Often called an “unconference,” the Edcamp concept is participant-driven professional development through which educators meet, share and collaborate to enhance their own knowledge. The New Jersey School Boards Association is exploring the concept, as a way for school districts to enjoy a cutting-edge approach to professional development that saves money.

“Edcamp is an innovative way of providing professional development centered on areas of critical importance, ranging from technology to special education, and everything in between,” said NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod. “We have seen this occur successfully in some New Jersey districts, and we are exploring ways that NJSBA can facilitate its use by others.”

Started by a team of educators in Philadelphia in 2010, and growing nationally, the Edcamp movement is technology centered. Events are free for attendees, and created without formal agenda. Topics are set by participants the morning of the event. Teachers share their best practices, challenges and passions, and gather information to enhance their personalized professional development.

“Ginny Murphy, the president of the Washington Township Board of Education in Gloucester County, brought the Edcamp concept to our attention when the district was planning an ‘unconference’ scheduled for May,” Feinsod explained.

According to Kathi Kersznowski, technology integration specialist for the district’s elementary schools, a team that included board president Murphy and several educators organized the event, called the “Edcamp Happy Camper.”

“We were astounded by the success of our inaugural event,” said Kersznowski. “ We had about 170 people from 33 different school districts [at the event]! There were teachers, administrators, board of education members, guidance counselors, specialists, paraprofessionals, student teachers, librarians, and superintendents.

“We are so pleased with the response that we got, and our organizing team is already beginning to prepare for Edcamp Happy Camper in March of 2018!”