Organizing our First EdCamp – Catholic EdCamp Chicago

Catholic EdCamp Chicago blended logo

Although we hosted Catholic EdCamp Chicago on March 7, 2015 , I have a difficult time describing the event as a single day.  The planning began over 3 months ago with the recruiting of capable and willing teachers (Sue our Librarian, Nancy – Math teacher, and Erin – Math teacher), who saw the benefit of the EdCamp model.  To be perfectly honest, I recruited our Librarian for her OCD skills, which is something I am not, nor will I ever be. We needed Sue, because we had to be on task and on time in order to make this all work, and I knew she was the right person for this job.  Nancy and I had attended multiple EdCamps over the past couple years – our first one being a 2 1/2 hour road trip, in a snowstorm, to Madison Wiscon.  At EdCamp Chicago I attended the ‘how to run an EdCamp‘ session, and came back to school that Monday with a vision to host a Catholic School EdCamp. I wanted to bring free, and more importantly, useful Professional Development to the Catholic Schools of Chicago.

Communication
We utilized Google Drive and Email as our communication method more than meetings because of our schedule conflicts, and thanks to Google Sheets, we were able to stay on track of what was being accomplished when, and by whom.  We included links to Sponsors websites, addresses and phone numbers of schools, a checklist with due dates. This was truly the backbone of our organizational efforts. Sponsors

Sessions
We had a small group of teachers in attendance, so we punted on our original plan of 4 – 1 hour sessions, and created 5 – 40 minute sessions in order to allow everyone’s ideas to be heard, and to keep the discussion groups large enough to be useful.  The fact that we were able to adjust our schedule on the day of the event once again proved why EdCamps are so effective in reaching teachers where they are.  One of our sessions included a Google Hangout with@kevenrinaman from Ohio which discussed free educational resources and included many resources for teachers with limited technology in their schools. Click here for Keven’s presentation. I want to personally thank @ShawnMcCusker for encouraging me to stay the course when I was too concerned about our low attendance figure. Once again, he was right.

Sponsors
We learned a lot when it came to sponsorship and much of that was due to the help we received from our Advancement department.  They reach out to companies and our alumni on a regular basis so they were very helpful in how to construct letters for requests, follow-up, and thank you’s.  I also used my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter and reached out to multiple tech companies. The vast majority of these companies gladly donated codes for free apps and subscriptions that we could use as raffle prizes. We had such a great outpouring of gifts from our sponsors which even included local Catholic Universities, that all of our attendees were able to leave with at least one gift. The prizes are definitely not a necessity to enhance learning, but it makes for a very enjoyable end to the day when prizes are handed out.  We also decided to give away some prizes to kick off the day and get the excitement going. I would encourage other EdCamps to follow suit on that decision, it was one of our best ones.

Looking Forward
I would love to host another EdCamp, especially now that the EdCamp organization is starting to put together “EdCamp in a Box“.  We learned a lot about sponsorships, where to look for donations, and most importantly how to reach more teachers when the vast majority of our target market is not involved in Social Media. If I have to drive a bus around to multiple high schools and pick up teachers to bring them to their first EdCamp, I’d be willing to  do it. I would do it because I know that ultimately the students will be the ones to benefit from it, and that’s why we are all here.

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About Sean Scanlon

Director of Instructional Technology Marian Catholic High School Google Certified Trainer
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