Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EdCamp: What to Expect

Guest Post by Amy Bowker
You've probably heard about an EdCamp running where you live. Maybe you've seen a poster, seen a tweet about it or someone tried to convince you to go.
EdCamps are the new rage in education. It's a day of learning, sharing, and an 'unconference' where you are in the driver’s seat of your learning.
I always try to convince others to take a chance and come to an EdCamp, but I always find it so hard to articulate what an EdCamp is since everything is decided that day. After running 3 EdCamps, and attending them all, I can honestly say they are the best professional development I’ve ever been to.
What to Expect:
Sign-up Beforehand:
Before an EdCamp will begin, there will be an online sign up so the organizers can figure out how many people are attending. In my personal experience, we have always used Google Forms for EdCamp Ottawa, but I've also heard of Eventbrite being used.
Table and Name Badges:
When you arrive at an EdCamp, it is all about connections and sharing. There will be a sign in table where you tell the organizers your name and you get a name tag. It's important to put your name on this name tag as well as your twitter handle if you have one. That way, other attendees can follow you and your learning.
Create Your Own Schedule:
The best and strangest part about EdCamp is the 'create your own schedule.' EdCamps are meant to be based on what you, the attendee, wants to share or learn about. This means that you will come to an EdCamp and there will be a blank schedule.
This is our EdCamp Ottawa schedule from our last EdCamp in 2014. It starts out blank, and then attendees begin to fill up the board with topics that they want to share or learn about. There is absolutely no obligation to share or create a session if you don't want to.
As time goes on, the board begins to fill up and you will see that the session board is a hangout spot since it will change throughout the day.
At the end of the day, the board will probably look something along the below picture.
The Welcome
At the beginning of EdCamp, there is always an organizer/planner who will talk you through how the day will unfold.
This my first time running an EdCamp on my own, so I delivered the welcome.
Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.38.28 PM
The welcome should include an introduction to the event planners, schedule of the day, lunch or food options, the EdCamp rules, and what the smackdown is about. This is great to know because if you have any further questions, you know who to ask.
Sessions are chosen by you, the attendee. Sessions are usually around an hour and you should have multiple rooms and topics to choose from. You choose which session you are interested in and go check it out. The EdCamp rules state the 'rule of feet,' which is that, if a session no longer interests you, you can leave. I know this may feel a bit strange, but you are using your own time to learn, so make sure it is useful to you.
Personally, I like to choose my top 2 sessions for a specific time period and then go check out one of them. If it isn't interesting to me anymore, I can quickly leave and go check out the next one. Sessions always move quickly, so you want to find one that you are interested in as quickly as you can.
An EdCamp Smackdown is where all attendees share the best ideas that they have learned throughout the day. It is a fast paced, mind blowing, whirlwind of awesome!
EdCamp is the best professional development I have ever been to. I would highly recommend that you have a Twitter account before you go to an EdCamp. Every EdCamp has a hashtag associated with it ie: Edcamp Ottawa's is  #edcampottawa. This helps you follow along with others’ learning, lets you share ideas, and make connections that will continue even after the day is through.
What To Bring
  1. A positive attitude and a desire to learn.
  2. Technology - smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  3. Chargers for your technology.
  4. Bring a friend and/or a colleague.
About the Author: Amy Bowker is a teacher in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She has been a part of planning three EdCamps in Ottawa. She has also helped plan Playdate Ottawa, a day to play with, and learn about, educational apps. Amy is a co-founder of ONedchat, a monthly chat that happens on the 1st Wednesday of every month using the hashtag #ONedchat. Amy is a Google Educator and has hopes of becoming a Google Trainer in the future.
Read more about Amy's learning and teaching on her blog, and follow her on twitter @ClassCollect.

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