I hosted my first EdCamp last Saturday with some colleagues.#NEGAedcamp Northeast Georgia EdCamp
It was outside my safety net of a district professional learning day. It was smaller. It was less structured. And it was incredible.

By the end I was proud that we offered something that wasn’t there before.
While I have attended edcamps before, I had never been a part of launching one. And that has provided me with some perspective, perspective I’d like to share. I like to share, which is I like EdCamps and think you will too.

My big takeaways were: organization, promotion, and teaching.

Organization

We honed in on a location closest to the demographic we wanted to attract while being a facility we had influence over. We chose a high school in our district closer to the other counties we wanted to invite, and with the hope of a ‘home field advantage’ in attracting some teachers who worked there as well. The large displays in each classroom and the wireless were our main concerns. Our projectors are wireless and use the network our teachers log into, so for our local folks that could work, but for our out-of-district guests we connected a chromebook with a HDMI for the day and offered a guest network.

The physical space and configuration was also a factor. This school had one hallway with the Media Center on one end and the Cafeteria on the other with plenty of classrooms in between. Each classroom had a large display as did the Media Center and Cafeteria. We circled up desks/tables in all of the classrooms we planned to use. We wanted to mirror the opening activity and send a signal of equity in the sessions. We also observed this may be an easier for participants to exercise their right to get up and move on. The Cafeteria even had a faculty area, glassed off from the larger area, perfect to observe a #BreakOutEDU game. An essential part of getting this right was to have a facility contact who works at that school; Wesley Crow was essential to that school working for that event; an edcamp is too informal not to have a locked-in facility volunteer.

The perfect time to have an EdCamp is now or never. Someone will already have plans, someone will have plans come up. The only people you should plan around is your core team of volunteers. Those you are hoping will attend are teachers/coaches with families, so do not take requests for dates – there is not a perfect date. Do not judge anyone on their schedule, just tell them you hope to see them next time and get on with it!

I learned a good lesson with people. I have to give them the task, let them make it their own and be accountable to the event, not to me. Or I have to provide every detail, anticipate every possibility, plan for all contingencies. I choose the former. Good people will always get your better results than your own best planning.

Donations. We pursued two types of donations. Donations for everybody, food and t-shirts, and donations for giveaways. You do not need either to do an EdCamp. But I needed to see what all I could assemble for people who do not ask for prizes themselves and who are always grateful for little things like a shirt and a sandwich. I pursued educational technology companies for donations and the freebies you usually get at conferences. I concentrated on finding donors for t-shirts and a light breakfast and a full lunch. I had some awesome help and a local realtor, a region #edtech salesperson, and a local restaurant. EdCamp also provides $200 for breakfast currently. That helped us shore up the difference in donations versus required purchases.

Promotion

While a constant fear of an edcamp is “Will the participants fill the session board,” my first fear was – who will show up?

So, who did we invite? I sought out other instructional technologists/directors in surrounding districts to connect with and invite. While we made Principals in our district aware of the event, I never really felt we were targeting them as participants. Our volunteers made a one page flyer that we shared out via Google Docs. One interesting tidbit is the document was requested and shared verses printed out. We only recorded 9 scans or the QR code on the flyer.

We used Eventbrite for sign-ups/check-in. We had over 70 sign-up and 45 attend; not bad for our first venture! Eventbrite brought us a few sign-ups, but the most of our sign-ups came from social media. Our Twitter account and hashtag were a hit; we tried Facebook, but with not as much reach. Don’t bother paying for the ads, for us there was not much added sign-ups. We need to get advertising on Instagram as one of our participants pointed out – rightly so.

I really see an opportunity for a source of content for promotion of edcamps. I hope to create a Pinterest board for blog posts and other resources that edcamps can share out on social media. {check back to see if I create this!}

In a final effort to build future attendance I wanted to include a way to validate and document the legitimate learning these educators did that Saturday morning. I assembled four badges via Credly for: Participation, Leading a session, Volunteering, and of course our Founders.

Credly Badge from #NEGAedcamp Northeast Georgia EdCamp

Teaching

Our core team had a couple of people who needed to experience an decamp in advance of our planning. We attended a nearby Edcamp together; we made connections, normed our expectations on how we would run our Edcamp. We had to do this; it helped us to articulate each of our non-negotiables.
I recommend any Edcamp planning team attend a local Edcamp in advance of starting up their planning!

The day of the edcamp – once people showed up. Once the session board filled. I replaced those concerns with would they participate or revert to passive PL behavior?

Norming the group was the next most important task of the day – – how do you teach attendees how to EdCamp? Content for promotion is only a part of it. The real secret is folks with the same philosophy as you, or as I call him John Hardison. John led us through an authentic activity I know he uses with his students. We started with our core group sitting in a circle of chairs with everyone else standing around us. John invited one of us to start by picking a general question any teacher could answer about education. He instructed us to answer and then cycle out to the wider audience and invite those outside our fishbowl to take our place.

This turned out to be an excellent exercise and not only warmed up the audience, but modeled to many some of the “tenets of EdCamp.” Consider how your audience already feels confidence-wise about edcamping. This could also be a session in the large meeting are following any opening remarks.

 

I am proud that we offered something that wasn’t there before. I have learned so much and cannot wait to apply those lessons again!
Tell me, are you planning to launch an EdCamp?
Have you already?
What have YOU learned?