No one is to impose their opinions on others (space invader).

Beware: There is a thin line between a "facilitator" and a "space invader."

In a world which sometimes privileges some educators over others, it's easy to fall into a trap believing that unless you have authored a book that's flying off the shelf, or earn the title of "keynote", you have little (or nothing) to offer to others.

That simply isn't true.

Tom Kilgore explains Edcamp Protocol
If you are suffering from conference burnout or information overload, maybe it's time to find a different approach to learning. Maybe an Edcamp is a right fit for you.

Learn more about Edcamps, visit their website:

Confession Reflection:

  • What is the difference between a conference and an unconference? 
  • How do unconferences give creative space to educators?
  • Have you ever been to an Edcamp? What was your experience like?
  • Would your district or university consider sponsoring an edcamp?

Thank you Texas Woman's University!


  1. Yup. Thanks for this. I'm going to my first EdCamps next weekend and I'm really looking forward to it!

  2. Hi Tamra,
    I am an aspiring literacy specialist and I love your blog! I am currently writing a research paper in order to finish my CAS degree in Literacy Education at the University of Southern Maine and would love your help! My thesis seeks to answer the question- “What makes a successful literacy specialist?” I am comparing the International Reading Associations Literacy Specialist Standards to current research, to survey results from active literacy specialists. Please fill out the attached survey- I will be thrilled to share the results of my research and thesis with you! If you know any other willing literacy specialists- please forward them this e-mail.

    Thank you!