Our project manager Jessica is attending EdCamp Long Beach on Sunday and was asking me what to expect as she has never been to one. I’m by no means the EdCamp expert, but I’ve been to a few (EdCamp Los Altos, EdCamp MSP, EdCamp Magnet, EdCamp SF Bay).
Here is what I told her:
It’s likely not what you expect – but in a good way. EdCamps call themselves unconferences. The sessions are planned on the spot, based on what attendees feel are most beneficial to them. Then other attendees volunteer to lead the session based on their skills/expertise. The opening session where they plan the day’s itinerary is usually a flurry of Post-Its and interesting ideas. It also provides great insight into what teachers are looking to learn and what kind of resources they’re looking for. You never know what to expect, but you can always expect it to be a great day of learning and networking.
Don’t be afraid to walk out. This is an EdCamp rule, and you might feel like it goes against every polite bone in your body, but it’s really something you should do. The big focus at EdCamp is getting the most out of the day. Sometimes, you’ll go to a session and it turns out to be about something different than you thought or it’s covering information you already know. Maybe there are multiple sessions at the same time that you want to hit. Then session jump and go to another workshop. It’s something that’s been encouraged at every EdCamp I’ve attended. And I have to say, after the first time (where a spent an uncomfortable few minutes shifting in my chair preparing myself to make the move), slipping out gets easier. No one feels insulted or offended if you get up and leave or if you walk in mid-session, and you’ll feel way better about being in a session that better benefits you.
Listen and learn. This doesn’t mean sit in silence, but EdCamps are based on the idea of learning from peers/colleagues. For us, participating as a company that creates games used in classrooms, it’s an opportunity to hear what is most important to educators, what kind of tools and technology they’re using, what kind of tools they wish existed, what kind of challenges they face and more. We don’t use EdCamp as a chance to pitching our games all day, but as a time to connect with teachers and learn about what they need and how we can help them meet those needs.
Meet people. No two EdCamps are alike– some have hundreds of attendees, some have a few dozen. The agenda is always different. The participants are always different. There will be administrators from giant districts and teaching assistants from tiny schools. But despite the diversity – race, age, gender, geography – everyone in attendance has the same goal: To provide the best possible educational experience for students. As a whole, EdCampers (as they refer to themselves) embrace technology as a teaching tool and are looking for innovative ways to reach students, which is also awesome.
Scope out social media. One cool thing about EdCamps is the huge amount you can learn just be following along on Twitter. Each event has its own specific EdCamp hashtag where attendees post tips, highlights, resources and more from across sessions. The stream is a great resource. You can’t attended every workshop that’s happening simultaneous, but it might feel that way with all the real-time insights you can get on Twitter. Even if you’re not attending an event, you can always follow along on social media. You can check out what Jessica posts this weekend on our @7GenGames Twitter account.
Whether your attending the event in Long Beach or attending a different EdCamp – this weekend or in the future – here’s one more tip: Have fun!
At 7 Generation Games, we really believe in the value of events like EdCamps, both for teachers and companies such as ours that serve the education market. It’s why we’ve sponsored more than a dozen – from the Northern and Southern California to Minnesota to Iowa. It’s why we’re excited to be sponsoring and having company representation at EdCamp Long Beach this weekend. So, if you’re also heading to EdCamp Long Beach, say hi to Jessica.