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EdCampLA: a Hip-Hop reflection 2013

“Let’s begin, what, where, why, or when

Will all be explained like instructions to a game.”

-KRS ONE: “My Philosophy”(1988)

I went to my first EdCamp based on curiosity and trust. It was an interesting experience and I learned a lot, not just about teaching, but also about EdCamps and professional development- I’m going to break it down “Shout-out” and “Beat-down” and “Break-it-down”: general philosophical musings.


No one is forced to go to an EdCamp and that is perhaps its greatest strength. At the EdCamp someone Tweeted out “So this is what it’s like to work at a school where everyone loves teaching.” TRUTH.

The people at EdCamp are the very best part. Seeing a mother with her baby, a librarian who knows the band Minor Threat, a presenter (Stephen Davis aka @rushtheiceberg) whose wife made all of us cupcakes- was completely and utterly awesome.


Bill Selak was funny, Matt Arguello was helpful, Lisa Dabbs was charming and too many others worked tirelessly to make it all work.

Waking up at 5:15 am to meet at school with four of my friends and co-workers was awesome. Talking in the car about how grading is mostly subjective was interesting. Eating at Doughboys was a perfect way to start the day. I love breaking bread with friends. PS- They have a bowl of polenta and fruit for breakfast- so dang good.


The session board was fun. The fact that it’s small and difficult to read forces people to crowd together. You meet bump, apologize, overhear judgments, it creates a buzz. You keep revisiting it and if you get there early enough the empty spots guilt you into creating a session.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The sessions at an EdCamp are NOT like a conference. Most of the sessions are created ON THE SPOT. People get together, chat, question, ask and created topics and discussions that they want to talk about or to learn about. An edcamp session can just be a discussion about a topic with NO ONE playing sage on the stage. This is unique to edcamps and I LOVE IT.


Teacher Confessions session: was awesome and it does need to become an EdCamp staple. I felt spiritually lighter after confessing my weaknesses as a teacher to my peers. I wonder if it would work on our campus, or only with strangers. I’m also trying to figure it out for my class.

My co-workers and I learned a ton from several sessions and we can’t wait to get together and share what we learned. We are still talking about it on Monday and we started talking to our lunch table (about fifteen co-workers) about it today.  The buzz lingers.

A ton of organizing went into the event. I would love to read a detailed plan as to how they put it all together.

good info

Whoever was the location scout should be given a medal. The location was amazing and I hope we get to return there.

PS- Did I mention that it’s FREE! How often do teachers get to keep their PD money in their pockets? Awesome


Session board:

It‘s too hard to read and photograph the session when written in pen. They should be written using a Sharpie Marker just look.


One of the complaints I heard more than once was the realization that some sessions were pitches for books or software etc… I don’t mind going to a pitch, but I want to know that it’s a pitch ahead of time. I think there should be a different color of paper for sessions that are tied directly to a resource that will require money or that are given by a company employee rather than a teacher. (If that teacher is employed part-time or even rewarded by the company with free stuff then they are still a part of that corporate culture.) My co-worker Sean aka @MrZiebarth thinks that any session that is a sales pitch should be banned entirely.

Smackdown session “ SLAM!”: While I love the SLAM! session I hate being forced into doing something that I don’t want to do. Being required or encouraged to say SLAM! afterward made me feel like I was a part of some cult-like activity or an Amway meeting. I thought of not saying it, but then others would chime in and it would feel like your mom after you burped saying “Excuse me.” Also I wanted to share more, but had that end of the meeting vibe, where everyone is tired and wants to go home and they just want you to stop talking, so I limited myself. There was also that weird corporate/sales pitch/authentic conflict going on during this session.

There needs to be an easier way to see if a session is informative or inquisitive. I went to an Evernote session because I wanted an “expert” and instead I got someone who said “I don’t know a lot about Evernote, but I want to know more.” Now that’s COMPLETELY fine, but I needed to be aware that that was the nature of the discussion.

Perhaps a few different colors for:

  • I want to know more session, or I want us to know more
  • Complete Roundtable discussion like the “Things that Suck” or the “Teacher Confessions.”
  • I’m going to teach you something cool about- session

Another thing I hate is that I’ve only been on Twitter for about four months so I don’t really know everyone I follow by sight. There were people at the session that I wish I had said hi to because I LOVE their blogs or Twitter feeds. I wish that everyone wore a t-shirt that had their Twitter handle or Blog name on the front. Ugh.  Also not everyone has a Twitter handle with their full name, so I didn’t know right off the bat that @rushtheiceberg is Stephen Davis.

I’d like to give myself a BEAT-DOWN for missing several cool sessions like the “Things that SUCK” and the “Magic for Teachers” with Dave Burgess aka @burgessdave and several other sessions, but I had to make difficult choices.  This leads me to plead for the following:

I wish every session was recorded. It would be so cool to see the sessions later in their entirety either to talk more specifically about what happened or to share with your co-workers. (PS that will happen with @edcampHOME)

BREAK-IT-DOWN: (My philosophy)

The session board part III: EdCamp starts at 8am and we showed up a little after 8:20 and yet this is how empty the session board feels at about 8:22. The emptiness spurs you to fill in a session out of guilt, but yet it completely filled up later. Perhaps we should have waited. I hope we didn’t keep someone cool and amazing from presenting. I’m selfish and I want to LEARN!

Voting with your feet: so the idea is that if a session doesn’t fit your need, you can just walk out on it. This was COMPLETELY awkward for me and I felt rude doing it- some of my co-workers agreed. Especially if there were very few people in a session, or you had already walked out on one (it’s not so bad in the first few minutes) and then you walk out on another about ten minutes in. The other problem is that now you are walking into something and you’ve missed some potentially important information. On the other hand I did walk out on a session and that was kind of nice to have that option and I think you cut down on disengagement when people know they are not compelled to stay.


I steeled myself for watching people leave our session and told myself not to be disappointed. I think only one person left and it actually made me feel good to know that 25+ people stayed in our session when they had the option to leave.  So I have mixed-feelings about this rule: I think it’s harder to leave then the organizers realize, but it does have some advantages.

Fruit Ninja

Whew… everyone is staying. BTW do you notice that only four people are actually looking at Justin Tripp aka @MrJTripp do his “Fruit Ninja Quiz” session.

Perhaps computers and engagement CAN work.

Preparing for your session ahead of time vs. putting it together on the spot: a part of me wishes that we had spent some time preparing for our session. I think with a little preparation we could have avoided some of the glitches and given more time to the audience to share their ideas. I also wish that NO ONE prepared their sessions ahead of time because then it makes it scarier to throw your name up on the session board with a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants session going up against some dude breaking boards and just killing it in the library around the corner. I don’t have an answer to this and perhaps it’s not a problem, but something about it smells problematic.

Going to sessions by yourself vs. going with your peers: Every session segment the five of us got together to figure out where we were going. It is so hard to decide. If everyone goes to something different we can collect more info, but if two or more of us go to the same session you get that “shared experience” vibe going and you can have deeper conversations later. This leads me to this repeat this lament:

I wish every session was recorded. It would be so cool to see the sessions later in their entirety either to talk more specifically about what happened or to share with your co-workers.

While I got a ton out of EdCamp I think my co-worker Sean Z. took home the following:


PS- I’m officially challenging others- specifically my co-workers to post their observations in the comments below or link to their own blog post about EdCampLA.

If you want to find out more about EdCamps including how to start one a great place to start is the official EdCamp Wiki

Here’s a great blog post on a fun group who put together the Madison EdCamp

Jo-Ann Fox’s great post about EdCampLA 

Matt Arguello’s post about EdCampLA now you can see all sides of the event.


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts — I thought the venue was FANTASTIC too.
    And just FYI — this was the FIRST and ONLY time at ed-camp I ever had heard people have to say SLAM. Not sure how it got going…..not sure it should return. 🙂

  2. Nice post and very honest. The reality is that conferences are never going to be perfect and in fact, it can be quite refreshing to head into a conference (an un-conference in this case) and not know what sessions are going to be offered. I view these types of conferences as experiments of sorts, where motivated educators are mixed together over and over to see what types of products result. In the end, refreshing conversations where had, new connections were made and ideas continue to evolve as we press on and re-mix what has already happened. Again, thanks for a great post and your honesty

  3. Great post David, I accept your challenge. I’m not a big time blogger and don’t enjoy writing (should this be my teacher confession) but I need to get a Blog going. Time….
    This being my first EdCamp I had it hyped up and thought it was going to be more incredible than it was….. but upon further reflection it WAS incredible for a couple of reasons:
    1.) It gathered passionate educators from all grade levels and subject areas together and thanks to tech like blogs and Twitter we are all more connected and have more of a capacity to learn form eachother well after the event!
    2.) It was well organized and the facilites were fantastic.

    I still have lots of resources to go through on the wiki and Twitter but this was a great experience! Thanks again for driving!

  4. Great post! Appreciate your willingness to throw some reflections on your own participation, and some suggestions for the design/planning of the event, into the mix. Cool thing is the model and the ethos of EdCamp suggests your likely to see some implemented in the next round. Thanks for this!

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