EdCamp Okanagan Reflection

Saturday was the culmination of many months of planning by  Carolyn Durley, Naryn Searcy, Darcy Mullin and me.  EdCamp Okanagan in Kelowna happened on Saturday, and what a ride!

I’m not sure when Carolyn, Darcy and Naryn decided to host an EdCamp, but in the summer Naryn contacted me to see if I would like to be involved.  I’d never been to an EdCamp and was keen to see one occur locally.  Over the next few months the four of us met in Google Hangouts to plan the event.  

Two weeks prior to EdCampOK we only had 20 registrants, and that included the four of us.  We started to get a little concerned!  Registration started to pick up though, and by the day of the EdCamp we had 64 registrants.  I’m not sure how many people actually attended, but it must have been close to 60 (some couldn’t make it, and others registered in person).  This ended up being a pretty good number.  With much fewer than this we wouldn’t have been able to offer as many sessions.  Much more than this and it may have been more difficult to manage; at least for our first time doing EdCamp!  We had a broad range of participants; K – 12 teachers, UBC-O student teachers, principals and vice principals, at least one superintendent as well as a director of instruction, an education consultant, an environmental educator, and a UBC-O professor.  Participants came from Salmon Arm, Sorrento, Enderby, Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Rossland, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, and Oliver. 

An EdCamp is an ‘un-conference’ of sorts.  All attendees are expected to participate in the event.  The EdCamp starts out with participants suggesting topics, often by writing them upon a whiteboard.  After a certain point people are then asked to vote for topics they’d like to see make it on the schedule.  In our case we gave participants three post-it notes to stick under their top three topics.  We then sent everyone off to an introductory session where Tom Schimmer explained the EdCamp model and answered questions.  During this time we tallied votes and set up the schedule.  Tom must have done a wonderful job explaining things because when it was time for the first sessions to begin, everyone headed off to the discussion rooms and no one looked lost or confused :-)  


During the first three time slots we ran 3 concurrent sessions each 55 minutes long.   In the first time slot I attended a session facilitated by Paul Kelly.  He shared his school’s experience piloting Chrome Books and Google Apps.  There was a lot of interest in the relatively low cost Chrome Books and people were impressed with how Paul’s school was using Google Apps.  Interesting questions were raised regarding our responsibilities as educators when we are using cloud computing solutions.  For more on how Paul’s school is using Chrome Books and Google Apps, check out his blog; Eduglean. 

The second session I attended was led by Todd Manuel.  The session was titled ‘Social Emotional Support For At Risk Students’ and Todd shared the shift that his school had made in how it deals with at risk students.  Instead of isolating at risk students when things go wrong (by using out of school suspensions) they started using in-school suspensions and they made an effort to connect the student to multiple adults in the building.  Todd gave an example of a student, Mike (not his real name), who had shown up to school stoned.  Once the whole intervention was carried out Mike ended up being in contact with 8, yes 8 different adults in the building.  As a group we also talked about how just saying hello to at risk students in the hall is one way to start to build up a relationship.  Sure, they may ignore you the first 3, 4, 10 times, but eventually they may start to feel a connection.  Think of Mike; he now has 8 adults in the building saying hi, expressing an interest in how he’s doing.  Pretty powerful!  There was a really big group in this session, but there was still lots of opportunity to for small group discussions.

The third session I attended I was asked to facilitate.  The topic was pretty broad; Technology in Schools.  It was a medium sized group–I think there about 12 of us.  We shared the challenges we faced using technology, why we use technology, and what our ideal technology set up would be.  Lots of interesting discussion and I’m sure if we just had a little more time we could have solved everyone’s Education Technology woes ;-)

I enjoyed each of the sessions I attended.  They all differed in terms of numbers of participants, topics and general format.  I also met a large range of participants–there was not a lot of overlap between the different sessions.  It was also fabulous getting the opportunity to meet face-to-face people that I have known on Twitter for many years; they did not disappoint!

We rounded out the day by bringing everyone together for a session of ‘Things That Suck’ facilitated by Graham Johnson.  The format of this session is described here, but essentially a contentious topic in education is thrown out there and people are asked to stand on one side of the room if they think the topic sucks, the other side of the room if they think it doesn’t and in between if you are in between.  Once people have arranged themselves they are asked to talk to other members in their area about why they are standing where they are.  Then people are asked to share out.  It is a great way to explore different sides of an issue, and some people really get fired up!  It was an invigorating way to end the day.

As things wrapped up, Darcy, Carolyn, Naryn and I felt very positive about how things went.  There are definitely some things we would do differently, but overall it seemed that participants enjoyed the format and the discussions.  We found ourselves saying “when we do this next year…” which must be a good sign.




2 comments to EdCamp Okanagan Reflection

  • Hello Claire, thank-you for sharing your thoughts here and for stepping up as one of the EdCampOk team collaborators. You all helped deliver a great experience. As this was my first EdCamp I echo your post when you said that you had the chance to meet face-to-face with many who you have followed on Twitter or Blogs. I often wonder if online meet-ups or attending a conference from a distance delivers the same richness. After attending on Saturday I am confident that for me, personal connection via face-to-face, when supported through meaningful content, will forever remain key. Thanks again, Paul.

  • Hi Paul,
    I really enjoyed meeting you on Saturday and am glad that you were able to make it. Thank you for leading a session; I caught the second half and the discussions were fantastic! You obviously whetted people’s appetites and got things off to a great start.
    For me, EdCampOK was very invigorating; more so than what I get from online meet-ups or online conferences. However, each serves its own purpose and are complimentary to each other. To be able to dip my toe in an online discussion is far easier than devoting the greater part of a Saturday to my professional development. As you alluded to in your post it is all about balance.