Monday, October 24, 2016

And then there was EdCamp Creative...

EdCamp Creative was Saturday. I really, really thought it was gonna be a train wreck. But it wasn't. It was pretty fun.

Creating an online EdCamp has been a bucket list item of mine. I'm an edcamp junkie, and Saturday was my twenty-fifth edcamp. Bricks and mortar edcamps have grown steadily over the past six years. Online edcamps are virtually nonexistent.  So back in August I reached out to 20 colleagues to help make it happen. 

Traditionally you assemble a team of five or six dedicated teachers from the same city. This conference was organized by twenty connected educators who assembled in a Voxer group to crowd source the planning. All planning was done asynchronously in the Voxer group, and I'm not sure that has been done before.

It worked, but there were many lessons learned along the way:
  • Registrants were asked to give either their email address or Twitter handle. Both are necessary for an online conference. A Twitter handle is necessary for tagging tweets for publicity, and an email address is necessary to ping attendees right before the event with a final confirmation. Bummer.
  • Opening ceremony were a debacle. The Google Hangout bugged out. At least two people who were in the hangout did not make it into the first session. Bummer.
  • Having the event in October was not ideal. You want an online edcamp when there  is less incentive to leave the house, like in January or February.
  • While the crowdsourced planning on Voxer worked, a lot of the tasks with deadlines fell on me, and that felt different and lonely. Next time the plan is to do it more traditionally: a small committee using synchronous meetings.
  • I must not be setting up Google hangouts right. I set up 22 Google hangouts a week in advance, but after they were buggy, we switched to AppearIn, so none of the sessions were recorded. Bummer.  
  • People really like collaborative note-taking on Google documents, which I left out for simplicity. Oops.
  • I was really amped up and talked too fast. My wife texted me to slow down, but I was unintelligible at times. Oops.
  • The original vision of the event was to encourage EdCamp newbies to attend. That is not advisable as newbies should not have to wrestle with technology as they experience an unconference for the first time.
But after all that, 20 people hung in for two hours, and 139 people registered, and that’s what I call an unqualified success for a 1.0.  Online EdCamps are free and almost as intimate and magical as bricks-and-mortar EdCamps... and as a bonus, you see edu-friends from far away. This was truly a team effort and I'm grateful for the 20+ people who chipped in to make it happen.

It's funny to look back because this all started out as an idea called EdCamp Social Justice, which was my response to the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. After receiving a lot of good advice, we pivoted to create EdCamp Creative. I hope to do it again in February.

I know that Twitter is our bread-and-butter as connected educators, but I've been in Twitter chats with people for weeks and felt like I barely knew them. But after even one online video chat feel like I've made a few new edu-friends.

In short, EdCamp is a movement, and online edcamps are a small but important part of the movement.

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