Sunday, February 25, 2018

"EdCamp! EdCamp! ETC!" and the hashtag effect

I've been chanting this in my head this month. EdCamp! EdCamp! ETC!

It has a nice ring to it.

February has offered some fabulous learning experiences and excellent connection-building opportunities. The shortest month of the year has been packed full of awesomeness. It kicked off with EdCamp0203 in Sacramento, CapCUE hosted the all-day event that included lunch midday. The day was full of so many good sessions, I had a difficult time choosing what to attend. The first session of the day rocked. I enjoyed collaborating with other educators as we discussed video and audio recording. We shared podcasts we enjoy and tools we use. The biggest take-away for me came from a math session in the afternoon. I still have to revisit some of the resources and see how I can incorporate them into my math instruction effectively. This year I have set my sights on focusing my learning in areas of STEAM, especially math. I have a goal of establishing a STEAM club and I am always interested in how to make my math instruction stronger with great engagement for my students. One day, I hope to get to a Bootstrap session, but that's a whole separate post for another time. The co-ordinators of EdCamp0203 did a really good job of providing collaborative resources using tools that teachers are using in their classrooms. Each session had a Padlet where we shared ideas, questions, and resources. There was a Flipgrid set up for the day where educators collaborated and shared as well. I haven't yet caught the "Flipgrid Fever" but seeing this particular application of it helped me see how it is something worth looking into more. It may be a toll I incorporate in the future, but for now I was happy to have it to use as part of my professional development.

The second Saturday of the month landed me in San Jose for another EdCamp. This one lasted for about half a day. It started with bagels and coffee provided by Panera as educators gathered, wrote their ideas on sticky notes and the session board was built. For the first time, in what seems like ages, I saw Craig Yen who I first met through attending various EdCamp events.  I missed seeing some of my favorite faces, but gave thanks for the location. Notre Dame High School provided a beautiful location that seems so full of campus life and a positive atmosphere. I took notice of inspiring notes on lockers and absorbed some of the various projects on display. Campus life appears to be strong and that helped make this smaller EdCamp event breathe a life of its own. Sessions were small and cozy with great ideas that developed through the day. Now two weeks out, I just closed the last of the Google Docs I had open from the day. We collaborated in Docs and emailed follow-ups from attendees kept the learning going.

The big event of the month came just yesterday. Every year the Stanislaus County Office of Education puts on ETC! I have greatly enjoyed his day filled with education technology learning the past few years. This year I presented for the third year in row. I brought back "Technology as the Swiss Army Knife of Education" with some updates. Interestingly, as I presented, I found that it is time for some more significant updates and I will make them then propose this one again in the near future. The other session I did was "If You Give a Kid a Camera." The cool thing was it was more than "my session." My ten-year-old Connor joined me for the second time this year in presenting it. He adds something special to the whole thing. We have a version I present solo and another version we present together. This one rocked! I look forward to building it, updating it, and continuing to present it with him. He and his sister have an idea for our EdTechFamily to present together in the future, too. I love that they love sharing ideas with educators and I hope educators are ready, willing, and able to listen. So far, so good. These kids bring such awesomeness to my life as a mom and as an educator and I enjoy seeing what they want to share with others.

The thing that makes my sessions improve with time is really quite simple. Feedback. I LOVE constructive criticism. I LOVE hearing what works. It is with feedback that I can return to what I have presented and find ways to improve it, update it, and make it what educators need. In an EdCamp format, we spend our days collaborating constantly. We share what works, what doesn't, and the why of it all. We learn because we go in and know that the smartest "person" in the room is the room itself. We have a day f give and take. We go to learn, to share, and to grow. Of course, those are also reasons we attend conferences such as ETC! The format is what varies, naturally. So, as a presenter at conferences, I anxiously await feedback. I know that I can sense certain things and that provides me with my own self-reflection and subsequent changes to what I present. However, feedback from attendees is always a significant factor. I have received straight criticism and it hurt. I found myself digging into it, trying desperately to find something constructive in it to use. I have received written high-fives. It makes me feel good, but lacks something substantial to tell me why something worked. All of that is ok, but, of course, I prefer constructive criticism. Knowing this about myself, I have worked to be more diligent in filling out feedback forms following sessions. I know that every presenter needs feedback. I have found another form of feedback that works really well.

A little over a year ago, I stumbled across the hashtag sticky notes at Dollar Tree. I instantly picked them up. And then I picked up some more. And some more. I saw them and I know that I needed them. The idea hit me instantly. "These are going with me to conferences!" I carry a couple of packs of them in my backpack. I keep them on hand for the end of sessions. It is perfect! Pull out the sticky notes, walk around the room, and ask attendees to "Hashtag this session." Anyone active on social media will know exactly what you are asking of them. Summarize it. Tell people about it. Simply. The "hashtag this session" moments provide us with instant feedback. It also tells us what the big "take-aways" were. This may be the most constructive, to the point feedback you may receive. Sometimes I run out of time for this. and that's ok.

The success or failure of my session does not ride on whether or not attendees have a chance to hashtag it for me. Connor and I added a slide to our "If You Give a Kid a Camera" session so when we get to the end, we can do this together. He hands out camera stickers while I hand out hashtag sticky notes. It works. Yesterday, it worked exceptionally well. A few folks walked out without doing it. One flat refused a hashtag. That's cool. We get it. Not everything works for everyone. But, we also received some fantastic feedback in the form of hashtags. And it gives us something real to hold in our hands, look over, and discuss afterwards. It helps us as we go back and look at what we shared, how we shared it, and how we will rework certain things. It helps us see what educators got from it and compare it to where we started when we designed the session. It's just a simple, quick, EduAwesome moment of our session time. EdCamps, conferences, and various professional development events all have their own hashtags. We develop hashtags for our sessions. It just makes good sense to have hashtags develop out of  our sessions as well.

I will eventually have to look at how to continue this after we run out of these great sticky notes, but the general idea is something I plan to hold onto for awhile and will use more in future sessions.

How do you get feedback following presenting a session? What is your preferred format? Why? Also, as a session attendee, when and how do you prefer to offer feedback?

#eduawesome #adventure

***Revisit how Hashtags Changed me Life.
Bonus share: my quick video from awhile back about why I love EdCamps.

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