Crowdsourcing #Edcamp Advice: Building a Better #edcampMVille

Tuesday, July 21, 201512:26 PM

Last school year, I came across the quote above and shared it with my students often. "All of us are smarter than one of us." I can't find a clear author, and I've seen a few variations, but it's been a driving concept in my classroom. Before you ask the teacher, ask each other. We learn better together than we do alone. It's probably been useful every day since, and I plan to have it at the top of my syllabus next year.

One of the best parts of being a connected educator is being able to take that advice. Whenever I have a question, a problem, or need help, I know I can turn to my #PLN on Twitter for guidance. It's been great practice for me and a strong model to bring back to my classroom to show my colleagues and students the power of being connected. In May, I asked for #edtech advice to help give ideas to new teachers in a training, and I compiled those Tweets in a blog post: Crowdsourcing #EdTech Advice For New Teachers.

Yesterday, I took the same idea to crowdsource advice for hosting a successful edcamp. I've written about #edcampMVille before, but as we're six weeks away or so, I want to make sure we're ready to move forward.  Find more information about #edcampMVille at if you're interested. The event is on 8/29 in Purchase, NY. The organizing team is great and I love our plans, but I thought it could help to consult the experts. I reached out to some organizers of past edcamps, like EdCampNJ, EdCampHV, EdCampLDR, and EdCampPhilly, along with my Twitter #PLN, and their advice is below.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. I was impressed with the responses I got in one day and would love to add more, so please comment or Tweet at me!

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  1. I have had this up on a tab for a couple weeks, could have sworn you tweeted it out recently but looking at the date I 'm not sure how I stubbled upon it :) But I'll answer anyway, old posts are just as valuable as new ones. So here is a fast rant!

    So these tidbits are coming from someone that (as of last year at least) had attended 5% of all edcamps held on the planet :) Not sure what they current stat is, i am sure it has dropped with all the new edcamps in the last several months. I have seen all sorts of edamps in all sorts of locations from the smallest to second largest :) Based on my experiences....

    1-Lose all the sponsorships and prizes. For something as "pure" as edcamp it makes no sense to spend endless tweets and announcements thanking companies that give prizes and then spend 30 minutes pulling raffle tickets. It cheapens edcamps. Ok...maybe a sponsor for lunch :)

    2-People who travel a long distance have to stop feeling like they have some special license to present. I think the beauty of edcamps are the local flavor and ability it gives local teachers to showcase an idea. Too often a edstar will drive hours and then take up two or more session slots. Often they are pushing a very specific program or they are fulfilling their duties of a google/apple/pbs/microsoft certified teacher and doing a session specific to what ever they agreeded upon when getting the badge for their website. It is not obvious that is what is going on until you realize that as part of becoming an evangelist for a company you are required to "spread" the word at conferences as part of the agreement.
    Newbies should have first dibs at the board and need a specific invitation to put up sessions ideas that they would like to see done. Every edcamp board should have a side area where anyone can request a session. There needs to be a very hyped up powerful intro that gets newbies to get up and not sit back. This is becoming more important as the percentage of newbies increases. At every edcamp I attended last year there were more first timers than vets. What ends up happening is too many of the vets get up and present the same darn things they always do and the conference quickly becomes a "look at this new tech tool."

    PS--if you drive a long way I think you should share, it especially gives some hyper-local edcamps a chance to hear from someone new.....but there is a line when the presentation is to subliminally push a product or for many sessions. I also think it is ok for an organizer to stack the deck and when they see someone walk in they know does an awesome session on XYZ to ask them to put a card up. Especially when they see the cards going all towards tech tools.

    3-Edcamp is formed around the idea that the room is smarter than any individual. Sorry, but that is not true :) I know plenty of individuals who are smarter than the room! I would LOVE to be able to just pick one persons brain for a session and not have to hear a little about 25 ideas. Way too often I have been in sessions in which one or two people in the room have had so much awesome experience with something but held back to let everyone else talk. Teachers stink at admitting that some teachers are better than others, we are not all equal. I can remember distinctly traveling a couple hundred miles once to a conference to hear a speaker run a session. They started off by saying the session would be edcamp style. What I heard were 50 mediocre ideas, and never got to hear from the person who had the most experience and success with the idea.

  2. Not sure if I deleted some stuff, had to split my comment over two boxes because of the character limit!

    4-Edcamp organizers cannot be afraid of controlling the board and reorganizing sessions. 101 sessions first, 102 type sessions second, etc. Spread out the tech tool sessions so they don't dominate a time slot, etc. I was at a conference a month ago where I overheard a new participant tell someone that the organizers should simply always put up so "How-to" sessions that everyone wants, but experienced folks don't offer. Yes have a edcamp style twitter session on how it is important, but have a session that has one leader take everyone through the sign-up/set-up process so when everyone walks out they are on twitter and have a loaded account. Have a session on "blogging" but a session that is a nuts and bolts sign up for a blog and set it up. I think too often people are introduced to good ideas at edcamps, but could then benefit from sessions with one leader who simply takes them through the idea. Session on why use video in your class, followed up with here are specific examples and how to do it.

    I think edcamps missed something when they rebelled against the traditional conference and declared the room being so smart. Edcamps were really rebelling not against traditional conference, but boring uninspiring speakers. There is room at conferences for both. Maybe edcampmville could have a special color coded cards for Intro session, how to nut and bolts sessions, typical group discussion sessions, and a color for "I am going to be the single speaker in the room and tell you about XYZ and it's going to be awesome. Feel free to ask questions at anytime."

    Something needs to be done with the end, the whole sharing cool tools does not quite work, and sharing something that you learned is pretty cool as long as it does not go on and on.

    I think edcamps are still maturing. Once you could attend an edcamp and everyone was new. Then everyone was experienced, and now we are back to most everyone being new. Next couple years will be interesting...

    PS--if you drive a long way I think you should share, it especially gives some hyper-local edcamps a chance to hear from someone new.....but there is a line when the presentation is to subliminally push a product or for many sessions. I also think it is ok for an organizer to stack the deck and when they see someone walk in they know does an awesome session on XYZ to ask them to put a card up. Especially when they see the cards going all towards tech tools.

  3. Hey Paul!

    First off, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I agree with a lot of what you're saying here. As Edcamps grow and mature--and with the recent explosion of them, especially in this area, it'll be interesting to see what happens.

    I'm so torn about sponsorship. First off, it can get expensive and the money needs to come from somewhere. I also love the idea of sharing new tools and resources with participants--it generates buzz and excitement for the learning. It's not necessary--I get that--and can cheapen it, but it can make it more fun, too. I definitely would like to keep rethinking dedicating so much time to raffles at the end--that's a practice worth changing.

    I completely agree about doing more to engage newbies and get them involved, along with steering away from tech tools sessions. We can do better.

    About the smartest person in the favorite thing is to follow up with them after a session. I can't count how many sessions I've skipped for those 1-on-1 follow up discussions. Grab a cup of coffee and continue the convo. I get what you mean about the room sometimes diluting that, though. Focusing on newbie sessions on the board is interesting...

    Are you familiar with the EdcampEncore concept? NJ did it this year--a follow up for edcamp attendees to reinforce and deep dive on the ideas that were shared the first time. More of a collaborative work session, I think. It's interesting to consider...

    Thanks again for reading, commenting, and making me think...