Reflection on KCamp: Kirkwood’s First Unconference
Just before the Fall 2014 semester began, KCELT offered its first “unconference,” which we called KCamp: Professional Development for Faculty by Faculty. We were inspired by our experiences at EdCamps. The whole team participated in one of the annual Iowa EdCamps, Northeast in Cedar Falls this March. Our instructional designers, Wilson and Jeremy, participated in an EdCamp in Chicago last October. That visit prompted our interest, which resulted in a book review about the philosophy behind the EdCamps.
As with all new projects, we designed our KCamp with a mix of excitement and apprehension, mainly because of the change of organization and control from the usual way of offering professional development to our faculty. We did not know what to expect in terms of faculty receptions, so we were overjoyed that the response was overwhelmingly positive. And we’d like to share our thoughts on how those two days of intense discussion transpired.
I have attended several professional development opportunities geared towards K-12 educators and administrators and I am consistently struck by how participant-driven they tend to be. So when I attended EdCamp Iowa in Cedar Falls this year, I was not surprised to see this model in action to an even fuller extent: a set time and location but no set agenda for “sit and get” sessions. Instead, EdCamp was a true participatory learning model in action whereby any attendee could suggest a teaching and learning topic of interest and facilitate a discussion among peers. Faculty development’s version of democracy! After some introspection, I believed that the time was right to try it at Kirkwood and the KCELT Team rose to the occasion. Our inaugural “KCamp” yielded affirmations from faculty, loud enough to tell us that many want more of this type of learning opportunity – for faculty by faculty. And KCELT plans to deliver.
Offering an unconference still requires a lot of planning and logistics for the event to run smoothly. Such as setting up the Google doc folders with blank documents for each session for a volunteer to take notes. This will provide the notes to be viewed by all during and after the institute is finished. Providing the supplies needed to build the schedule on the whiteboard as the days framework is built by faculty. When hosting an event at another venue such as The Hotel, communicating clear and concise information is necessary to meet all spec requirements including audio and video. I feel the Learning Institute: Kcamp was a new structure of professional development that worked well for faculty to connect with others and engage in discussions of interest and important to them.
Professional development is evolving. Professionals in education want to engage and connect with others. They want to talk about what they believe it is important for them. Participating in KCamp reinforced this idea on me. I was so glad to see faculty sharing techniques, stories, and learning solutions among them. The conversations were so interesting and engaging that faculty did not realize the time was up! I heard many people saying that they really loved the format. In fact, KCamp was all what they were expecting.
After seeing this, I believe that shifting from top-down to bottom-up regarding professional development is the right thing to do. But, what else could we do to change professional development? I believe talking and working with faculty may give us the answer.
Ever since I participated in my first EdCamp in Chicago, I wanted our faculty to gain a firsthand experience of this at Kirkwood Community College. The mission of the EdCamps fit KCELT’s mission and vision for professional learning, so it seemed natural for us to provide this opportunity. However, it was something we’ve never done before, so we were worried that it could have been a complete disaster. I was extremely delighted to see the opposite of our worry come true. It was a complete success! Not only did faculty learn a lot from each other, as shared below, but KCELT learned more about what concerns our faculty most and, even more important, what a valuable resource they are in helping shape their peers’ professional growth.
On the last day, we distributed a survey to collect feedback from our survey. Of all the faculty that attended, only 22 successfully completed the survey. Surprisingly our best feedback was our biggest worry–organization. Nobody reported being unsatisfied with our organization. This tells us that we can have faith that the EdCamp model works for Kirkwood faculty. See below for the complete quantitative feedback.
Suggestions: When asked for suggestions in our survey, most faculty suggested that KCELT and the faculty generate a list of topics or questions online prior to meeting at the next KCamp. If we do that, then we will be able to vote on which topics or questions should be discussed and scheduled. This is very easy for KCELT to set up via Google Drive, StickyNotes, or other apps that our keynote, Scott McLeod, introduced.
KCELT was very pleased reading through the answers for the question, “What were the biggest takeaways from KCamp?” Many shared the same sentiment that their colleagues, fellow faculty, were the best resource Kirkwood has for professional learning. A number were appreciative about gaining new skills and confidence using certain types of education technology. Many also praised the opportunity for being able to share and discuss teaching and learning issues that concern them the most. Our favorite takeaway from these comments is as follows, “[It] feels great to supported and inspired by others who share the same passion for education.”
KCELT looks forward to providing this opportunity to our faculty again.