Be the change, edcamp

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.

being a teacher, edcamp

So I Survived My First EdCamp

There I sat in the corner, carefully checking my Twitter, had I been discovered?  Was I going to speak to anyone or just spend the day lurking in the corners, learning and tweeting away but with no human contact, shouldn’t be so hard.  This was already looking like any other conference I have ever been to; I would learn by myself and then go home and blog about it.  And then something happened; after about 1 minute of sitting there,  I get a message from Josh @Stumpteacher asking me if I am sitting in the corner.  Two minutes pass and a woman comes up and asks me if I am 4thgrdteach, yes…  Turns out to be my friend Katie @TheTeachingGame who I give an impromptu hug to.  Now I am a hugger, but I have never hugged someone who should be a stranger before and yet with Katie I was like a reunion.  Welcome to EdCamp Chicago, my very first unconference and my first conference after getting on Twitter.

What followed was a day of stimulating conversation, a lot of laughs, and a lot of connections.  So what were my biggest take away’s?  Well, the connections were incredible. Every day I pour my heart on on this blog and on Twitter, so to have people come up and tell me that they know who I am and like what I write, really was mind-blowing for this small town girl.  Also, to get a chance to sit down and speak to some of the educators I learn from myself was incredible.  The different experiences, stories, and perspectives really offered me a jolt of knowledge.

I also learned a lot about myself.  I can speak in front of peers that I respect even if I have not met them before.  I can also voice my opinion without being too bullheaded about it.  I learned that somehow I am making meaningful connections with people that I have met through Twitter.  It was also amazing to hear other non-present people’s names being brought into the conversation and others recognizing the names.  It truly showed just how connected one can be on Twitter.

And finally, the idea of regular people setting the agenda, offering choice, and impromptu conversations, really played into my belief that we must offer our students choice.  I chose to leave one session because I was not adding anything useful to it, instead we created a smack down which was incredible.  I chose to be part of a session on grading, because it is something I am passionate about.  I chose what I wanted to learn, how I wanted to be challenged, so my stake was personal and I was more engaged.  That is what we should offer our students as well.

So did I get inspired, sure, but mostly I had my spirit renewed.  There are passionate educators out there who have no problem with spending an entire Saturday discussing how we best can reach students.  That is incredible.  There are people out there who have no qualms of telling you exactly how they feel even if they disagree with you, but also this sense of not being alone.  I often reach to Twitter to be inspired, but I often walk away with new energy and new passion.  EdCampChicago did that for me as well.  I am sad that I will not be at ISTE this year, but hopeful that next year will be my year for truly making the face-to-face connections.  I will be there in spirit.