Lessons Learned from my First Edcamp by Knikole Taylor

Saturday, October 3rd, I was fortunate to host the very first Edcamp in my area, Edcamp SW Dallas.  As I reflect on this journey that began in February of this year, I can say that I am proud of the team of educators who worked with me to ensure this event was a success.  Many of them had never experienced an Edcamp, but they were more than willing to bring a new type of professional development experience to Southwest Dallas.  There were many lessons learned, and I already have a few ideas of how we can do things even better next year.

1.  Start Early

All of the literature I have read suggest that you take at least 3 to 6 months to plan Edcamp.  I was first introduced to the Edcamp movement in a Twitter chat, #TabseChat, one Sunday evening.  I hadn't even attended an Edcamp, but I knew it was something that would benefit educators in my area who are full of great ideas and resources but don't have the time or space to share what they want to share often.  After attending my first Edcamp in April, I was hooked, and I began to reach out to other innovators in my district who I knew would assist me in bringing this to our area.  We took exaclty 6 months to plan our event.  Starting early ensured that we had time to attend other Edcamps to continue learning as well as to see great ideas already in use by Edcamp pros.  This time period also allowed us to secure some awesome swag and donations from many sponsors.  I was surprised by the amount of support many companies freely gave to us.  Our sponsors truly helped to make our even a success.  

2.  Everyone won't get it.  That's okay!

When I first began to plan this event, I was on cloud nine.  I just knew that everyone would thing this was a great idea.  I knew that everyone I reached out to would say, "Awesome!  What can we do to help you!"  Then, I began to reach out in my community, and reality set in really fast.  Many people that I thought would be supportive of this event, simply were not, and that is okay.  It's often hard for people to support things they don't know anything about.  In the beginning, it was a bit discouraging that I was unable to count on support from organizations and people that I truly believe in, but I quickly changed that tune.  I became determined to introduce them to an event they can support in the future.  I believe we were able to do just that.  I am extremely proud of what our Edcamp SW Dallas team was able to accomplish.  We were able to bring the Edcamp movment to a group of teachers and introduce them to the "unconference" model.  

3.  Not everyone attending Edcamp is tech savy.

The morning of Edcamp, we went around to each classroom that we might need and posted 3 things, an Edcamp SW Dallas log, a QR code, and a tinyurl.  The QR code was linked to the tinyurl for the day, a place to see the schedule and all of the session notes.  We also gave attendees a scavenger hunt to help them Tweet and share about the day.  During the general session, it was quiet apparent that many people in the room did not have QR readers, know how to use GoogleDocs, or have Twitter accounts.  During the first session block, there was a session to discuss Twitter.  While I do believe Edcamp is an excellent way to help teachers become connected outside of their four walls, in the future, I will take low tech attendees into consideration also.  We will have at least one paper copy of the sessions posted to ensure they at least know where to go.  We may also take a few minutes to discuss Twitter and GoogleDocs during the first session by having mini "unconference" conversations as we build the session board and share out before the day begins.

4. Plan with others outside of your "four walls"

When I first learned about the Edcamp movement earlier this year, I was blown away by this form of personalized professional development.  For a self proclaimed nerd, or life long learner, the idea of sitting around for an entire day with other forward thinking educators willing to allow you to pick their brains and share your knowledge on various educational related areas, I was head over heels in love!  Even before I attended my first Edcamp, I knew this was something I wanted to experience.  After my first Edcamp, I returned to my district and began to ask them who wanted to help me bring it to our area.  While this was a great idea, I should have also reached out to other educators in my area and others in my PLN to see who would be interested in helping me plan this event.  Reaching outside of my district for planning help and ideas would have helped to spread the word a lot better and boosted attendance.  At the end of the event, one of the survey questions asked who would like to help plan next year.  I am sure there will be grater ideas at the planning table next year with even better ideas.