Leadership Professional Development

Power Learning with Unconferences

Written by Miguel Guhlin

Many districts are adopting the transformative power of unconferences for their professional development days. Learn how you can, too.

Ready to unleash the transformative learning potential of key team members? Schedule your own campus or district unconference event. Unconferences can facilitate sharing and growth and empower innovators to fuel engaging learning conversations. In this blog entry, we’ll explore practical organizational tips and insights.

What Is an Unconference?

Unconferences may be defined in this way:

An unconference is a conference organized, structured and led by the people attending it. Instead of passive listening, all attendees and organizers are encouraged to become participants, with discussion leaders providing moderation and structure for attendees. (Source)

A particular type of unconference is an edcamp. Let’s take a closer look at edcamps.


Kristen makes some great points, among them these:

“Everything we need to learn is in the people on this campus. We don’t need an outside consultant,” said the campus assistant principal. It was one of the few times I had heard an administrator affirm teacher experience. Teachers are repositories of wisdom and insight.  Every year, school districts deposit knowledge and skills into teachers. Unconferences tap into that expertise. What’s more, they  make collaborative learning possible. These sessions are NOT about idolizing experts, keynotes, or vendors. Organic events, unconferences put a lot of smart people together to talk.

A variety of resources cite research describing the learning strategy.

Watch these videos on Flipgrid of educators sharing why edcamps are valuable.

Get Started with Unconferences

Ready to give unconferences a try? Start by using the “four corners” approach (wonderful for small teams or groups) featuring the most often mentioned topics. You can do this at the faculty meeting level, campus, or district level.

Step 1 – Organize

In this step, you will want to create a website or Twitter hashtag to advertise the event. Here are some examples:

Step 2 – Collect topics you want to discuss

Step 3 – Seek Volunteer Moderators

Step 4 – Connect, Discuss, and Share

Share how folks can connect about the day using free tools. Here are a few examples (each link takes you to an example of that tool’s use for edcamps): TodaysMeet.com, Padlet, Flipgrid, Voxer, etc.

Into the Future

If you are seeking to move your team into the future, unconferences present a wonderful professional learning opportunity.


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About the author

Miguel Guhlin

Director of Professional Development at TCEA
A former director of technology, Miguel brings a unique perspective to TCEA’s professional development team. He specializes in Microsoft’s educational products and has extensive instructional technology experience. A prolific writer, Miguel blogs at Around the Corner and for TCEA’s TechNotes Blog. Miguel earned both his Master’s degree in Bicultural/Bilingual Studies with an ESL Concentration and his B.A. at University of Texas, San Antonio.

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