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Madison plays host to education conference at James Clemens on Saturday

Hundreds of educators from across the region are gathering at James Clemens High School in Madison this weekend for a conference that is more about informal idea-sharing than about formal presentations. The event is Edcamp, and participants from dozens of school systems, the Alabama Department of Education and even private academies, are taking part.

The conference runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, EdCamp is a national organization that organizes conferences like this across the country. It’s structured differently in that participants drive the discussion and are encouraged to go to another session if not gaining anything from it.

Technology is expected to be a big part this year. Breakout sessions are likely to address websites and technology tools that teachers have found useful and instructional methods.

Carmen Buchanan, assistant principal at Liberty Middle and one of six local co-founders and organizers of the Madison event, said this will be the first Edcamp in North Alabama.

“We went to one in Birmingham last spring and loved the way this conference was laid out. Participants liked the atmosphere and informal sharing and networking. Some of our best professional development comes from our colleagues,” she said.

Another benefit of the structure is that it is free and vendor-free so there will be no pressure to buy a program or product.

There will be a posted agenda of the sessions that will serve only as a guide. Nikkie Robertson, a media specialist for Auburn City Schools and a cofounder of EdCamp in Atlanta, will give the opening address Saturday. Buchanan said breakout groups are encouraged for topics that prove to have a lot of interest.

edcamp