EdCamp Garland 2017
The first edcamp I attended was in the summer of 2015. It was held by my previous district, Plano ISD and their Instructional Technology Specialists, at the end of their Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) week. The week was filled with edtech goodness; educators from around the district learning about technology integration frameworks, best practices, digital resources, and digital pedagogy. At the end of the week, we participated in an unconference event, an edcamp.
Edcamps are organic educator lead events. Participants decide what they want to learn and make suggestions for the day’s sessions. There are no presenters, keynotes, or vendors. Participants help facilitate the discussions during each session and share collaborative notes of their learning. Edcamps redefine professional development for educators by putting them in the driver seat for truly personalized learning. Another advent of edcamps is the “rule of two feet.” If a session isn’t meeting the needs of a participate, they should get up and go to a session that does.
I genuinely enjoyed the edcamp experience at ETSI and two years later I have attended over twenty unconference events! I enjoy connecting with educators, deciding what I want to learn, and sharing what I know with others. In traditional professional development, it’s often times sit and get with the presenter being the expert; with edcamps, the room is the expert. Educators are better together, and no one in the room is smarter than the room.
I wanted to bring the edcamp movement to my new district, Garland ISD, and to the educators in the Garland area, so I decided to lead the organization of the inaugural EdCamp Garland. To prepare to organize an unconference event, I started by attending an EdCamp Leadership Summit organized by The EdCamp Foundation. Because of the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the EdCamp Foundation is able to host these leadership summits for edcamp organizers around the country. I attended the summit in Colorado Springs, CO where I was able to gain valuable insights from experienced edcamp organizers, and of course, the summit was organized edcamp style.
Attending so many edcamps also taught me a lot about best practices for organizing an edcamp: how long sessions should be, how many sessions to offer, how long the event should last, etc. The most important things I had to put in place to organize a successful event were a strong team and securing a venue. My co-organizers consisted of the other six Ready 1:1 Instructional Coaches in my district, and I was able to secure my home campus (Naaman Forest High School) as the venue with the blessing of my principal who loved the concept of edcamps.
After securing a team and a venue, everything else fell into place pretty seamlessly. The EdCamp Foundation provides each edcamp organizer with an EdCamp-In-a-Box, containing the bare necessities to host an edcamp, including $200. And Flipgrid, a corporate sponsor, of the EdCamp Foundation provides edcamp organizers with $100. Texas happens to host more edcamps than any other state, so as I was looking for available dates, I cross-referenced edcamp.org to see when other edcamps were being held and decided on March 4, 2017.
In December, I had my team focus on logo designs that paid homage to the city of Garland, and we created a social media presence and website to begin promoting the event. Twitter and word of mouth were the best mediums to drive attendance to our event. It helps that edcamps are free to participants, but because of this the attrition rate for attendance compared to signup can sometimes be high. The district was a huge support system in promoting our event to district educators and provided critical technical support before and during the event. One of the biggest issues we had to tackle was the district’s filtered Wi-Fi for out of district educators. In the end, everything went off without a hitch. This was great because even though the organizers were district employees using district facilities, the event was open to all educators.
Although not necessary, door prizes are a nice addition to edcamps, after all, educators are sacrificing their Saturday for personal growth and development. To help procure door prizes, I spent almost every free moment contacting education companies to assist with sponsorships, giveaways, and door prizes, and overwhelmingly they were willing to offer free swag, subscriptions, and prizes to the EdCamp Garland attendees.
With the day of the event finally upon us, we had over 150 attendees and 50 sponsors for 5 hours or organic learning. When attendees arrived, they enjoyed breakfast, made session suggestions via a Google Form, and the session board was built right before their eyes. As the session board was being built, they were able to take pictures at a photo booth, learn at a makerspace, and play Twitter Bingo.
The day was full of lively discussion, collaborative learning, sharing on social media, and winning great prizes topped off the day. Feedback from EdCamp Garland attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and nothing feeds my spirit more than getting educators together to learn, grow, and connect with each other. I was pleased to bring the edcamp movement to Garland, and I can’t wait for next year.