This was my first experience with an Edcamp, other than following tweets during other past events online.
On its website, http://www.edcamplondon.ca, Edcamp London was described as a “discussion centered on teaching and learning, not tools.” I have always been a lifelong learner and this definitely piqued my interest. Further down the site I read, “It is people who love education hanging out with people who love education.” There it was. I was hooked. Luckily, it was posted that edcamp was “not solely for teachers,” so I signed up! I could not wait to see what sessions the attendees would choose.
Registration was simple and after receiving three informational e-mails in the weeks leading up to edcamp, I was feeling good about attending. I found there were a few other parents, not educators, who had also signed up for the conference, although I was the only parent from London. It felt incredible knowing I would be sharing a day of learning with other educational-minded parents and teachers, and was hoping to connect with new people.
I quickly became excited Saturday morning, watching the tweets and photos being posted from edcamp. People started to arrive at 8 a.m. and by the time I showed up, it was fairly busy. The introduction in the auditorium did not start until 9:30 a.m., so I was very surprised to see there were no informal introductions made prior to that. People were sitting with their groups, drinking coffee and choosing the sessions they were most interested in taking part in. This would have been an ideal time to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves — even just by name and city — so when we met up again in the breakout sessions, we may remember something about the people we were with.
In any case, edcamp started on time which was a fabulous way to the start the day! There were issues with reading the small print showing on the screen, but luckily almost everyone had access to reading the sessions online.
When I arrived at my first session, I saw that it was small. There were seven of us, before the facilitator arrived. To have in-depth discussions, this seemed like a good number. We took turns introducing ourselves to learn a little about each other, which was fantastic. This was the ONLY session I attended where introductions were made, and I was able to connect with these people throughout the day, as well as adding them through Twitter to build on our relationships made today.
The second session I attended was much larger. We used the auditorium, so sometimes it was difficult to hear people’s thoughts if they didn’t speak up. The best part of this session was being hooked up with the people from Tilbury (at Edcamp SWO). Sharing our ideas with their ideas was amazing, since there weren’t very many similarities. Two different conversations on the same topic showed many ideas. We were told google docs would be available to everyone later that day, so the learning would continue, even after the conference. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this session and found myself tweeting, as well as checking out other tweets from people in the same room.
Lunch followed this second breakout session. I overheard a few complaints concerning health and safety, and would definitely recommend that serving utensils for vegetables be used for any future event. Other than that issue, food did not run out (which is always a concern at conferences) and the dessert table was most talked about (and tweeted!) for the next hour or so. During the lunch period, people were asked to vote on new subjects for the afternoon sessions and quickly they were decided upon.
I stopped to talk with three teachers from my son’s school and realized most of us were planning on attending the keynote speaker in the auditorium (live from Tilbury), so we made our way there. There was no facilitator in this session, just someone from the organizing team to make sure the video was ready to go. Unfortunately, we waited in the auditorium for 19 minutes before the speaker began. During this time, I would have loved to have had some type of discussion occur, as I felt this was actually wasting our time. This session was only an hour long and almost half of it was spent sitting and waiting. When the keynote speaker began, there were many ‘inside jokes’ that only delegates from the #edcampswo would understand (ie. half the people are still at the bowling alley). Another waste of our time, being at the #edcampldn. Soon enough, he was presenting information about himself, what he does, stories about his work, people he follows on twitter, shoutouts to other educational bloggers online…but after 20 minutes into the keynote, I did not feel as if he were presenting what I had thought he would be. I also felt as if everything he did present was aimed toward educators, and not people interested in education in general. I was disappointed and left early.
In hindsight, I should have used the “Rule of Two Feet” and left early in that session, during the 20 minutes at the beginning where nothing happened. Lesson learned.
All in all, I did find this edcamp to be a great learning experience. I was able to connect with new people, who I hope will remain in contact throughout the years. To give up a day off work to attend edcamp was definitely worth it. Kudos to the organizers of London’s first edcamp.