Saturday, April 27, 2013

Edcamps Have Been Hijacked!

Full disclosure first:
I attended an amazing "EdCamp" today and had a fabulous time meeting some awesome people. Many of the people on the planning committee I know at least casually. My gut feeling is they worked their butts off getting this together and many educators left today excited. 
End disclosure

With all that said, I do have a comment to make:

I believe Edcamps as a whole have been hijacked!

That's right. EdCamps are under attack and being stolen from educators all over. By who? People like me. Presenters. Consultants. People who have something to share and are looking for a venue. Wait. Wait just a second. I thought Edcamps were suppose to be about people sharing. Well they are. By definition:

Edcamps are unconferences for educators where learners share their experiences and their professional expertise in a collaborative, interactive learning environment -

There's a keyword in that definition LEARNERS! Edcamps were designed to be learner driven and collaborative and interactive

You know what I saw today? The same thing I see at other conferences. Presenters (some very seasoned) rushing to the "session schedule" to fill it up with what they wanted to lecture about. In the rooms, those same presenters hooked up their computers and started their canned and ready to go presentations. For the next hour or so, the presenter talked and everyone else listened. **This was not the case for EVERY session**.

Um. What happened to the collaborative and interactive part? Where were the learners asking for what they wanted to learn about? They were sitting in rooms listening to what presenters wanted to talk about. That's wrong. It's all wrong. It's not what the Edcamp model is! 
Edcamps strive to provide space for teachers to learn from each other. They give everyone a voice and a forum to explore new ideas and
The very last session today, I sat with a small group of people and we discussed the Edcamp model. We were trying to decipher what has happened to it. We started with a couple of questions we had. Why are there tweets a day or two before an Edcamp with people "getting ready for their #EdCampXXX presentation"? Why has this "interactive, unpredictable format" been taken over and turned into the same experience as every other "traditional" conference? We're honestly not sure. I certainly don't have all the answers for how to return Edcamps to their intended purpose. But there are a couple of things the group noted:

  • Like teaching or any other group activity, Edcamps need solid facilitators who lead by example.
    Start the morning off with a five minute example of what a "session" will feel like. Act it out, play a video, make a parody, whatever it takes. Let first-timers know what to expect and set the tone for everyone.
    **Hint: Everyone gets to participate and have a voice. Everyone has something to share. 
  • Have a facilitator in every room/space.
    They can help ensure no one becomes the glory hound and, if need be, get the discussion started. 
  • Words are POWERFUL!
    There are no presenters. There are educators sharing their expertise. Sharers, facilitators, learners, guides, discussion starter, whatever you want to call them;  they are not presenters. Stop calling them that.
    There also aren't "sessions" in the traditional sense. There are discussions or conversations. 
  • Learners make the schedule. Period.
    It isn't about what a presenter has ready to go. It's about what every single person in that room wants to know. The conversations/discussions aren't focused on someone's presentation. They revolve around the wants and "need to knows" of the group that has gathered. The group/room then fleshes that out through sharing and collaboration. As Dean Shareski always says "The smartest person in the room IS the room". That's a pretty great tagline for Edcamps.
    **Dean got that from David Weinberger's work.**
Out there somewhere, I'm sure they exist in their pure form. You know, EdCamps as they were intended. Sadly, that's not what I'm seeing in practice. 

What's been your experience? Are you getting Edcamps as they were intended or has yours been hijacked?

Post lagniappe:
How then does this thing happen? There are many ways. My personal favorite is to utilize two colors of sticky notes. On one color, everyone writes everything/something/anything they want to learn about. (Every participant is given the opportunity and encouraged to participate). Those go up on the "schedule" and can be grouped and arranged according to interest. Meanwhile, every participant is given the opportunity and encouraged to write on a different colored sticky note what they are "good" at or want to share about. Those second sticky notes are then paired with the first. The schedule is designed about WHAT people want to learn. WHO is around to have that conversation and offer insight and information comes second. It's not the other way around!