So We Ran an EdCamp and What Did We Learn?

Yesterday was one of the “Oh my gosh I can’t believe it is finally here” kind of days with the coming of EdcampMadWI – or EdCamp Madison as we preferred to call it.  After many months of thinking, hard work, and definitely team work, the day came and passed in such a blur, it felt as if it was my wedding day.  The same nerves of anticipation and then a blur of people to speak to, thank, and even a presentation or two and then it was over and with just great memories to look back upon.  So while there are many posts out there on how to plan your Edcamp, I thought I would offer up a few smaller lessons we learned along the way.

  • Think small.  This idea started out with Jess having a lunch time conversation and then grew from there.  Our core team was 4 people; Jess (@jhenze44), Kaye (@MiddleLevelEd), Emily (@MsDittmar) and myself.  That was it, and it was nice.  Because we knew it was just us 4 people taking care of most things, we also knew explicitly who was going to take care of what and when.  Accountability was there and that to me was half the battle.
  • Create a Google group just for the organizers.  This way all emails get archived and it is easy to find.  Saved us so much time.
  • Tell sponsors specifically what they should sponsor.  We started out soliciting sponsors by just asking for something, toward the end, we were asking for specific items to be covered.  This worked much better than just crossing your fingers and hoping for something good.
  • Ask other edcamp planners for help.  I was lucky enough to be able to ask many great people for advice; @mbteach – one of the original founders of edcamp and @TamL17, one of the edcamp Milwaukee planners.  They have done it before and thus know exactly what to do or not do.
  • Think outside of education.  We had many local sponsors like Market Street Diner that wanted to help even though they have nothing to do with education, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Trust your volunteers.  Kaye was phenomenal at recruiting volunteers and then overseeing them, but truth is, many of our volunteers knew exactly what needed to get done without being told.  So get quality people and then trust them to do their thing.
  • Make goodybags.  We had a lot of stickers, pens, app codes etc to hand out to people but rather than raffle it all off which would have taken a long time, we instead created 49 goodybags.  20 were handed out to the first 20 people that proposed a session and then 29 were raffled off during lunch.  At the end of the day we then only had some major prizes to give away rather than tons of stuff.
  • Set an example.  I proposed a session on blogging, Jess did one on Evernote, and Emily did one on 20% projects.  We found the time to do it and were still able to run the edcamp, it can be done.
  • Don’t marry your schedule.  We had set a preliminary schedule but our opening took a lot less time than we anticipated so we had 1 1/2 hours for our first session instead of waiting for it to began.  You run the edcamp; you can change the rules.
  • Meet people.  I purposely tried to meet as many people as possible this time around rather than just stick to the few I know.  I have never had so many great discussions about a variety of topics.  Because you are an organizer you will be busier but also more visible  take that opportunity to reach out to others and engage them in conversations.
  • Wear sensible shoes.  I wore my teaching shoes which happened to have a higher heel and then I rolled my ankle before the day began.  Ouch.  So next time, yup, I will be the one in sneakers.

Being an organizer of this EdCamp really deepened my love for this type of professional development even more.  I now know exactly how much work goes into this “easy” day of learning and also how much its success depends on the excitement of its organizers and attendants.  So in the end, we are happy to say that there will be a second annual #EdCampMadWI.

10 thoughts on “So We Ran an EdCamp and What Did We Learn?

  1. It sounds like it was a great day. I would have tagged alone with Heather Suckow if I wouldn't have had speech contest Saturda. I will definitely be taking your advice to our planning committee for edcampHowardWInn! thanks for sharing.

  2. Lisa Sjorgren(@lisasjogren) was a huge help too! Her team of organizers for EdCampMSP shared ALL of their documents with us, and listed them as with a Creative Commons license. The T-shirts were a great success, but my advice to organizers is to go with someone that has a track record of good service, and know what who you are dealing with. And lastly, make a deadline that is well before the event, so you aren't pulling your hair out if something goes wrong.My biggest fear was that our session schedule wouldn't be filled, but we had awesome sessions with some great presenters (including some first-time edcampers). EdCamp organically falls into place, and all of the legwork going up to the event pays off! It was a great experience, and we are excited to see our survey results as we begin to think about next year's event.Jess

  3. Loved these reflections. I attended my first EdCamp yesterday in Friendswood, Texas (EdCampFWD) and loved it. I met so many great people. The conversations, sharing, and learning were amazing. I can't wait to attend my next EdCamp in a few months!

  4. Wonderful! How did you do your session creation? I've done an edcamp with 35 people and now and planning one that will be 150-200 people and that part is making me nervous. Suggestions? @capohanka

  5. Pingback: Reflections on Professional Development – EdCamp | RocketLibrarian

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