Friday, February 28, 2014

Passion Driven Professional Development - Teachers Unplugged at NAISAC14

This morning I helped facilitate our second (annual?) Teachers Unplugged session at the NAIS conference. This is an Edcamp style unconference that allows the participants who show up to define the conversations that they want to have. Among a sea of stand and deliver presentations, Teachers Unplugged is a chance to connect with other independent educators attending the conference and discuss issues that we are all grappling with.

This is something you can run inside your own school at a faculty meeting with teachers or in a classroom with students. A number of participants asked me to list out the steps so that they could try it at home, so here they are.

I hope this is helpful. I welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions!

Set Up:

  • Easels with chart paper or white boards or a google form set up for people to propose topics.
  • 3-5 Circles of chairs or tables set up for different discussions


  • Participants arrive and write down topics that they are interested in discussing.
  • Participants also vote for the topics that they are most interested in (the ones they wrote down and the ones others wrote down)
  • Explain the "rules" of an unconference.
    • Who ever shows up is meant to be there
    • If no one comes to your discussion, go to another one
    • The law of two feet - if the discussion isn't what you thought it was going to be, go to another one.
  • One organizer/facilitator runs an icebreaker that allows participants to introduce themselves to eachother
  • While the icebreaker is going on, the other organizer(s) find the most popular topics and assign them to different tables.
  • Participants choose the discussion circles in which they want to participate.
  • Participants discuss the topics for about 20 minutes and then (if there is time), they move to another circle (or stay where they are if they want to continue the conversation).

Wrap Up

  • Ask participants to share with the entire group something they learned.