My First #EdCamp

Today, I participated in EdCamp Lehigh Valley. This was my first EdCamp experience, chock full of lessons that I’ll be bringing to the classroom and to the future EdCamps that I attend. The proceeding is a chronological compilation of lessons that I learned today.

    1. Do not rely on Apple Maps
      • Upon leaving the hotel this morning, I figured I’d just type the name of the school that the EdCamp was happening at into my iPhone, and I’d be good to go. Boy, was I wrong. Apple Maps directed me to the old location of the school, and when I say old, I mean 15 years old! 20 minutes later, I was able to find the correct address and location via Google. Mornings like this morning make me wish I had kept my Android.
    2. Be Brave
      • Don’t be afraid to make the first move. This goes for talking to people and for hosting a session. Speaking up allows you to meet others who have similar interests, or who may be in similar situations. It’s easy to be a lurker online, in places like Twitter; it’s much harder to be a lurker in person. Within two minutes of picking up my name tag, I had already connected with two #eduawesome people.
    3. Eat
      • Bring a snack, just in case. EdCamps tend to be 5-6 hours, and sometimes you just don’t know what food will be offered. This morning, EdCamp Lehigh Valley presented us with bagels, cream cheese and coffee. It was nice, and informal, kind of like a workplace lounge. By about lunch time, the spread had been changed to fruits, veggies and chips. The spread made for a nice snack. The thing that is important to remember about EdCamps, is that they are free events, that rely on sponsors for things like spaces, food, free schwag and door prizes. So, if the EdCamp’s website or invitation doesn’t specify that there will be food, or that they have a food sponsor, then it’s best to bring your own lunch (BYOL), just in case.
    4. Interact
      • The unconference experience is meant to be more like a conversation, and less like a setting where you are fed information. If you have input, then give it in the moment. Don’t wait for comment cards to come around, because I’m pretty sure they aren’t coming.
    5. Take Notes
    • I loved using a combination of a Google Doc and Evernote for this today. Taking notes allows you to go back and re-visit the concepts and conversations that you were involved in. If the Session Host(ess) puts their Twitter handle on the session board, or shares it during their session, then take note, as you may want to follow up with the individual after the EdCamp is over.
  1. Juggle 2 Sessions at Once
    • There were two great sessions that were happening at the same time today, “Computer Programming” and “Even Little Ones Can Tech”. I started off in “Computer Programming” (thank you @geekyteach) and about half way through decided to head on over to the “Even Little Ones Can Tech” session. At first, I was afraid that I would be perceived as being rude, but then I remembered that the whole premise of the EdCamp is to basically try all the flavors that you want, kind of like going to Coldstone Creamery. Once I got what I wanted out of the “Computer Programming” session, I went next door to give and get some input on the variety of things that kindergarten students can do with technology.
  2. Host a Session
    • The most intimidating thing about hosting a session, is deciding to host one in the first place. I waited and waited for someone to post a “Things That Suck” session on the Session Board. After waiting for about an hour, and seeing that no one had taken the plunge, I opted to take Bill Selak’s advice and host the session myself. Planning the session took a total of about 10 minutes, as you have to choose hot, controversial topics in education.
    • In “Things That Suck”, you choose “Sucks” or “Rocks” once you hear the topic. Then, you move to the respective (“Sucks” or “Rocks”) side of the room to further discuss your perspective. It’s completely fine to be in the middle if you’re undecided on the topic that is presented.
    • One suggestion that I received was to explain what “Things That Suck” is all about at the beginning of the day. This way, educators are more inclined to be a part of the discussion. Next time, I present “Things That Suck”, I plan to demo it in the morning with the topic of “peanut butter”. This way, all attendees can see what the conversation is meant to look like.
    • Today’s “Things That Suck” topics included:
      • Snow Days
      • Homework
      • High Stakes, Standardized Tests
      • Student Teaching/Co-Teaching
      • Grades
      • PD Days
      • Interactive WhiteBoards
      • School Funding
      • Common Core State Standards
      • Evaluations
    • Next time around, I’ll be including Filter Walls, concluding with a special viewing of Adam Bellow’s “Filter Wall”.
    • Being the unbiased moderator of this session, it was interesting to see and hear the different perspectives presented for each topic.
    • The cool thing about the “Things That Suck” session, is its transferability to the classroom. Instead of calling it “Things That Suck”, Bill Selack’s write up suggests calling it “Awesome or Lame”. This would be a great way to teach students how to take a side, and defend their opinion, which could also be turned into a persuasive writing prompt.
  3. Stick Around for the Raffle Prizes
    • We were each given 10 raffle tickets when we signed in this morning. At the end of the day, we re-convened into the cafeteria, for the drawing of the various raffle prizes. By 2:30 p.m., it looked as though half of the original participants had left. You had to be present to win the raffle prizes, so several of us won at least one raffle prize. One individual won 5 prizes. So, stick around, especially if you have a chance to win cool things like ChromeBooks, gift cards, or SnagIt software:)
Whelp, that’s all for my first-timer lessons. And, just as a random little side note, I must add the following.
When driving back to Alexandria, VA from Lehigh Valley, PA, I couldn’t help but to stop at the Hershey Factory as it was technically, sorta, kinda on the way. The Hershey Store is awesome, but was as crowded as a New York City subway station during rush hour. If I ever head back there, I’d definitely go in the morning, versus visiting one hour before closing. And, if I were a milk chocolate fan, then I would’ve bought this:
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