Note: I did the edcamp with 37 9th grade students during a 90-minute block AVID elective period.
What is an edcamp?An edcamp is an un-conference model that started in Philidelphia but has spread throughout the country. Basically, people come together with two simple questions: what do we want to learn? and what am I able to share that others want to learn? Usually, edcamps are made up of teachers coming together to talk about teachery stuff (like locally at edcamp 612 or edcamp Hueneme). Within an hour of meeting, teachers use two different color post-it notes and a taped off-grid to create a board of sessions that were not prepared in advance (see image). Then, we meet in small groups to share and learn together in an informal way! Here are a couple of pics from local teacher edcamps to give you a sense of what they are all about:
How did we start planning the student-led edcamp?We started very simply by asking the same questions of students that we ask of teachers:
1. What do you want to learn?
2. What can you share that others want to learn?
I gave them 2 different color post-it notes (one for each question). They added them to the board and we had conversations to figure it all out! We took about 25 minutes on this convo and then moved on with other content that we needed to cover, which made the planning a multi-step process. Note, there were some sessions that immediately stood out as high interest. Then, there was a list of sessions that were "looking for facilitators" and "looking for learners." I wanted students to be open to those sessions for our next planning period. You can see on the image below what topics my students brainstormed initially.
I made a padlet with all potential sessions and had students commit to which sessions they wanted to attend by commenting on the thread with their name. Then, we added sessions, narrowed the field, and selected locations based the number of participants. I was also able to have a quick conversation with student leaders who had sessions picked by others. This conversation was just an encouragement to prepare in advance for meaningful facilitation without being a "sage on the stage."
What did it look like:
Student leaders prepared in lots of different ways for their sessions! Some students made slide decks, most facilitators had hands-on activities, a few had videos and there were lots of other things! Here are some pictures of some of their sessions:
The Session Board:
You can see we ran 3 sessions that were 20 minutes each in 3 locations. Sessions that had small projected attendance were combined in different areas of the same room.
A Student-Led Calligraphy Session:
The student is using a document camera in to show others how to write in calligraphy style. The participants all have paper and markers to try it out and compare notes!
Student-Led American Sign Language Session:
These students even took it upon themselves to write "student learning outcomes" for their session on the board! One wonderful thing about this session is that students who took ASL at the community college this year are actually teaching students who will be taking ASL at the community college next year, so these are very relevant skills students are teaching each other!
Students in an esports session exchanging Nintendo Switch Tips:
Student-Led Yoga and Breathing Session:
Students enjoying some outdoor relaxation. A few days after this edcamp, two different students told me that they have been using these relaxation techniques before homework in the evenings! I love that they are using what they learned in their real life!
Student-Led Cultural Dance Session:
This was such a cool session that saw students outside, active in the fresh air, sharing culture, and having fun!
Student-Led Intro to Spanish:
This student facilitator prepared a slide deck and games to introduce Spanish to classmates who will start college Spanish 101 in the fall.
Student-Led Intro to Acting:
Students in this session participated in improv activities in our outdoor amphitheater!
Student-Led Drawing Session:
Participants in this session got a lot of hands-on help from facilitators.
1. When the edcamp was over, students filled out a branching google form that asked them which session they went through, how the session went, and what they learned. I used this data to inform my own instruction and assess student participation.
2. Then, next time that we met, we had a class discussion to debrief. We talked about celebrations, areas of improvements and extensions. Below is a summary of our major take-aways.
- Students loved that they could share their passions with their classmates! They almost unanimously voted to do another edcamp soon!
- Students enjoyed having choices for where they wanted to spend their time.
- Students and I loved how many of the student leaders created hands-on activities with their own unique style!
- Part of our goal in AVID is to develop student leaders, and this activity gave students an authentic audience to lead!
- The planning, implementing, and debriefing was an authentic way to practice vital soft skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity!
- Students said they had fun...at school.
Areas for Improvement:
- 2 out of 11 of the sessions were not considered successful, as measured by my observation and student feedback. They were scattered. Facilitators were not well prepared. Participants didn't leave the session inspired or with a new skill. Part of me is okay with that. It is important to fail sometimes. It is important to take risks. It is important for students to see me being okay with taking risks and failing... Not every session works in an adult edcamp either. That being said, I think next time, I will emphasize that participants need to leave a session with a clear activity, skill, or creation.
- I planned for this edcamp on fun topics to lead to another one on more content specific topics. However, in the debrief conversation, my students were very reluctant to move in that direction, and actually said it would "ruin everything" so I will have to continue to think about how we will work that out...
Thank you for stopping by and reading about our inaugural edcamp Griffin! Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions!