This year I finally got to do something that I have wanted to do for awhile, I got to put on an Edcamp in my own district. Edcamp Iowa for those that do not know, is an Edcamp where we have 5 locations throughout the state of Iowa all going on at the same time and the central location this year was in Ames. I am a huge fan of Edcamps and have had so many great learning experiences at Edcamps here in Iowa, at Edcamp Twin Cities, and last year at Edcamp Kansas City. Edcamps are perfect places to connect with other educators and have discussions over topics that you are passionate or curious about. Edcamps are free and usually on Saturdays, so you only get educators there who want to be there.
As an organizer this time, my focus was on making sure we had the environment to foster those discussions and ensure that those who came, could learn together. Unlike the other Edcamp Iowa sites, we did not have any sponsors or prizes which may have upset some people but all of the Edcamps that I have gone to, I remember the conversations and connections way more than the prizes that were handed out. The focus should be on learning and I wanted to make sure that I was able to deliver on that before worrying about other things. The next time I get to put on an Edcamp, and there will be a next time, we will have prizes and sponsors as there are some great organizations out there that are so supportive of educators.
Although I was busy making sure everything was running smoothly, I still got to sit in on a lot of discussions and even set up a couple of Breakout EDU sessions. Overall, I had a great day and learned a lot, which is normal for an Edcamp. The following are some of my big reflections from the day:
- If you book it, they will come – One big worry of mine was that we would not have good numbers for our event. This was the first time we have hosted one in Ames and I am happy with our numbers as we had a lot of great discussions but I was hoping to see more local educators and even some from the University. I still think a k-16 Edcamp is needed to connected higher education educators with the Edcamp model.
- Twitter is very useful – I already knew this but was reminded as I watched the tweets flying by throughout the day. I love seeing conversations between teachers at the different sites and you could see how learning was happening over a long distance. Unfortunately for me, my account still has an issue where you can’t search my tweets and they do not show up in hashtag searches, so my interactions were down.
- Student voice is needed – We had a couple groups of students join us for the day and I heard nothing but praise for having them there. I had teachers coming up to me and telling how much they appreciated hearing what the students had to say and even a couple said that it impacted them greatly. We need to make sure students are involved in everything we do.
- Breakout EDU is a hit – I did two Breakout EDU sessions because I wanted to share this with others and it gave us a great chance to talk about collaboration and gamification, two topics I am passionate about. I also wanted to try this with teachers before I try this with students later this month. Teachers had a blast and we had some great conversations after. If you have not heard about Breakout EDU, go to www.breakoutedu.com to learn more.
- You get out what you put in – This is true of any Edcamp or anything really for that matter, if you are not willing to be part of the conversations, you will not get much out of it. It takes a while for people to get the courage to put topics on the main board or to talk during the sessions, especially for people new to Edcamps, but once they did they were getting a lot out. You need to make sure that you get out of the day what you want and if that session you went to does not meet your needs, you find a new one. The rule of “Two feet” is very important at Edcamps and should be at any education conference.
As this was my first time hosting an Edcamp, there are things I need to learn in order to improve and create an even better experience for those that come to learn. Overall I feel the day was a success and I hope it was for those that gave up a Saturday to learn with others. As educators, we get to be model learners and we should not take that lightly. If, as a teacher, you are ever “done” learning, then I hope you are done teaching as you can’t model effectively to your students what it is to be a life-long learner. Never Stop Learning!