Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Organizers Reflection of #EdCampOmaha

It's about time. A week later, I'm finally carving out some time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to reflect about another amazing EdCamp Omaha.
Because I'm so late, I've had the opportunity to read some insightful reflections of the day from the people that matter the most - the attendees. Because they all captured the day so well, I'm going to direct you to all of their blog posts and reflect on some other things from an organizers perspective. Thanks to Michelle, MichelleDarin, Guy, Ann, Brent, Alex, Jennifer, Kristina, the camera-toting teacher Laura and all the others who gave their feedback about the day. I truly appreciate the feedback and hope we can address some of the critiques that I've seen as well. We are far from perfect, but I feel we learn more each year and I really like how we do things at EdCamp Omaha.
One of the most important times for me is the before and after of EdCamps. Twitter allows educators to connect on a regular basis, but I really love the opportunity to sit down with people in a more social setting. It allows you to get to know them a little more personally. Saturday night a group of 8-10 of us went to The Blatt for supper. I shared something that had been rolling in my head for a while - attendance. To be clear, I'm not disappointed in our attendance, even though it was slightly less than the last two years. I don't concern myself with having x number of people, because when we had 60 people show up, the conversations were just as rich as when we've had 130. But if you click on any of the links above, you read about how energizing of an experience EdCamp is, how refreshing being around all of those passionate educators is, and how attendees leave wanting more professional development like this - how many times do you hear people want more professional development? 
During one of the breaks, I got to talk with Joe from NE Loves PS, one of our local sponsors who does GREAT work across the state (they even let me on their blog!). We talked about the quality of educator that attends EdCamp Omaha (any EdCamp, for that matter) and we both agreed that, while there are definitely others like them out there, these educators realize this isn't an 8-4 job. They genuinely love education, kids, and being a learner. 
It got me to thinking more about how do we get more people there, so they can feel the same feelings that you read about in the posts above? I don't have a great answer, but Saturday evening allowed me to do some brainstorming with those at Blatt. We'll never get 1000 teachers there. Things happen. Life happens. My wife reminds me often that our target demographic is 25-55ish (*edited after comments & more reflection :)) year olds, working people, many married, many with kids. Giving up a Saturday is tough, and as the father of three I completely understand and am not criticizing them. But I know that there are educators out there in that demographic who would have a better understanding of why I, with three kids, have made time the last four years for a dozen EdCamps if we just get them in the door. Why three people traveled 6+ hours to come last week. Why about 20 more traveled over 2 hours. They would see how empowering it is to have a voice and learn with others who were born to do what they do. Another analogy that I've been think about is that EdCamps are kind of like churches - if you are a religious person, it's a no-brainer that you make time to attend church regularly. But how often do you bring someone new with you? How easy is it for you to explain what you get out of attending in a way that someone else is compelled to devote time and energy to attending (I'm horrible at this)? It's something that I think about a lot and have been keeping more resources for next spring. I'm also hoping to infiltrate some other list serves after January 1st to get the word out a little better. Admittedly, we had significantly increased attendance the first three years so I wrongly assumed that EdCamp Omaha would promote itself. Live and learn.
EdCamp Omaha continues to be a great event and one that I'm very proud to organize with a wonderful minion like Kristina.
We have such great educators that give up their time to make the day so great, I just hope we can share the wealth some more!
Thanks to everyone who attended and reflected! You really make the time and effort easily worth it! Follow our website and @EdCampOmaha - we've hopefully got a big announcement coming in the future!


Doug Mahoney said...

My first chance to get to say "Thanks" for providing me the opportunity to be a part of my first edcamp. I don't fit the demographic (but we won't talk about my age) I plan to be a yearly participant. It took me a while to get warmed up and to start talking, but one I did it was very empowering.
I will be discussing this model as a way to deliver meaning ful pd for our staff and I hope we can head in that direction.
Once again, thanks and I'll see you next year!

Josh Allen said...

I sometimes forget how close I am to the end of that demographic. Perhaps I need to expand it. :)
Thanks for your contributions last week and the comment here. I'm glad you made it and look forward to seeing you there next year!

Ann Feldmann said...

Great post, Josh! Thanks for sharing your reflection! A huge thank YOU to you for all you do to make this event happen each year! We appreciate all you do! I LOVE the conversations and those conversations are the kindling that sparks ideas in all of us. Having time set aside to connect and share is powerful. Thanks for creating the environment that is positive and productive. Being with such positive people for a day fills me with vigor and energy!

Pam Krambeck said...

I was in Arizona for baseball spring training (even visited the Cleveland complex in Goodyear) during EdCamp this year but I was able to follow some great conversations via Twitter. Attending EdCamp the last three years has been a very positive and energizing experience but the social media posts allowed me to have some "take aways" from the conference as a virtual attendee. (I too am outside the targeted demographic--let's push that up a bit!)

Kristina Peters said...

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on the day, Josh. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write about the day, so I understand why it might have taken a bit longer to process. :)

I am wondering if some of the many committees and organizations that we are a part of could devote half of their meeting time in the unconference model like this to give people a sampling of an Edcamp. Surely if people get a taste of this, they will want more...right? This is genuinely the only way in which I can imagine this gaining momentum. Or perhaps we need to look at more bribes. That could always work too. ;)

Regardless of numbers, EdCampOmaha always manages to be a day of honest conversations that continue to push me when I become comfortable. It has become part of my life every year and an eventful weekend that I willingly commit to because it matters. I am so honored to be your minion and help make this happen!

brent.catlett said...

It is a very interesting and somewhat complex deal Josh as you highlight. I often wonder about lots of things in education as you well know. This "edcamp" thing is no different. I wonder how I would utilize it today if I were still an admin, or why more people won't come.
Your religious analogy is spot on I think. Maybe like many things out there, one teacher at a time is better than none. I do hope more new people could come and experience, but the sad truth is many may never. I like Kristina's thoughts on infiltrating other areas to give them a taste.
I appreciate you and Kristina and the time you devote to making Omaha a success! It is always a great weekend!

Josh Allen said...

Thanks for everyone's feedback and support. It's people like you who make the event as valuable as it is!

Peg Coover said...

Great post! I think you are lucky to have a wonderful minion like Kristina! Thanks for a great EdCamp!