Monday, September 23, 2013

Some More Thoughts on Edcamps

I have been attending edcamps for a couple years. When they started I thought it was a great way to meet a lot of my online friends face to face. I really didn't tend to think much about what was being presented or who was doing the presenting.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about what is being presented/how it is being presented and I have come to a few conclusions:

1) Edcamps are too tech-centric. When I scan the presentations a very large majority have a technology tool in the title. The sessions deal with hardware and software and how to use theme effectively (not that I have a problem with learning how to use them effectively.)

2) Successful sessions are conversations. The sessions I see people highly engaged in tend to be the ones that people really remember. Watching adults find their voice in a classroom and talk about what they think is pretty powerful stuff.

3) The old model of the teacher presenting is still in use. I have seen a lot of sessions that were led by one or two teachers where they disseminate information to the adults sitting in rows taking notes. I totally get that this works for some/many of us. This isn't why I come to edcamps though.

4) Not having to leave the site for lunch makes a difference. Staying on site for lunch allows for a much longer time to meet and mingle with others. It also keeps the day less stressful simply because there is no extra travel.

5) What happens when you facilitate a session and no one shows up? Seriously, I had this happen Saturday. Fortunately the assistant superintendent of the district the edcamp was taking place in happen to see me sitting alone and came in. We had a great one to one conversation. It was the highlight of the day for me.

What have you learned from the edcamps you have attended?


  1. I've written about or privately reflected on a few of these things before:
    1) No question. Edcamps are education events, not technology events. Keep in mind, of course, that the topics at an Edcamp are most reflective of the people in attendance, and at this stage, most of the word of mouth about Edcamps happens in technology environments. We all need to do more to recruit non-techy people to these things.

    2) Yep.

    3) Agreed. It's a primary responsibility of the organizers to repeatedly reinforce with people before and during the event the nature of the kinds of things that work best for an Edcamp.

    4) Staying on site is great, but generally much more expensive, and sponsor money isn't always easy to come by. If money's tight, asking people to brownbag it or giving them the option of paying for a delivered lunch.

    5) One of my favorite sessions I went to had only 4 people in the room. The general answer to this question, though, would be, that it makes sense to go elsewhere if nobody shows up.

    1. Eating out is typically expensive regardless of where. No reason why we couldn't bring our lunch if necessary. I admit though, I haven't seen anyone do that.

      I considered going to another session, but I didn't see one I wanted to be in enough to attend late. I do usually take a session off anyway so I can wander and look around. I just wonder if I had put a tech tool in the session name if I would have had others show.

  2. As a tech integration specialist I admittedly have often gone to sessions or held sessions about technology and its use, BUT with that being said I ALWAYS try to make the session a conversation and not just a sit and get from me! I hate that and that is why I love to attend edcamps because IMO it is all about the conversations whether large or small.
    Also, even though technology is my passion and my job I am a teacher at the end of the day and I want to share and learn with teachers which another reason I attend. (and connect with online friends)

    Your perspective on lunch is interesting and I am excited because I know at upcoming EdcampKC Kyle has encouraged us to bring a brown bag at its new location this year which I can definitely see the benefit of, but draw of hitting a place on the plaza that is so close will be hard to beat! Some of my favorite edcamp times have been the car rides and lunches off campus I have had with others in attendance.

    So perhaps it as you mentioned is all about the people attending.

    To me the bottom line is the average educator is not exposed to the model created by edcamp and even when the non techies are lured to come by a friend they struggle with its format because they are so used to the traditional way.

    A few of my thoughts. And I look forward to seeing you at Edcamp KC this year bro.

    1. I agree that it is the relationships and the time spent talking that makes it special for me. I won't ever go to any kind of conference again and feel like it is worthwhile unless I get to connect with someone.

      I guess I better figure out what I want to do for lunch as well. Not sure I will want to leave the museum but also I am afraid the small eating place in the museum might get a bit over-burdened. Maybe I will sneak out of a session early to get my food before others ;)

  3. Yes, we are encouraging to brown bag it or there's a cafe on site that lunch can be purchased from this year. I hope it works out well. I always try make sure to remind people that it's not a tech specific event. In fact that reminds me to make sure I do this in my future communication to the attendees. I led a session on Saturday and to be honest it was more of a traditional 'sit and get' style session. There were people though that did speak up and contribute but not as much as I would have liked. I think room arrangement as something to do with this too. For edcampKC we were told we could reconfigure the rooms however we wanted. I think next time I facilitate a session I'm going to sit down with everyone rather than stand in front of them. I'm excited for what our new location holds this year in helping people make new connections.

    1. The thing is, a direct instruction lesson can work very well. It doesn't need to be one or the other. I would just like to see a bit more, maybe 80% discussion. Maybe there could be a way to code the sessions?

  4. When I first started going to edcamps, I needed tech tools. However some of my favorite sessions were discussions. I went to one last year and since none of the session appealed to me, I sent out a tweet saying "meet me in the library to talk about anything that comes up." Only a few people came but we had a great conversation. I would love to attend an edcamp session on homework. :)

    1. Homework usually gets hit in Rocks or Sucks.

      There is something here that makes me think. Maybe another blog post coming?Thanks for the comment and the spark!

  5. You are welcome and I look forward to seeing what the spark inspired. :)