Creativity Design Thinking EdCamp edcampLA EdTech Instructional Rounds PD Pedagogy Professional Development Teaching

The pUnK35T edcAmp: edcampLA & TEN new session ideas yOu shOuld try

Once a month I walked through the gates of hell.

I saw a girl get her faced torched by a can of AquaNet hair spray. I saw kids getting beaten up by a pack of psycho skinheads. I saw a vortex of humanity, 3,000 strong, moving as one [as if evoking Ragnarok.] I saw bands from England and Canada and Boston. I saw the worst of humanity and a glint of my shadow, at the Olympic auditorium during the mid 80s in Los Angeles.

Before Coachella, before Lollapalooza, GoldenVoice productions produced the largest punk shows in America in a hellhole known simply at The Olympic. In the middle of LA, in a not “nice” area, 4-5,000 early punks would gather to unleash a bucket of crazy. These shows were special. They sometimes would only happen once a month or every other month. We looked forward to these shows like you wouldn’t believe. There was one show in particular that all my friends whispered about in anticipation:


Skinheads vs. English Punks it was going to be a bloodbath… and it was

There are very few things in my life that have loomed over the horizon like an Olympic show: Christmas with my family, the birth of my son, my wedding… but those are all family events. I thought the days of looking forward to an event were over until I went to edcampLA last year.  EdcampLA was  so epic I wrote a Hip-Hop reflection about it. While I have enjoyed every edcamp I have experienced I am not alone in saying there is something special about edcampLA. EdcampLA is THE PUNKEST of all edcamps, and by PUNKEST I mean BEST.

edcampPosterpunkfinalfinalClick image to view our “concert flyer” in all its glory. 

Myself and a few other teachers actually started a Voxer thread just dedicated to new ideas to try at edcampLA. I even sent out Tweets and Google+ posts trying to find interesting and unique edcamp sessions that I’ve never seen before. I was like Gary Tovar trying to find new bands to entertain a crowd always looking for something new. I barely had a nibble on new ideas so I just decided to create our own. I’m going to share some new ideas with you, feel free to Re/Mix these or improve on them in an edcamp near you. Please share back with me when you do. So here are the ten edcamp sessions you should give a go:

Before and After Car Ride:  #edcampVoxer #edcampAUTO #autoLEARN:

If you are driving to an edcamp by yourself you are BLOWING it. Many of my best edcamp moments have come while driving with someone else in my car. I believe in the idea of driving with a group to edcamp SO MUCH that I created a Twitter account just to celebrate it: @edcampAUTO.

So take the initiative and start a #getintheVAN movement with those who live near you. Even if they live 30 minutes away have everyone meet in one place and then drive together. There is something about a car conversation that encourages fun and deep thinking.


Notice the date? We were planning our #autolearn a full month before the event!

“But Theriault I don’t have any friends (nearby) how can I take advantage of #edcampAUTO or experience my own #autolearning?”

Fear not friends. I have one word for you: Voxer. Voxer is a phone app that looks like this.


If you are familiar with WhatApp it’s similar except that you do some “walkie-talkie stuff” and let the messages play all in a row while you are driving. Elizabeth Goold and Scott Bedley tried to get me on Voxer for WEEKS and I finally agreed to try it. I’m HOOKED. I’m going to write an entire blog post about Voxer soon, but here’s a short feature list:

  • You can form groups around subjects or tasks
  • You can have quick comments like Twitter
  • You can include audio clips, photos, or text.
  • The longer Voxes start to feel like micro blogging. It’s really cool.

So download the Voxer app and start an #edcampAUTO Voxer group to talk before and after the event. It’s better than “insert song here.”

Before and After Meal: #foodCUE #grubCUE #bbCUE #meetup #grubhub

So one of the punkest people in the history of the world was Jesus. Not the Jesus that people use to judge others and form rules around who is and who isn’t saved, but the Jesus who had one rule. Love others. Now that’s punk. He didn’t say love SOME people he said love “others.” That means everyone. As a young man growing up I was always impressed with the act of breaking bread with others: of communion. So as an adult I have almost become a zealot when it comes to sharing food with others. Sitting and eating with friends is one of my most sacred activities. Who wouldn’t want to learn from this awesome folks while eating this awesome food?


Subversion Session

Probably the punkest session title was created by Scott Bedley of Bedley Brothers Vlogcast fame. Scott created a session that centered around “what do you do in the class that technically you aren’t supposed to do, but you do anyways because it’s good for kids. I wasn’t in this session, but I heard more buzz about this session than any other session. Hit Scott up if you want to learn more. BTW should the 2014 Orange County teacher of the year be running a session on how to subvert the educational process? Yes… yes he should.

Learning Fair/ Share Fair

So I thought of this the night before edcampLA. My favorite discussions with teachers are when they are sharing something they are passionate about. You picked five activities/lessons whatever that you do in class NO MATTER WHAT. They are your CORE values as a teacher. Then I also had people write down some apps and other things that they are passionate about with their learning. Then we created little share posters using cardstock. Sean Ziebarth got a little Sean Ziebarth and really dialed his in. We just sat in a circle and took turns sharing and when we are done we took pictures of everyone’s and now we can follow up on them.

ShareFair FinalBTW I got to finally meet Roberto Greco. If you aren’t following @rogre you might want to fix that. 

Everyone who participated in the Share/Fair loved it and I have some ideas for how you could make it work in a bigger group. Mr. Ziebarth and I are actually going to do a modified Share/Fair in a district PD session next week.

PhotoWalk: #photowalk #walkmyworld #showANDtell #showyourwork #visualthinking

I wanted to do six things with our photowalk

  • Introduce the idea of a photowalk: showing how fun and educational it can be to go outside and take pictures as a group
  • Share the awesome learning space of edcampLA the Center for Early Education. I can’t thank the CEE Head of School (Reveta Bowers) enough. I’ll get back to the facility later in this post.
  • Introduce the idea of sharing your learning with the world using photos and photo apps
  • Share some photo apps and a few tips and tools
  • Talk about using photos as an analogy for various learning experiences and curriculum points.

It was unfortunate that Bill Selak who helped me facilitate the photowalk wasn’t there for the end of the session. Sharing the photos and talking about them and how people edited/manipulated the photos was a highlight for me.

click photos to open a larger slide show

Design Thinking #empathy #HMW

WOW. What a session. Moss Pike facilitated this session and it was one of those sessions where you are tweeting out: “get your donkey in HERE!” If you missed the first ten minutes of the session you missed on how it all ties together. Besides sharing the idea of design thinking, we USED design thinking to attack the problem of increasing time for collaboration. Each time we hit on an “answer” or “question” we asked WHY and dove deeper into the initial question. A few take-aways for me:

  • The power of talking to people BEFORE you start proposing answers. Have people tell stories about the problem. Instead of giving people YOUR solution take some time to find THEIR need.
  • #Gemba: go on a “walk” and see the problems yourself. You MUST do whatever you expect your students to do. If you assign them only 30 minutes of homework, try and carve out 30 minutes doing something that you weren’t planning to and then remember five other teachers are giving out 30 minutes of homework.
  • #Empathy is the starting place of problem solving. When you can get into the clothing of who you serve then you are on the right track. Empathy is a great way to build trust and empathy shows that you are in the “service” business, not the “leader” business.
  • I read it first on, but Moss mentioned it several times in this session.  The most powerful phrase you can say when innovating or solving problems is “How Might We.” Use the #HMW to share your How Might We ideas.

It was interesting to me that this session was the session that the most teachers walked out of and yet my mind was BLOWING up for the entire 50+ minutes. Once again this shows the effectiveness of “vote with your feet.” Not everyone likes spicy food.


Moss Pike just stone cold killin it. 

Fanzine Session: (you will need a photocopier)

I wanted to create the first ever #edcamp Fanzine RIGHT THERE during the edcamp by collecting Tweets, quotes, interviews, photos, printing them up and then making photocopies for everyone there, but at the last minute we lost our ability to make photocopies at the location. Next time I’m bringing a photocopier on a truck or “borrowing” a mimeograph machine- cause I REALLY want to do this. I use to make and sell fanzines when I was a teen and I’m itching to try it again with something I love like edcamp. If you don’t know what a punk fanzine looks like here are a few. You use a long arm stapler to connect the pages.

MakeItRight Club: “I am Bills’s worthless worksheet”: #Make #makeANDtakeSession #re/MIX #re/MAKE

After I talked to my #edcampVOXER group about my fanzine idea, Bill or Scott or Curt Rees came up with a tweak. What if we took old useless worksheets and turned them into something useful. We didn’t want to take over the whole edcamp with our ideas, so this one got shelved for later. But at a conference near you SOON don’t be surprised if you see a box full of old worksheets with a crafting table nearby. I LOVE the idea of taking something that is no longer working and re-purposing it into something useful.

#Forgiveness and #TeacherConfession

I was burned out on doing a #teacherconfession session for edcampLA (although if you have never done it you should read this post on running a teacher confession session and try it at least once). Luckily for edcampLA someone ran a session on Forgiveness.


We could DEFINITELY use more forgiveness in education, but with our students and with each other.  To often forgiveness is seen as giving approval to the hurt or as a sign of weakness instead of the first step to learning and moving on. Perhaps an alternate form of F.A.I.L could become popular in teaching:


Instructional Rounds #stealLIKEaTeacher #re/MixED #reFRAMElearning #bettertogether

So my “best” friend Sean Ziebarth wasn’t going to facilitate a single session because he just wanted to learn from others. Totally respectable and admirable. I carved out at least two “I’m going to allow others to steer my learning” sessions myself. I strong-armed him into running an instructional rounds session. I heard it was GREAT. What a wonderful opportunity to show Instructional Rounds (IR) in action. After a brief introduction he took his entire group to a session or two so they could observe instruction and engagement and then they returned to their classroom/session to debrief and share their observations. Try doing that during a paid conference.

Click on the image and see how Sean and his group went O.G. with butcher paper. 

So there you go. While sessions on apps, flip class, 20time/genius hour, GAFE apps etc… are useful, I just want to remind you that you can create your own sessions.  Edcamps are a true D.I.Y (do it yourself) experience. They remind me of one of my favorite movies, a movie that impressed me so much that I made sure it was the first and only poster I’ve ever had on my classroom door: my outside door which is a window and advertisement for the environment of my class.


UGH I forgot to post two of the most important EVENTS of edcampLA and my 2015 challenge to the edcampLA team.

I stepped into a session on building your PLN and one of my favorite Twitter follows Dr. Robert C. Perry (the administrative coordinator of charter schools in LA was hanging out at an edcamp learning WITH teachers) was talking with teachers who were brand new Twitter users. He said “don’t get upset if Diane Ravitch doesn’t follow you back.” I thought that was such good advice I tweeted out his quote to Diane Ravitch. About twenty minutes later Dr. Bob came up to me and showed me his phone.


That’s right the Diane Ravitch responded to my tweet by following Dr. Bob and then following ME!


Behold the power of Twitter and edcampLA

But that’s not all. Dr. Bob had a Twitter handle with something like 4,234 numbers at the end. I chided him about it and even though he outranks me in every way, including best-dressed here’s what he showed me later that day.


I told you he was smart. I’m so proud of knowing a leader like him who is willing to CHANGE. I don’t want a leader who thinks that strength is never saying there’s a better way than what you are doing. Whatever Dr. Bob is doing in education I want to know about it.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST a 2015 CHALLENGE for the edcampLA team.

  • When I wrote my 2013 review I asked the edcampLA team to:
  • Use Sharpie Markers or dark pens on the session notecards
  • To use different colors for different types of sessions
  • To reduce sessions that seemed “sponsored” or “staged.” (There were NONE as far as I could see in 2014)

They nailed every one of these. So here’s my 2015 challenge. Just take a look at this edcamp shirt that @ipadSammy is holding. 

edcamp Shirt

I NEED a shirt like this to remember edcampLA. There is NO WAY edcampLA can’t produce a shirt with the BEST design ever. I will gladly pay 15-20$ for a shirt like this. Offer it pre-sale and only order them once you have the money. DO IT Matt, Bill and Vicky- I promise this is one educational t-shirt that I won’t use to wash my car.

I’m going to leave you with a final picture. A rif on my edcampLA Hip-Hop Reflection final picture. It’s of Sean Z doing what punks do. Taking something unwanted and making use of it.


If you want something to listen to while you read this- have at it


  1. Finally getting back around to the blog scene. Ummm…I would say this recap is “stone cold killin’ it” because it’s actually a +2 with your Fanzine and the T-shirt ideas. What if the Fanzine idea morphed into the T-shirt design?! Fanzines created throughout the day and then a final vote at the end and –BOOM that becomes the T-shirt design?

    Anyway, I LOVE this fanzine idea and I think your post might have re-ignitghted an idea I have been wanted to try on my campus for like…5 years!!

    Thanks for sharing all of this and for your sessions at EdcampLA! Still wish I had a pic of that heavy box of markers you carried around all day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: