So, this blog post has been running through my head for a few weeks now, ever since I attended my very first EdCamp in Detroit. I tweeted a little bit about it, but I felt I needed to put my thoughts in writing. Sometimes I am not exactly sure how I feel about something until I have written about it!
I was really excited about this “unconference” experience. I am generally a person who really loves conferences, and since this was billed as even better, I was pumped! Plus I looked at it as a way to connect more with some local teachers.
I’d like to just list some of my impressions…
The whole thing was free, including parking! Excellent!
Bathrooms were not functioning on our floor. Signage needed!
Very awesome spread of Panera bagels and Starbucks coffee. Nice!
I wish I had known that the first 2 hours were simply waiting for people to sign up for presentation slots and milling around. I would have slept in! Newbies!
As my colleague and I sat waiting for the unconference to begin, two different people approached us, told us a little about what was going on, and generally made sure we felt comfortable and included. That was really nice!
Many of the session slots filled up quite quickly. They added another room. I like the flexibility in that.
For supposedly being an “unconference” it seemed strangely a lot like a conference.
Many presenters clearly had their presentations all mapped out. They had catchy titles for their sessions. I even saw a couple of powerpoints. I mean, I don’t care, but then don’t act like this is a revolutionary conference.
Although everyone was very nice, a few people seemed to be a little overbearing in their domination of the conversations. I get it, you are a good teacher. But how about you be quiet and listen for a few minutes? Stop trying to formulate your next point while the other person is speaking. It is a conversation, not a debate.
People here seemed very clique-y. There was definitely an “in crowd.” Maybe I am just jealous. And if you are going to sit in a session and have a running conversation with your friends, how about you take it to the café across the street? That behavior is rude, even at an unconference.
Vote with your feet wasn’t working. Most people were NOT voting with their feet. And I looked around and I could see that people WANTED to but were holding back. In one session, the presenter (and I definitely DO mean presenter–straight-up lecture format) spent quite a lengthy time standing right next to the door on the side of the room. I felt trapped! In 2 other sessions the furniture was packed in the room and there were a lot of people, meaning it would have been completely awkward/impossible to get up and leave.
There seemed to be a lot of “yay us!” cheerleading. Repeated accolades about how wonderful we all are for giving up our Saturday, and how revolutionary we are. Ok, I like myself too. Now let’s stop talking about it.
There seemed to be a lot of “conventional wisdom” here. “Hand raising? Psht! That’s so old school. What kind of Nazi makes kids raise hands?” “Using the same lesson plans again? Whatevs. My kids explore organically.” “Teacher talk is so 1960s. My kids have no idea what my voice sounds like. If I need to speak, my Voki does it for me!” Ok, I am being a little snotty, but seriously some people seemed a little dismissive of those who weren’t teched-out flippers with free-range students!
Basically, I think EdCamp is a step in the right direction, but could be better. I was not blown away by it, and I do not think it is vastly superior to the experiences I’ve had at “regular” conferences. In fact, I have had many much better experiences at regular conferences.
I’d like to thank @michellek107 for sharing some great reading with me on this subject!