Edcamp Tampa Bay

5 Ways to Be Intentional in the Design of Your Edcamp

By Dr. Jennifer Williams, Edcamp Tampa Bay Organizer, @JenWilliamsEdu

“How might we create an Edcamp experience that best meets the needs of all of our attendees?”  With a goal of providing an equitable, accessible, and enjoyable experience for our Edcampers, this is a question we start our planning meetings with each year in the design of Edcamp Tampa Bay! And, as we went into our 4th annual Edcamp Tampa Bay event, we knew we wanted this year to be a great one! Here are five ways we set out to be intentional in our Edcamp design:

1. Intentional in the design of the space. For each Edcamper, the Edcamp experience begins the moment he or she first walks into event. With this in mind, we always look at the entire Edcamper journey from start to finish. Here is how we do that:

  • Email over maps of school and detailed description of parking recommendations
  • Have a happy greeter (wearing Edcamp shirt) at each of the entrances to welcome Edcampers as they arrive and to describe the plans for the first hour
  • Move the registration table to the center of the room (registration tables at the front door cause lines and long wait times; see idea #4 for more on our registration table set-up)
  • Use a mix of rows of chairs, gathered and grouped chairs, tables and chairs, and standing tables to allow for flexibility in seating and socializing
  • Aim to have chairs in the individual session rooms organized in circles to avoid having a “front of the room” that would possibly invite a presentation-style format.

2. Intentional in the design of the schedule. Recognizing that teacher self-care is just as important and as valuable as teacher-PD, we at Edcamp Tampa Bay always seek out ways we can make best use of educators’ days and also be respectful of their time. Last year, we moved from a full day (8-4) to an abbreviated day schedule (8-1). By removing lunch, the app smackdown, and the whole-group announcements of raffle prizes, we were able to place focus directly on the learning, sharing, and networking:

  • Build sessions to be 45 minutes in length to keep conversations moving and focused on action
  • Design day to have a RECHARGE! time in the middle of the session blocks
  • RECHARGE! with popcorn bar (all flavor--yum!), infused water, KIND bars, and fruit (food to POWER ideas)
  • Stay to the schedule!
  • End the event with an outdoor groupie to get everyone together and leaving on an energized high note.

3. Intentional in organization of the session board. With 100s of attendees each year at Edcamp Tampa Bay, we always try to be mindful of the different backgrounds, roles, and professional goals of each of the educators joining us for the day. And, really if an Edcamp has five attendees or 500, it seems as if the same would apply! In aiming for diversity, equity, and accessibility above all else with and for our attendees, we look to do the same with our session board:

  • Use two colors of sticky notes to represent what attendees want to learn and want to share
  • Aim to keep session topics learner-centric (more about students, teachers, learning; less about tools, companies, products)
  • Ensure all groups are represented in topics (e.g. if Literacy Practices in the Elementary Classroom topic is added, put up Literacy Practices in Middle and Upper Grades during same time block
  • Create only the morning session topics and then invite Edcampers to come back midday to create the afternoon session topics
  • Carefully consider your “board-builders” and have thoughtful conversations prior to the Edcamp on the hows, whats, and whys of board building (remember: the conversations and the learning that will occur will be heavily based on the schedule board)
  • Add session titles to the (1) digital schedule, (2) collaborative online notes documents, and (3) posted room signs (this helps encourage Rule of Two Feet and with movement between sessions)
  • Add up sessions to the board that could serve as get-to-know-you (e.g. Twitter, PLN, and social networking) in the early part of the day, and save sessions that may require more intense focus and dialogue (e.g. social justice and diversity, restorative practices, teacher self-care) for the afternoon when attendees may be more comfortable with the format and with each other.

4. Intentional in use (and, “NON-use”) of technology. Early on with Edcamp Tampa Bay, we recognized that for as many people we had joining that were interested and comfortable with technology, we had just as many that were not as interested and/or not as comfortable. Each year we have worked to ensure that all feel at ease and are able to access and share information in a way that works for them. Here are some ways we intentionally incorporate tech and non-tech practices:

  • “Hashtag”--a lot! In order to curate the experience for attendees and for those joining in virtually (again, thinking on access), we use our #EdcampTB hashtag anywhere and everywhere we can: Twitter, Instagram, Selfies!
  • Analog registration! Year 1, we used iPads for registration at the door. We soon realized that this caused undo stress for some right from the start. Now, we print off the list of registered Edcampers from Eventbrite, place papers in alphabetical order on a ROUND table (round table is key) in the center of the gym. Then, we leave highlighters and pens with a sign: “Find and highlight your name or add your name to the list.”
  • Use Remind (1) to share announcements and reminders leading up to the Edcamp day, (2) to message during the day that sessions are ending (3 minute warning--everyone starts dinging), and (3) to announce individuals that have had names drawn to win a prize (we list names in the Remind message, share during morning session, and then have the prizes with sticky notes on the stage to pick up during RECHARGE! time)
  • Analog + digital session board, collaborative notes and tiny URL printed and posted everywhere!

5. Intentional in including other Edcamps (local and global!). In Florida, we now have LOTS of great Edcamps all across our state! We make sure to showcase and celebrate them often and intentionally. Here are some special moments on how we aimed to make our Edcamp about more than just our Edcamp:

  • Give other Edcamp organizers an opportunity to speak and share on locations and dates of their Edcamps (we do this during the RECHARGE! time)
  • Add an editable calendar to the shared document and invite organizers to share the dates, locations, websites, hashtags, and registration links to their Edcamps
  • Go global! We loved videoconferencing in the lead organizer of Edcamp Nigeria (1st Edcamp in Nigeria coming this December) to give a view into an Edcamp in action since there is not one there locally
  • Package up remaining swag and unclaimed raffle prizes for the next state Edcamp team to take (Edcamp Flagler whoop whoop!).
  • Head out after for a post-Edcamp organizers meetup!

For more information on Edcamp Tampa Bay, please follow us on Twitter or visit our website! We’d love to have you join in in-person or virtually next for our 5th annual #EdcampTB on October 5, 2019!