Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Edcamp with a Side of Encore

Chattanooga, Tennessee had its 6th annual Edcamp GigCity in January. Every year, at the end of the edcamp, participants are asked to give feedback in order to qualify for the door prizes that will be given out next. The planning team has always taken that feedback seriously. Due to feedback, the entire event was moved to January instead of May two years ago. Due to feedback, the edcamp changed a bit. Every year there was always a bit of feedback that attendees wished there were some choices to just attend led sessions to learn things. Our team has always held tight our desire to truly model the edcamp philosophy of participant-driven discussions. We realized that many edcamps also have people truly "presenting" but we liked the simplicity of everyone being seen as an equal in sessions and didn't choose to have sessions with presenters.

That being said, if you truly value feedback, then you must consider what it suggests. Hearing 3-5 people each time we had edcamp say "I wish I could have learned more about (blank)" or "I didn't know enough about a subject to take part and I wish someone could have just presented" kept blaring through to me. I was less concerned with the feedback where people just wanted the opportunity to be presenters and more concerned that some of the attendees wanted to be presented to. We talked back and forth about what we could do to accommodate this request and finally, I reached out to Hadley Ferguson of Edcamp USA and had the following conversation:

Julie Davis

Sat, Jan 20, 2018, 10:00 PM
to Hadley
I have been the lead organizer for Edcamp Gigcity for the last 3 years and today we had our fifth annual event. I’m currently sitting here reading responses from the feedback form we asked attendees to fill out and I wanted your opinion on something.

It was always my understanding that Edcamps were to be organic in nature with facilitators but not presenters. We have some other area Edcamps that have adopted the model of having presenters/leaders but we have stuck with the more organic sharing model. Is there a right or wrong way? What’s your opinion on this? 

As I read over the responses I see requests for sessions that are led as well as requests for being allowed to lead sessions. I see the benefit of both ideas but I just wanted an Edcamp opinion. 

And FYI, it was an amazing day with 80+ educators attending and an overall positive response about it. I’m thankful to be a part of the unconference movement! 

Julie Davis

Hadley Ferguson

Mon, Jan 22, 2018, 4:33 PM
to me

This is such an interesting issue, and one that happens all the time. The longer edcamps go on, the more this is an issue. It is behind our strategy of having Encore Days as well as Edcamps. The Encore day provides a time for those with specific knowledge to share it with people who are interested in the topic, which has surfaced during the Edcamp. Perhaps there is a way to combine them, so that part of the day is organic and then part of it is targeted. 

I worry about becoming too much about people presenting their slidedecks, though if the Rule of Two Feet is firmly in place, then teachers can choose. My guess is that people are going to do it both ways. 

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on it,

Well Hadley, here are my thoughts! We sat down as a committee and we decided that part of the day would remain the traditional edcamp but the last session of the day would look like the Encore model. While it wasn't necessarily organic in nature because who knew what people would actually want to know more about, it seemed to work! Several members of our planning team volunteered to lead sessions for the last time slots of the day. That way if edcamp purists wanted to leave after lunch, they could. The feedback seemed to lend itself to positive in nature. Perhaps next year we will even change it to the last 2 time slots of the day and open it up to all attendees to have the opportunity to truly present on a topic? The truth is that with the rule of two feet, one doesn't have to worry if it isn't worthwhile or not. Attendees will decide by their actions. 

Does any other edcamps do something like this? 

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