Almost 200 educators are set to take part in the fourth annual Edcamp Rome, a laid back professional learning “un-conference” designed for the open exchange of ideas and knowledge.

 The free event includes breakfast and lunch for attendees and will take place at Pepperell High School Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. and running until 2 p.m.

Matt Stover, the director of technology and network services for Rome City Schools, said 191 educators had registered as of 3 p.m. Wednesday to “get free learning from their counterparts.” There were nine remaining slots at that time — those wishing to attend can register on by searching “Edcamp Rome.”

 The event follows the model of the national Edcamp Foundation and was started through collaboration between the Rome and Floyd County school systems to establish a no-cost professional learning opportunity for local educators. It does not just draw teachers, but principals, parapros, board members and media specialists as well, from across the region.

“It’s so unique because you go into it with nothing on the agenda,” said Craig Ellison, the executive director of technology for Floyd County Schools.

To start the day, attendees come in and write down on a sticky note a topic they want to present on for 35 to 45 minutes. These sticky notes fill out the session board, creating a schedule for reference.

The topics can be education-related but are in no way limited to that at all. Last year Ellison gave a presentation on the hiking trails of Northwest Georgia to about 30 people. 

“It’s all teacher driven and all teacher led,” Ellison said.

The Edcamp model counters the idea of big professional learning conferences attended by vendors doling out sales pitches for their products, Stover said. The “vendor-free environment” provides real testimonies, “not paid for by a certain company,” on educational software or equipment from those who have seen the impact it can have in a classroom, he continued.

Both Ellison and Stover said educators in their system have taken what they’ve learned at Edcamp and put it into practice, from fully utilizing the Google apps of G Suite to using YouTube Live to share lesson plans with homebound students to implementing innovative classroom management techniques.

Coosa Middle School teacher Melissa Martin was one example Ellison gave. Two years ago she sat in on a presentation about gamified learning — turning traditional lessons into game format — from an out-of-district educator. She got absorbed in the idea and has completely gamified her classroom to increase student engagement. She then became a presenter at Edcamp to share her experiment with others.