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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Six Things to Bring to Your First EdCamp

With only days to go until EdCamp New Jersey I thought I'd share some tips I’ve picked up since my first  EdCamp (EdCamp Philly 2013). Here are six things you should bring to your first EdCamp (and really, almost any conference). Be sure to read to the end, number 6 is a MUST!


  1. a friend (colleague, mentor, roommate, grade level buddy)  -  Going to your first EdCamp can be a bit intimidating. This unconference is unlike traditional PD  -  sessions are created the day of the event based on the interests, desires and needs of the attendees. A friend, either one who has attended an EdCamp before, or a first - time attendee like yourself, can help you navigate this new uncharted territory. You will have an ally to share thoughts, ideas, and your experiences. Also, be sure to check out EdCamp 101. This pre - session takes place during breakfast and will arm you with information about the EdCamp philosophy, the rule of mobility, and leave no trace, etc.

  1. an open mind and a desire to learn.  Two of my favorite things about EdCamp, the fact that the sessions are created the day of using the power and skills of the audience and the rule of mobility are what make EdCamps some of the best professional development available.

If you arrive early enough the morning of EdCamp, you will see a completely empty session - board. And little by little, slowly at first, the empty slots for sessions fill up with Post - it notes containing session titles and names of facilitators. Topic ideas are limitless and range from discussions on Next Gen Science Standards, to Google tools and tips, to sketchnoting basics, and podcasts in the classroom. Be ready to learn from and with the talented people who are willing to give up their Saturday in order to attend EdCamp!

Why is the rule of mobility (also known as “the rule of two feet”) so fantastic? Say you walk into a session and the title was misleading or the content doesn't hit the level of skill you desire and need - simply gather your things, stand up and walk out. With the digital session board you will be able to find a different session that is better suited for you.

  1. an idea. Come with an idea of something you want to learn more about or you want to discuss; EdCamp is not about presentations and slide decks - it's about learning and growing together. Sessions are often created spur-of-the-moment - out of curiosity, need, or a conversation sparked over the customary breakfast of bagels and coffee. Don't see a session regarding a topic you want to explore and you're too shy to facilitate? Get over it! Just kidding (sort of). Seriously, let the person running the session board now what you are interested in and she or he may create a wishlist. Someone else might lead the session for you (until you're ready to do it at your next EdCamp!).

  1. snacks and a beverage. I never go anywhere without food! Grab your favorite portable snacks and your favorite drink and tuck them into your bag. While most EdCamps serve breakfast and lunch, not all meals are created equally and I like to be prepared, so that I don't get cranky and I'm always ready to learn. Be sure to check the EdCamp website for particulars about food.

  1. something to write on and with. Believe it or not, as a Tech coach I do most of my best creative work with a pen and paper and over the past year have truly taken to sketchnoting. There's something magical about the power of pen and paper. Bring it back-up pen - the ideas will be flowing and you don't want to run out of ink!

  1. a charged device and charger - preferably one with a keyboard. I cannot tell you how many times I've attended or hosted a session at a conference (EdCamp or otherwise) where the participants have been woefully unprepared because they did not bring a computer or other device of choice (phones and tablets are great but only if you are familiar with how to take notes on them). Why am I recommending digital tools and note-taking when I just sang the praises of sketchnotes and analog tools? Simple. Another amazing feature of any EdCamp I've attended has been the digital session board created in real time as topics are added to the physical board. Attached to each session is a collaborative Google doc for participants to use to crowdsource the new learning taking place in the session. Participants and session facilitators are invited to add resources and notes as well as participant information. This not only helps to get ALL of the information discussed in the room, but it keeps the conversation going when session and/or conference end. It's also a great way for you to “attend” more than one session at the same time, especially if participants have been taking copious notes in the shared doc. (Take those notes!) By the way, if you and your friend split up, this is a great way for you to share notes later. In fact, you get everyone's notes!

So, there you have it, my top six things for you to bring to your first EdCamp. This is in no way, shape, or form the definitive list of what to bring, but I can assure you - come EdCamp Day, I will have these six things with me!

Are you an experienced EdCamper? What would you bring? Is this your first EdCamp? What are you packing with you for the day?