4 Ways We Improved #EdcampMville

Monday, September 19, 20166:08 PM

I guess I really like #edcamps. It didn’t hit me until preparing this post, but over the past two years, I’ve planned three, participated in over a dozen, and written about edcamps many, many times. From planning #edcampMville for the public or #edcampOHS for my school, I’ve loved it all. The organic and authentic nature of edcamp-style learning is powerful, transformative, and slightly addicting.

On Saturday, we held the second annual #edcampMville at Manhattanville College. Last year’s event was the first in our area and was help in Reid Castle, a beautiful scenic landmark on the college campus. We had about 70 attendees and it was small, intimate, and a great start. I wrote all about it in My Big #edcamp Weekend: From #edcampMville to #edcampHV.

This year, we made a push to grow and evolve. We wanted to day to be even better, and we got better, too. We grew to over 100 attendees, and you can learn more about the day through Storify or Participate Learning. Based on my own observations and participant feedback, there are four new things I think we did right. And as always, there’s plenty more to work on for the future to continue to make professional learning powerful.

Read more of my #edcamp writing in Reflecting on Education Conferences: When Size Matters5 Things That Make Conferences Great: Reflecting on #edcampldr, or “This is the Most Exciting Time!” Reflecting on #EdCampNJ & #NYSCATE15.

1. Waiting for Fall

This may be obvious, but educators are more ready to learn and prepare for the school year in September than in August. Last year’s event was on the last day Saturday before school started. And it was nice out; It’s a tough time to give up. This year, we moved to mid-September, the perfect time to get inspired for the new school year.

And we saw the results in our higher attendance, social media presence, and interest in our district, communities, and the college.

2. College Matters

#edcampMville is on a college campus, filled with education majors and professors. Last year, we didn’t have enough of a connection with the college and their students, faculty, and staff. This year, though, we worked hard to improve those connections and invite them into the learning.

As a result, around a dozen professors and even more education students attended the event. There were flyers everywhere and we were constantly promoted on social media. It was great to be able to work together to reach more educators and educators-to-be, and I think this inclusivity changed the culture of the day. The Manhattanville presence complimented the hundred-or-so K12 educators from all over NY, NJ, CT, and more.

3. Prizes All Day

Last year, we gave out t-shirts and small prizes, usually in response to Twitter or Remind challenges. “The next two people to Tweet a selfie with a new friend get to pick a shirt,” and that kind of thing. It was a lot of fun and people left will all kinds of swag. Prizes and raffles aren’t necessary, but they sure are a nice reward for dedicating a Saturday to learning.

But the end-of-the-day raffle? It was looooong. We raffled off so much great stuff from our generous sponsors: edtech subscriptions, books, makerspace supplies, and more. But it took so much time and was a little anticlimatic and slow as an end to a great day. So this year, we decided to only raffle the big items for the end of the day, like the digital camera or interactive whiteboards. We also attached some prizes to sessions; win a #BreakoutEDU kit after playing or Explore Like a Pirate in a gamification session. This meant that everything else was given out throughout the learning, sharing the wealth all day long, and I think it helped build a buzz and excitement for the learning and connecting.

4. We Got Smarter

Running an event takes a lot of work. From space to food to sponsors to promotion, there’s so much to do. We did a nice job last year, but really improved as organizers this time around. Crowdsourcing #Edcamp Advice: Building a Better #edcampMVille inspired me last year, and then we looked to our successful neighbors like #edcampNJ, #edcampSWCT, and #edcampHV for further inspiration.

We streamlined our raffles, added a photobooth, worked harder for sponsorship, and promoted so much more than ever before. And we were able to do this because of our first #edcampMville experience and by collaborating as a team. I’m thankful to have worked with an awesome team of organizers and to have run another successful event.

2017 & Beyond

As always, I want to continue to grow. We improved and had a great day, but there’s always room to do better. The energy and interest of so many first-time edcampers and college students/faculty was awesome, but I think we should work harder at setting expectations for edcamp. The blank schedule, rule of two feet, and conversation-based culture make it so different than the typical conference.

We want to continue to move from sage-on-the-stage style presentations to facilitated discussions of professional learning: problem solving, conversations, and hands-on learning.

A great suggestion from our feedback was to create an “idea board” so that participants could post their interests for learning without volunteering a session. Then, we can help find facilitators or promote a more meaningful discussion. This year, we were left with a few sessions without traditional facilitators, and some worked better than others. I jumped in to lead a discussion on Google Classroom, and was happy to do so, but I love the idea of gathering topics of interest to inform to session board creation.

This year, I also hope to do more to bring the edcamp model to my school and district, and to continue to develop meaningful and disruptive professional learning. Edcamps help us think about conferences and learning differently, and I’m the better for it.

Read more about my work with school-based edcamps in Life After #Edcamp: What Comes Next? and Making Professional Development Matter with #Edcamp Model.

What are your favorite #edcamp or professional learning experiences? Share in the comments or on Twitter at @MrSchoenbart.

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