Edcamp Garden State – Year 2 Reflection!

Blogging Buddies

I’m excited to get started writing again for the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches PLN “Blogging Buddies” challenge.  I have a wealth of drafts but without an external deadline I find it exceptionally hard to hit publish.  I’m happy to have found not only that accountability but to be paired up with 4 other tech coaches to give me feedback and to write together.  I need to write once a month but I’m shooting for once a week.  I hope you enjoy what I have to offer!blogging buddies

Edcamp…

24 hours after year 2 of Edcamp Garden State I was standing at the start of a 5 mile race.  The enormous amount of positive vibes I received from the edcamp experience propelled me through every mile in a way I rarely feel when running.  I had one of my greatest running performances ever and I really believe it was the energy from all the people that attended that carried me to the finish line.  In a word, I was so PROUD of our organizing team, school and community for creating such a worthwhile experience for the educators in and around South Jersey.  Now I want to make it even better.

What went well

We went out on a limb as a team to try some new things this year.  For starters, we wanted to utilize some of our outdoor spaces.  Thankfully the weather cooperated and we had 2 session “rooms” located outside our cafeteria by picnic tables.  This was a highlight for me.  It harked back to the days as a student and pleading with your teacher to “have class outside”.  I led a session on “Digital Minimalism” based on a blog post by Cal Newport as well as inspiration from The Minimalists, Gretchen Rubin, and Tristan Harris among others.  My headspace is stuck, in a good way, on determining how to use tech in the most intentional ways both professionally and personally.  It was a great discussion and I loved being able to have it outside.

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Many people said they enjoyed the outdoor spaces and I think they naturally lend themselves to that Edcamp session ideal – a free flowing space for the exchange of ideas among educators.  No chalkboards, projectors or whiteboards to distract us.  We were fortunate to have our own Ms. Carol Wahl open her Greenhouse to everybody and even facilitate a session on the program that she runs with our students here.  I hope to expand our use of outdoor spaces for EdcampGS 2018!

We also ended the day outside with a local food truck that serves amazing crepes and Mr Softee to help cool us off.  While people lined up for food we were serenaded by our own chemistry teacher, Ms. Dominiak, and strings teacher, Mario Desantis, playing the violin. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a beautiful culmination to the day.

What I learned…

I can’t thank the organizing team enough for helping put on such a great event.  I have a long way to go when it comes to delegating (I hate asking other people to do things…).  Thank you to the folks who stepped up regardless of this and said, “Dan, I’m doing this, stop worrying about it, we’ll be fine…”.  After 2 years I think I can improve that leadership when we plan Volume 3.

Hosting an Edcamp is a lot like planning your own wedding.  Months of decisions, stress and worrying end in a day that feels like an absolute blur.  There were ideas that I had, that I may have even written down somewhere, but that I just did not follow through and execute.  I wanted to circle up chairs in session rooms.  I meant to not include names/handles on the session board.  I wanted to explain that it is ok to have sessions that are more presentation than discussion (I know I know… more on this in a second).  The week leading up to Edcamp was PARCC testing and some of these ideas got lost in the shuffle.  That’s why I’m writing now – to look back, take stock and take a step forward.  The mantra I repeated to myself over and over was, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes, “good enough” is just that.  Its good enough.  I constantly want to improve but not to the point that it paralyzes me or others, or worse yet, turns them off.

I learned a long time ago from my dear friend Jess Raleigh, organizer of Edcamp Denver, and founder of the Breakfast Club chat on Twitter,  that all you need to put on an Edcamp is a place and people.  The rest is just gravy.  Its really true.  An Edcamp is basically a bunch of impassioned educators getting together to exchange ideas over coffee.  With lots of bells and whistles.  The minutiae should add to the experience and I would hope that everybody who walks away from an Edcamp feels empowered, inspired, re-awakened or some combination thereof.  The early feedback indicates most of our participants would identify with this.

I would be remiss if I didn’t formally thank both my co-founder Brian Kulak  for being a constant “Yes man” when I had doubts, for all his hard work in making this event happen and for being a postive source of energy to fuel the Edcamp Garden State experience.  Also, to our superintendent, Dr. Scott Oswald, for supporting such a progressive experience, opening the doors to our district to educators from around the state, and for being an active participant in the experience.  The first step to planning an Edcamp is securing a venue and that has been our easiest accomplishment thanks to the support of Dr. Oswald and all the administration.

Future Edcamps

If you’re reading this when I publish it, this weekend is Edcamp Happy Camper in Washington Township.  Keep to learning and momentum going!

Did you attend Edcamp Garden State? Do you have feedback on some of our “Bells and whistles”? Let me know in the comments and I hope to connect in person at an Edcamp someday!