Edcamp leaders across the country often grapple with the tension between participant-driven behavior and a clearly organized day. Especially if it's your first time organizing an Edcamp, you likely recognize this delicate dance.
We want things to go smoothly. We want people to have a great day of learning.
We CERTAINLY DON'T want people to point fingers or ridicule us for a day of learning that completely falls apart.
RIGHT?!?!?!? RIGHT? (Yea, the voices in our head can be really tough sometimes.)
BUT, if we truly embrace organic learning, then we must recognize that it's messy. And bumpy.
By allowing everyone to collaborate and work together, we also have to allow for a bit of wiggle room. Things can run smoothly, but it's never clockwork when everyone truly has a voice. This does not mean that the day was a failure or the organizers were incompetent. It means that everyone truly allowed the needs of the room to guide the learning.
If you're facing this right now, here are 3 tips to help you have a great day:
1) Manage everyone's expectations.
It's not uncommon for Edcamps to have many newbies in attendance. At the start of the day, clearly explain that it's normal for some downtime and that a series of conversations which "sputter out" is completely normal.
2) Don't overplan.
Sometimes Edcamp organizers plan every last detail, only to later realize that this level of overplanning actually disempowers the participants. You are only there to create the conditions for learning. Participants create the learning themselves.
3) Remind people - "The only person to blame for a bad day at Edcamp... is YOURSELF."
At an Edcamp, each participant is in full control of their learning. If something isn't working, they should move and find something that IS working. By constantly reminding people that they too are responsible for making the day awesome, you'll get a lot farther.
Edcamps aren't perfect. And I think I'd like to keep it that way.