#ElemEdCamp January 2015
January 5, 2015 was a professional learning day for Hall County. Elementary teachers had two choices for their professional learning that day; both grade-leveled Instructional Fairs and an EdCamp were offered. It was our first time hosting an EdCamp event. Below is an overview of the process we used for hosting our EdCamp.
We prepared an advertising flier for the event. We recognized that we would not be the same as a traditional EdCamp. We were only open to our county elementary teachers; all the advertising and signup was handled by our professional development department. We did not have an interest in providing refreshments or vendor-donated door prizes. And while we asked for an advance sign-up, we did not need to limit attendees due to space or food constraints the day of the event. However, like other EdCamps we did want to establish a hashtag for the event and settled on #ElemEdCamp.
We assessed the potential session areas. We utilized Academy of Discovery’s Learning Commons for the event. The Learning Commons is an open area with comfortable, easily movable seating and a large display available in every meeting area. We looked for a minimum of a large display, working connection, strong WIFI signal, proximity to main meeting location, and the most comfortable seating/work surfaces. We secured more rooms than we needed; our additional rooms which we did not use could hold a maximum of 120 people. An advance walk-through the school day before the event alerted us to two display issues; one was not an issue and the other ruled out one of our session areas. We made sure to note this as unavailable on the schedule by greying-out this area on our schedule.
Once we had an idea of the configuration of the physical space we created a schedule. The initial version of this schedule had sessions marked for alternating time slots at each station, but when the number of participants allowed for us to move the sessions closer to the central meeting space (all within view, in fact) we opted to forgo alternating. During the first 25-30 minutes of our EdCamp, we collected suggestions for what participants wanted to learn about, and started filling in the schedule. Since time was of the essence, we populated our 9:00 am sessions within the schedule and began. Before the 9:00 am session was complete, we had the remainder of the schedule completed. Here is what the schedule looked like when it was finally completed. We also obtained a map of the building and highlighted the areas where meetings would be taking place. This map was linked to from the schedule page beneath the name of each location.
We wanted to veer from the traditional EdCamp practice of using physical sticky notes for participants to offer suggestions so we could utilize large displays in our meeting space. We tested Padlet, but found that it lacked different colors for sticky notes. We finally settled on Lino. We tested how to make sure it was shared to anyone with account creation. We considered what should go on the board and settled on including one of the EdCamp videos we thought would best set the tone for participation. We solicited ideas from the elementary professional development staff of ideas we could seed into the board if needed.
The morning of the event we put out welcome signs directing people to the Learning Commons and labeled each breakout session area. We attempted to turn on all displays and verify they were working. We set out sign in sheets and when participants signed in we gave them a handout which contained QRcodes to both the Brainstorming Board and the schedule. We still had some participants not able to follow the links from their mobile devices. It helped that there were three of us to float and get people started. It turned out it was easier for some participants to search for our twitter account and click the link from our twitter feed, but we had to educate the audience on how to do that on the fly.
This was the unknown element until the participants started populating their ideas and suggestions on our Lino Brainstorm Board. While we had topics from the district elementary professional learning specialists we did not need them; we had an overwhelming amount of post it notes, and this was a great problem to have! We requested participants contribute at least three ideas they would like to discuss. Considering the response below, we had more than we needed.
While participants were submitting ideas to the Brainstorm Board we started organizing requests by content area and then similar ideas within content, continually looking for overarching themes. As patterns emerged we concentrated on filling the first time slot sessions with approximately five sessions. We had more areas available, but judged the areas with closer proximity and with about 65 participants that we could use fewer, closer areas for sessions. Toward the end of the large group time where people were submitting their ideas we played the video about the guiding philosophy of how to participate.
Initially surveyed sessions which needed a jump-start and asked the group to introduce themselves with name, school, and a thought on the topic. Then we allowed the group to take over. We were all close enough to each other in our sessions that we just announced when we were changing sessions and then invited participants back for the closing session.
- 17 out of 20 elementary schools were represented by 65 participants. Additionally, six media specialists were able to attend and five schools had administrators in attendance for at least a portion of the event.
- Consider gathering the topic suggestions ahead of time instead of on-the-fly. This would decrease the down-time for participants while topic suggestions are being organized. This will also allow more time to analyze suggestions to create topics that will be relevant to any participant.
- Tailor the time for session to your topic and audience, and the size of the session which might change session-to-session. We heard that some felt this was not enough time to fully explore the topics presented. We recommend keeping to the EdCamp tradition of 1/2 day even if you choose a different session length.
- Use others’ experiences to inform your EdCamp planning. For example – #EdCamp Comes to Knapp Elementary.
- Try an EdCamp independently to understand the “un-conference” feel, search for local EdCamps.
- Let us know how we can help/what your experience is!
Tags: edcamp, professional development, professional learning