Planning a School Edcamp using Google Docs / by Laura Gilchrist


This year New Mark Middle School's August work week was filled with 6 hours of teacher-driven edcamp! Why? Because of a TEENY TINY one hour edcamp last year. Our administrators were excited by the positive energy and tone in the building during work week. They themselves were able join in sessions as learners AND get other things done. No stress. Hallways and rooms filled with positive energy and smiles/laughter. Happy, empowered teacher leaders are the key, in my opinion, to making schools great for kids and for community. We are getting ready for our 4th three-hour edcamp this school year on Feb. 13, 2015. Thanks to admin asking what we wanted in PD at the end of last year and then delivering, we had two three-hour edcamps in August during workweek, followed by a three-hour edcamp in October.

Planning for 3 hour Edcamps--Modified

This year, Principal Terri Stirlen, Instructional Coach Jamie Neibling, 6th grade Math teacher Jason Haniger (who created the Google Doc), and AVID Teacher/NKCNEA VP Denice Ash have taken off with school edcamp planning. They've continued with a modified (pre-set; still based on teacher choice) edcamp and they've organized it using Google Docs. Pretty slick. It's easy to set up and it works. Teachers like the setup.

Here's the planning process:

  1. Principal Terri Stirlen emails staff (85) asking for any and all topics and ideas we are interested in. She asks if and on what topic(s) we'd be willing to facilitate. (Since we'd done the 1 hour edcamp last year, teachers were familiar with it and willing to step outside the box as facilitators of conversation.)
  2. She and the edcamp team sift through topics, emailing people to ask/confirm they'll lead sessions. If yes, they ask for a brief writeup to put in the Google Doc.
  3. Fill out the Google Doc. (See above!)
  4. Principal shares the Google Docwithstaffa couple daysbeforetheedcamp--teachers sign up forsessionstheyare interested in. We have 3 sessions,  50 minutes each. (FYI: The Rule of 2 Feet still applies. Teachers can learn in other sessions as needed.)
    1. Check out the our 2 August workweek days. Both were 3-hour edcamps with three 50 minute sessions of 6 choices each. Easy to create and use. --> EdcampNewMark 3-Hour Google Doc Signup Page
  5. Edcamp runs itself. It's beautiful to see an edcamp unfold at your school. Teachers thrive on it and request it.


Teacher Feedback after our EdcampNewMark 3 hour-sessions:

  • It was great to choose which sessions that we attended. Much like students, we thrive in choice as well!
  • Being able to sit, chat and work with our colleagues. Most conversations were about what we are using in the classroom, what works, what doesn't work.
  • I learned many new things that I can't wait to try in my class!I love that we have choice over our PD and that it fits our individual needs.
  • I liked having presentation time, then work time - which was collaboration time and sharing of ideas.
  • I liked the fact that I did not feel pressure or stress. Everyone was willing to share ideas in a relaxed atmosphere.

My Tips for School Edcamp planners:

  • Make sure teachers know this is about conversations, not prepared presentations, and that it is day about THEM as learners. Enjoy and most of all-- talk!
  • Survey teachers to find out what they want to learn; willing to lead.
  • If there are district/school topics that everyone must attend, you can offer it in each of the edcamp session time slots. Teachers know they must go to one of them.
  • You CAN (and should) do edcamps in your school--this model honors teachers as the learners they are. Edcamps are FREE, simple, easy and quick to plan and implement. This is a NO BRAINER, my friends! Go for it!

Looking to the future:

In the last survey I sent to staff, teachers said they would like to do some choice-based PD (edcamp or passion projects/genius hour stuff) on early release THURSDAYS so that the conversations continue all year, instead of on a few days during the year. Most common staff response was choice-based PD 2 Thursdays/month. I hope to engage with admin to make this happen.

I'd like to pursue combining buildings or doing a content themed edcamp (science, etc.). I'd also like to see us crowdsourcing what we learned/shared on Google Docs. That's coming. :)

Contact me about your school edcamp! I'd love to hear what you're doing, what did or didn't work, and answer any questions you may have. I'm passionate about this. I am on Twitter and Voxer at @lauragilchrist4  :)

Tim Vesco, a Kansas educator, tweeted me a few weeks ago about setting up a school edcamp. We took the communication to VOXER, where I shared ideas for set up (1 hour, 3 hour), he asked clarifying questions, and OFF he went! He reported it went well and teachers enjoyed it. Take a listen....

Tim Vesco Voxer: 1st School Edcamp Recap


Next blogpost to include voices of school edcamp planners! #voxer :)