The Unconventionality of THATCamps
The term THATCamp may bring to mind images of cabins, water sports and arts and crafts projects involving massive quantities of Popsicle sticks. While these concepts may capture the fun and camaraderie of the summer camp experience, THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology Camp), as described on its site, “is an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.”
I was a recent attendee/participant at THATCamp Pedagogy which was held this past October on the Vassar College campus, and I can tell you this is an apt description of the event. Based on the “unconference” model, this particular event took place over one weekend, and was made up of approximately 75 participants of various levels of involvement in higher education who had an interest in the pedagogical uses of technology in academics.
THATCamps are more informal and spontaneous than general conferences. Other than Bootcamps (preplanned training workshops incorporated into the event), all sessions are created and presented as spur-of-the-moment brainstorming sessions, rather than prepared academic presentations on a topic.
All attendees are active participants. Within the first hour of THATCamp Pedagogy, we worked together to create the agenda (based on our suggested topics which we had posted on the site the week prior to the event). These sessions were offered throughout the library of the college (where the event was primarily housed). Topics ranged from “Assessing Learning Management Systems” to “The Value of Digital Pedagogy” and everything in-between. One of my favorite sessions, “Digital Storytelling” offered ideas for how to incorporate audio, visual and other digital elements into the personal writing experience.
Information was captured at each session via notes (and, sometimes, video), which were then uploaded to the main site and made available to all participants. The idea of sharing and group ownership is key to these unconferences; all participants are able to post and share information during and afterwards.
If you are interested in attending a THATCamp, check out the THATCamp site for a listing of upcoming events, such as:
- January 5, 2012 — American Historical Association (Chicago, IL)
- January 20-22, 2012 — Games Edition (University of Maryland)
- February 18-19, 2012 — Florida
Additional information on THATCamps: