Previously, I wrote about my first experience running a session at Edcamp Leadership. I wasn’t just a participant, however; I was also on the organizational team. This post will focus more on my reflections from the standpoint of an event organizer.
We were doubtlessly helped by the fact that about half the organizational team had been through this routine before with previous Edcamps, including the original event in Philadelphia last spring. We used Google tools for our communication and organization during the planning stage, most specifically Google Groups (for mass email communication with group-accessible archive), Google Docs (for drafting agendas, correspondence, and even the day’s session board collaboratively and electronically), and Google+ Hangouts (for video conference calls). We very easily delegated responsibilities and at no time did personality clashes or egos enter into the equation, at least not from my perspective. We worked well as a team, both synchronously and asynchronously.
We also had fantastic logistical support from our hosts for the day (and co-sponsor), the NJ Principals & Supervisors Association. Their FEA Conference Center provided a beautiful location for the day’s discussions. I would also be remiss if I did not also thank all our sponsors for their contributions of time, funds, and raffle prizes.
I can’t impress enough how easy this job was thanks to NJPSA’s involvement. Finding a facility to host an Edcamp is one of the biggest challenges in the process, and the fact that they were involved from the get-go removed a huge burden early on and allowed us to focus our attention on more minute, but no less significant, issues. The facility is gorgeous, it was big enough to accommodate about 200 participants (we had about that many sign up; final confirmed attendance was somewhere around 105), and the staff on hand that day was extremely gracious and helpful.
Location was another consideration. NJPSA/FEA is located about as centrally as you’re going to get in NJ. We were about 5 minutes – if that – off the New Jersey Turnpike, making it easy for both local attendees to drive and attendees from farther flung regions (including Canada!) to access easily from Newark Airport.
General Reflections on the Day
All in all, I have very few complaints about the day. There will always be little glitches along the way when putting together an event like this, so if a few minor inconveniences are all we had to deal with, we’re in very good shape. Here are my takeaways from the day, both positives and areas to improve for next time:
- Our conference hashtag, #edcampldr, trended on Twitter’s front page!
- The quality of conversations, from my perspective, ran deeper than just “apps apps apps”. People wanted to talk about issues of pedagogy and practice, which at times involved technology, but just as often, did not.
- Our Wi-Fi access successfully supported 100+ people all trying to access the Internet more or less simultaneously (too bad the same couldn’t be said for Twitter that day!).
- As with the organizers, there were no issues of ego or pulling rank, at least not that I witnessed. We flattened the traditional K-12 hierarchy for a few hours to have frank discussions about leadership practice, hearing from teachers, principals, supervisors from both public and private schools, union and non-union folks, and even some folks in higher ed. The multiplicity of perspectives made the discussions all the richer.
- It was just FUN! Strip away the name tags, the food (which was awesome), the raffle prizes, and you had educators coming together to talk about how to make it all better for kids. Furthermore, we did it all without our benevolent corporate overlords trying to sell us the programs, products, and packages to “fix” what’s wrong. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Areas for Improvement
- We definitely should have done an audio check prior to Patrick‘s opening remarks. We couldn’t get the mic working, and so Kevin and Patrick had to fiddle with it while 100+ educators sat politely and quietly and watched. It was probably only a minute, but it felt like an hour, and I wasn’t even up there.
- One of the rooms was missing a projector, and nobody noticed until the presenter walked in for her session and didn’t have one. Luckily Mike had a spare, but going forward I’m going to have a checklist (mental or otherwise) as we do a pre-conference sweep of all rooms.
- Maybe it’s just me, but I did not like having two different sessions held in one big room. I found paying attention to my session very challenging as I kept picking up bits and pieces of the conversation at the other end of the room. I’m going to advocate for single rooms per session unless folks are informally meeting in a hallway, atrium, etc.
- I held my session in a room that was designed to hold 16; we ended up shoe-horning 30 in. Everyone was a good sport about it, sitting on floors, tables, standing, etc., but in the future I think I will suggest that all meeting spaces be able to accommodate 25-30. Better to have too much room than too little.
My participation in Edcamp Leadership, both as organizer and participant, has prepared me well for similar roles in the upcoming WilmU LeaderCamp and EdcampNJ. Although I can’t invite you to the WilmU event (unless you are a current M.Ed./Ed.D. student, faculty member, or alumnus!), I hope that you will consider joining us at EdcampNJ on Saturday, December 1st at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, NJ.
Did you attend Edcamp Leadership? What were your takeaways from the day? How will you use what you learned this year?