Edcamps for teachers have taken the educational world by storm. Teachers, including myself, have been refreshed and renewed with the “edcamp style” of learning which consists of learning and sharing in an unconference format. In regular PD’s and conferences, you have to sit in one spot, even if you are not getting anything out of it. While, in edcamps, the rule of two feet allows you to move between sessions at your heart’s desire. You gain the opportunity to talk with other teachers and dive into learning organically.
After being apart of many edcamps across the nation, attending an edcamp leadership summit, and creating and co-leading a city-wide edcamp, I felt a stirring in my heart also to try it with students. I thought- If we know edcamps are beneficial for adults, isn’t worth a try to allow students to test them out as well? After all, giving students a voice and choice in their learning should be the compass in which we lead.
We learned an abundant amount throughout this process and through just diving in; We found out what worked, what did not work, and how we would build upon our foundation next time. I hope you find these tips below beneficial and encouraging to start a student edcamp at YOUR school:
*Disclaimer: At the end of the day, do what is best for YOUR kids. Feel free to use and takeaway whatever you love from this post and to transform it for your kids! What works for our 4th graders, may not work for your kids, and that is okay.
1. Stay focused on the learning
The edcamp model at its whole should be straightforward and focused on the learning. Period. Do not worry about there being prizes or treats. Keep your vision on the learning, student passions, and incorporating students into the process as much as possible.
2. Collaborate with others before jumping in
- Meet and collaborate with your colleagues online and in person at least a couple times before the edcamp.
- Create a skeleton outline of what you need to do, “before the edcamp,” “during the edcamp” and“after the edcamp.”
- Determine the time, date, and how many sessions you will have, and how long you want your sessions to be.
- Create a skeleton of a blank board (either digitally or on an anchor chart) for students to fill in at a later time.
- THINK: Do you want students to bring devices to research, if needed or do you want them to be device-less to focus on the conversations?
- We found some topics fit using technology better than others, while other sessions we learned needed materials/objects next time to make the session come to life.
- Agree on rooms or spaces you have available and supervision for each space.
- For our 4th graders, we chose three sessions with 20 minutes per session, and 5-minute transitions to move to the next session and to reflect with peers on their learning. Looking back, next time we will stick with 15 minutes per session.
3. Prepare students before the edcamp
Before the edcamp:
- Teachers discussed with their students what a true “discussion” looked like, and they practiced in small groups.
- Each class created norms on a padlet, and we discussed it as a group.
- We showed this elementary edcamp example video to students as an exemplar.
4. Meet with students the day before the edcamp
- Meet with all participating teachers and students together.
- Answer any questions students may have.
- As a group, we determined that each session slot time slot would have its own TOPIC. For example, for session 1, students chose TECHNOLOGY.
- After the session topic was set, students were then able to vote and agree upon different room ideas. The winners were: coding, ctrl shortcuts and tricks, google slides, and musically (See below for other session and room ideas!)
- For this process, I would highly recommend using Dotstorming to give students the opportunity to write in their ideas and then to vote. For each separate session, I created a different Dotstorming link to make it easy to organize.
- If access to devices is not available, have students brainstorm together and then vote by raising hands, tallying, or writing on a ballot.
5. Day of the Edcamp
- If you want a more clear idea of who is going to what session, create a Google form with dropdown choices.
- Send board sessions and any other needed items to students in Google Classroom to remind them of session times and locations.
- Meet together in one big space before starting to go over norms and to get EXCITED!
- Let go and LET KIDS LEAD.
- This is hard, but important.
- Step back and do your best to let students own their conversations and learn without teacher interruptions.
6. After the Edcamp
Give students time to reflect
- Discuss as a group how the edcamp went, their favorite parts, and how they want to change it next time.
- Give students a Google Form to gather honest feedback to make the next edcamp even better (Click this link to view my sample form).
- As a teacher team, go over the feedback.
- Then, pat yourselves on the back for a job well-done!
Ever since we had the edcamp, kids have been asking us non-stop to do another edcamp again! I highly encourage you to attend edcamps yourself first before starting a student edcamp. But, once you are ready to start a student edcamp- just DIVE IN. You will not regret it, and your students will thank you for being brave enough to take the plunge!
Soon, I will be teaming up with my 3rd grade team to launch another student edcamp where we will invite high schoolers who are inspiring teachers to co-lead sessions. Stay tuned on Twitter!