Organizing an EdCamp, Part 2

Organizing an EdCamp, Part 2

tweeps from EdCampSFBay

Since the last post, Organizing an EdCamp part 1, EdCampSFBay came and went. It was an epic day that went by way too fast. One of my goals was to blog about the experience as it happened, since I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I decided to help plan an EdCamp. Well, that didn’t happen. As it turns out, there are lots of last minute details that take priority over blogging. So, now that EdCampSFBay is over, I finally have some time to reflect on it.

The Details

When I finished part one of this post, all the essentials of EdCampSFBay were in place. We had a Twitter handle, a website, a Facebook page, a Google group, and a PayPal account. As the date began to approach, dozens of details popped up. Some were small like picking up a colleague on the way to the event, and others were large like designing a shirt in six hours. (By the way, if you are organizing your own EdCamp (or other unconference-type event), take care of the shirts early. Seven days beforehand is not enough time.) I was surprised to learn that our sponsors were anxious in helping with these details. I thought they would just donate money/swag and be done, but they truly helped put on this event. A huge thank you to both Edutopia and Collaborize Classroom for making such a positive difference in EdCampSFBay.

Lessons Learned

  1. Design shirts early. I already mentioned this one. We weren’t sure exactly how much money was coming in, so we waited until the last minute to design and order shirts. Everything worked out, but we could have ordered more for the same price if we had purchased them 14 days ahead of time.
  2. Plan the after party and the pre-party. We had the after party planned well before EdCampSFBay. Hopefully, everyone at the EdCamp knew about the plan, and felt welcome. What I didn’t think about just beforehand was the pre-party. I drove up to Santa Rosa to visit Collaborize, help with swag, and visit Russian River Brewing. I mentioned the plan to a few people, but I should have made a huge announcement on Twitter, Facebook, and our website. It was a pretty big opportunity to get to know other EdCampSFBay attendees before the event. And, the beer was epic.
  3. It’s all about connections. A big goal of an unconference is to develop relationships with other educators. Arrive early, hang out between sessions with folks, and go to the pre-party and after party. It’s a rare chance to spend with with passionate, creative teachers.
  4. Be flexible. There were tons of last minute changes. Some were minor, others were a big deal. Enough said.
  5. Charge your iPad. You probably won’t walk around with a laptop, and your iPhone isn’t as easy to be on all day long.
  6. Get to know other tweeps. I have way more fun talking to someone if I’ve already developed a relationship on Twitter. Lots of tweeps that signed up for EdCampSFBay also filled out the Introduce Yourself part of the website. Make sure you’re following those people on Twitter before the event.
  7. Bring contact info. The next time I attend an EdCamp, I’m going to have a QR code with my Twitter URL. I might wear it, add it to my business card, or get a giant sticker made for my iPad. If you have a way to stay connected with folks, the conversations from EdCamp will continue.
  8. Education is often a hybrid word. EdCamp was the first example. EduAwesome, EduEpicness, and EduBrisket are also appropriate uses of the term.

Now that EdCampSFBay is over, I’m helping organize EdCampOCLA. I have already learned that each EdCamp crew is completely different. Each group has their own personality (in a good way). So take this post with a grain of salt–your EdCamp experience will be nothing like mine.

Organizing an EdCamp, Part 1

Organizing an EdCamp, Part 1

First of all, this series of blog posts is not intended to be a step-by-step guide for creating your own EdCamp–that’s what the how-to on the EdCamp Wiki is for. Rather, I want to give you a realistic view into what it takes to help put on an EdCamp. So, here’s my experience from my point of view. (Your experience planning will be quite different. You have been fairly warned.)

It all started on a dark and stormy Sunday evening. The sun has just set beneath the quiet, yet smoggy Southern California foothills when I received a direct message from @seani on Twitter: “Would you want to help organize an edcamp in San Francisco?” My enthusiastic, 140 character response: “Yes.” And so, it was borne, standing on the shoulders of giants: I started to help planEdCampSFBay.

Last January, I attended EdCampOC. This absolutely changed the way I interact with teachers, and has been the single greatest day of professional develop I have experienced. I was so stoked on the day that I blogged about it and dedicated an entire podcast episode to EdCamp. So, when @seani invited me to help out with EdCampSFBay, I knew what I was getting myself into, and was eager to assist.

The first glimpse behind the curtain of organizing an EdCamp was the shared Google Doc spreadsheet. @seani modified a copy of a planning doc from EdCampOC. This simple spreadsheet is a to-do list–organizers simply signed up for jobs they wanted. And so, the gears slowly began turning.

The next step was to create a Google Group. @dowbiggin set up the group, and invited folks that were on the spreadsheet. This is my first experience with Google Groups–so far, I’m a huge fan. When you reply to a thread, it automatically emails everyone in the group. It ends up being several emails early on, but it’s a great way to quickly communicate, delegate, and move forward in the planning process.

Meanwhile, I signed up on the spreadsheet to create the EdCampSFBay logo. I visited the official EdCamp logo page (on the EdCamp Wiki ) and downloaded the high resolution EdCamp logo. I started a thread in our Google Group for the logo, uploaded logo ideas (to my server, billselak.com, notto the Google Group), and we voted informally in the threaded discussion. @VisionsByVicky brilliantly revised the logo, and we were all in agreement.

Several other people were working on amazing things at the same time. I know that @Dave_Orphal secured our location, and @dowbiggin set up a PayPal account for donations. We suddenly had a Facebook page, and several retweets about EdCampSFBay… I don’t know what else was happening at that point, but I suppose that’s the point of helping organize an EdCamp. I do have a good excuse, though, because…

I started building the website next. Again, I started a new thread on our Google Group and got plenty of input from everyone. Since I already have my own domain with BlueHost, I could create a new WordPress website for EdCampSFBay. Essentially, it only cost $10 (for the domain name), and we had our own website up and running. For a week or so, I spent about three hours every night building and fine tuning the site. I took/borrowed/stole the basic organization of the site from the EdCampOC website, and modified it to meet our needs. I added some contact forms and we were set.

At this point, we had a:

  • website
  • Twitter account
  • Facebook page
  • PayPal account
  • Google Group

At this point, I should stop and mention that I already knew nearly all the organizers from Twitter. I met many of them face-to-face at EdCampOC in January 2011. Other I met at CUE 11 in March 2011. I think it’s important to have already have a relationship with some of the organizers before planning an EdCamp. If you’re reading this and you are a teacher that’s not on Twitter, get on it! Seriously, start now–follow all the people on my @EdCampSFBay on Twitter.