Teaching (and Learning) Like A Pirate

Intro: Reflections

It’s been a year since I attended #EdCampWestTexas, my first ever EdCamp, in Abilene, Texas. It’s a different sort of professional development (PD) for learning and development (L&D) types like me. Hosted by K-12 educators for educators they’re free unconferences held at school facilities. Though they tend not to have agendas they do have a common framework. It goes something like this:

  1. People meetup at 8:30 am for saying hi to old friends and making new ones (networking).
  2. Around 9 am attendees are asked to write on sticky-notes things they want to learn at EdCamp and things they can share (ideation).
  3. A half hour or so later the camp’s hosts arrange the notes by subject and quantity. They ask for volunteers to facilitate the most popular topics. This is the cool part: facilitating. The best stuff I’ve learned at EdCamps has come from people who are new to the topic (anti curse of knowledge).
  4. At 10 am people go to the location of the session they’re most interested in. They’re encouraged to vote with their feet and try another session. I’ve done this twice. Sessions usually go 50 minutes.
  5. Towards the end of the EdCamp there’s usually an app smashing event. Participants are asked to give a shoutout to sponsors. There is usually a giveaway (uber fun).


The best part about EdCamp is meeting new people. Each new friend I make brings a fresh perspective on something that interests me a great deal: helping others learn. Sometimes I learn something new in the moment; like how learners need to feel they matter. Other stuff takes time: for reflection, soaking in, whatever that thing between “Oh?” and “Aha!” is called.


I can’t think of any. Even after participating in a dozen EdCamps I can think of only one suggestion for improvement. Chairs. EdCamps are sometimes held in elementary schools. It’s been ages since I was able to fit in a second grader’s desk.


If I had to pick one thing I learned this past year that stands out against everything else it has to be #tlap. It’s a Twitter chat held Monday nights at 6 pm PT (sort of sure). It’s the Teach Like A Pirate professional learning community (PLC) that was founded (I believe) by teacher and author Dave Burgess. During #tlap chats people talk about ideas for whatever the topic of the week happens to be. I have really changed my practice during this past year thanks to #tlap.

Outro: Plans

I’m facilitating a session on what I learned over a year of low or no cost PD (#LowNoCostPD) at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn Conference and Expo. It’s my first conference event. I’ll let you know how it goes.