The “un-conference,” an event driven in topic and substance by the participants, to be held for K-14 literacy teachers on Sept. 30 at Eastern Michigan University


YPSILANTI – They call it the “un-conference,” an event that essentially asks participants: “What in our profession do you want to talk about?”

Participants contemplate various session choices at last year's conference at EMU. Ideas for topics come from the attendees.

“Edcamp EMWP,” a conference for teachers of literacy from grades K-14 (includes community college instructors), will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 in room 201 and the third floor of Pray-Harrold Hall on the Eastern Michigan University campus. EMWP stands for the Eastern Michigan Writing Project (a site of the National Writing Project), which is playing host to the distinct event.

“It’s crowd-sourced; participants will drive the topics and conversations,” said William Tucker, a professor of English language and literature and director of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project who is helping organize the conference. “I think this is very novel – it’s totally generated by people attending.”

Possible topics for sessions could include disciplinary literacy, digital literacy, teacher advocacy, teacher resilience or personal writing, or “whatever you ask for,” as the flier advertising the conference says.

Tucker attended several events of this type over the past two years and was “blown away” by how well they worked. Teacher leaders of the EMWP have planned and implemented the program at EMU since 2015.

“The people who are there generate the ideas, and they also generate the expertise,” Tucker says of the highly organic event. “Sometimes, it’s very surprising what gets suggested.”

Teachers engage in one of a variety of sessions at the crowd-sourced conference, held in the Pray-Harrold building on EMU's campus.

Previous topics Tucker has observed include how to use Google Classroom, how writing is done in biology classes, or this popular session: “How do we get through the year with all the pressure on our jobs?”

“It’s anything the teachers want to know about, so long as it ties into literacy,” Tucker says. “If you’ve ever been to an education conference, you know how systematic and methodical they are – extremely regimented – with proposals submitted nine months in advance. This is totally different.”

Participants can register for free at the conference website. A free breakfast will be served, with luncheon spots on and off campus, and there will be a variety of giveaways including book donations by publishers and gift cards from local merchants.  

Yes, you read that right, the conference is free.

“The advantage of all this is no overhead,” Tucker says. “Teachers go free of charge. Teachers want professional development, but they don’t want to pay excessive fees for it.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

September 24, 2017

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom