As many readers may know, myself and a team of dedicated, innovative, collaborative and fun-loving educators put on the very first edcamp unconference here in Philadelphia.

We have been working tirelessly since November when we attended our first ever Barcamp to put together an education-focused professional development experience unlike any other.

In my humble opinion, we succeeded. Succeeded beyond all of our expectations.

So what made edcamp so successful?

  • We had a team of organizers that most people only dream of.
  • We had a diverse group of attendees, many of whom did not know each other or us personally. 
  • The attendees were brave enough and inspired enough by the ‘vibe’ to sign up on the spot to run a session.
  • The attendees were not shy to having informal, open discussions that sometimes veered off topic.
  •  We stayed true to the barcamp model, letting the attendees essentially run the conference.

The most amazing take-aways for me are that, while I moved around from room to room, trying to peek in on as many sessions as possible, I found it hard to get up and leave because I wanted to stick around to hear the rest of the conversation. At one point, that little voice in the back of my head said, “Wow. I helped PLAN this!”  It was something that I would want to attend!

Another unique and exciting aspect of running an edcamp is that nearly all of the work happens before the sessions start, and then it’s smooth sailing. I’m convinced that part of that ease was due to our amazing team, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is a product of the model itself.

Since the presenters are all attendees and no one is getting paid and no one paid to be there, it takes the pressure off of everyone and allows everyone to enjoy themselves.  In addition, once the schedule is set and everyone understands how it works, it basically runs itself.  Session leaders tweeted out invitations to their own sessions. Attendees tweeted out interesting sessions for others to find. If anyone needed something, often an attendee was able to offer help (like a laptop dongle for lil’ old me!).

Our job as organizers that day was simple: be welcoming, be friendly, be helpful and participate!  Of course, there was the whole get up at 4:45am and get to Drexel to set up thing plus almost 6 months of non-stop planning, but the day itself was fun AND enjoyable!

The final most AMAZING thing is how quickly people have pulled together to run their own edcamps!  Within 24 hours we had educators from up and down the East Coast and the Midwest discussing hosting their own unconferences!

Thank you SO much to the attendees. You made the conference. We merely provided the venue, tee shirts and coffee!  We also had some generous and helpful sponsors to boot.  I can’t wait for the next one. Hint, hint: bring a friend!

To my fellow organizers: I now consider each and every one of you a close friend and I am so blessed to have met all of you. This experience has been invigorating and life-changing!  We did it!

For information on how to set up your own edcamp unconference, check out our wiki:

There have also been a number of blog posts about edcamp Philly. Here is short list:

Scriddleblog Edcamp Philly by Patrick Hourigan

Scriddleblog Edcamp Philly! Part 2

Rita’s Posterious: Edcamp Philly by Rita Sorrentino

Relax. No, really.: If We Build It by Shelley Krause

On #edcamp by Dan Callahan

Edcamp Philly: A Recap by Kristen Swanson

My edcamp by Andrew Marcinek

Share your blog post(s) here:

Reflection blogs for edcamp Philly

organizer photo by Kevin Jarrett on Flickr


  1. Reply

    Hey, Mary Beth — I wish I could have joined you folks this past weekend. I recall following your journey/day to the BarCamp in last fall, and I’ve been following the edcamp philly initiative since I first caught inklings from you that something was going on around the time of Educon. I had a great time following #edcamp philly via Twitter and Flickr this past weekend, and was excited to see discussions about other self-organized #edcamp opportunities pop up in the days that have followed. The appearance of a wiki to support cross-#edcamp organizing by other interested parties only goes to show the power of this revolution that is creeping through education.

    Congrats to you and the other #edcamp philly organizers for leading the charge. I look forward to following this grass roots initiative as it continues to spread.

  2. Reply

    Thanks! Honestly, I owe you all the credit for getting me to go to BarCamp! I am really excited watching edcamp spread like wildfire (Canada? Hint, hint)

  3. phourigan


    Hi Mary Beth,
    Thanks for the link, and all the props go to you and your team. What a fantastic experience EdCamp was. So much talent and so many great people. I'm already looking forward to 2011. Truly, well done.
    Patrick @Scriddley

  4. Reply

    Hi Mary Beth,

    I work for a non-profit that works with the School District of Philadelphia. I love the idea of the unconference– it's a really interesting mix of using social media like twitter to enchance the actual face to face dialogue that took place in the sessions.

  5. Reply

    So glad that you were part of it! I am thrilled at the enthusiasm of our attendees and I, too am ecstatic for the next one!

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