Travel half way across the country for a conference with no agenda…really?  Try to explain that to people who have not taken part in an Edcamp and the look you will get is priceless. When you explain it to those who have attended and Edcamp, they seem to get it.  The trip started out as an idea to connect with family and attend a great professional development opportunity, and I’m so glad that it came to fruition.  The people, conversations, and connections made the 3000 mile trip well worth the time and effort. EdcampNJ was the first of a 3 stop East Coast #Edutour of great things happening on the other side of the country.  It was a fantastic way to start the trip.  Here are a few reflections: 

The day started like many Saturdays do with #satchat.  The only difference this week, was that I got to participate live with the moderators at #EdcampNJ.  Twitter is a funny thing…you get a chance to talk to people that you have never met, and form a relationship based on common interests.  Somehow, when you meet these people face to face, that conversation just continues seamlessly.  The opportunity to meet some people I connect with on a regular basis was something I was really looking forward to at the event. I had the chance to meet with Billy Krakower, Scott Rocco, and Brad Currie as they were getting ready to start the live feed.  As great as they are online, they are better face to face.  During the show, put on by Jeff Bradbury from Teachercast (his work is also fantastic!), they asked me to come up and share some of the great things going on in Fall Creek.  It was an absolute honor to be on stage with those incredible leaders.  The work they are doing through #satchat is outstanding, and brings together a tremendous amount of people who want to change the face of education.  To have the chance to share our story with that audience was truly humbling.  

People not Programs
This is a staple of Todd Whitaker’s message when he speaks to groups.  As educators, we tend to get so hung up on process that we forget it is the people who make schools successful.  This was clearly the case at #EdcampNJ.  When you attend an Edcamp, you put a tremendous amount of trust in the people associated with the event.  As I connected with people on Twitter who were planning to attend, I knew the event was going to be in great hands.  The day absolutely delivered on that promise.  Tony Sinanis and Tom Murry have been incredible go to people online for me over the course of the last year.  To meet them both on the same day and get a better understanding of who they are was a fantastic experience.  They are both hysterical…and 100% about kids.  The passion they project in discussions about students was stunning, and I am glad to call them friends.  It seemed that everyone I connected with fit their Twitter persona perfectly.  The #edtechchat crew in attendance was hysterical (@iplante, @thomascmurray, @ajpodchaski), the #satchat crew wonderful, and the 300+ people who attended were all fully engaged in getting better as educators.  It was very cool.

Cross Country Connection
A few weeks ago, I was talking to Tony as we were both working on a presentation about branding your school. The importance of branding your school district and telling your story has become more important than ever.  It was ironic that we were both preparing a very similar presentation for a future conference and attending #EdcampNJ.  As Tony and I talked, we thought it might be fun to connect what we were doing in our own states, and present as one of the sessions. Though we didn’t have anything formal to present together, we had enough to start a great conversation.  The session went great!  Tony and I had a blast.  We joked that if it wasn’t going well after three minutes, we were going to vote with our feet, and leave our own session. Ha!  Unfortunately for everyone in the room, we really like to hear ourselves talk, and didn’t even get through introductions in the first three minutes.  After that the discussion was really insightful.  We certainly learned more from the group than they did from us…but we sure had fun doing it.  I would encourage anyone attending an #edcamp to own the process and present something.  You don’t need to be an expert…only willing to start a conversation and see where it goes.  It was a wonderful experience.  

Walking Away
There were so many take aways from the day, but a few were clearly quantifiable.  The people running this event were absolute pros.  Logistically, it was flawless.  The venue was great, and the sessions were outstanding.  I walked away with new apps, a better understanding of Google hangouts, an experience that will help run #EdcampEC in April, and the opportunity to present with a great friend.  I made another connection to the #edtechchat crew that afforded us an opportunity to share our session with a larger audience the following week (post coming soon), and continued connections with people who I truly respect in the education world.  #EdcampNJ was the first on my East Coast #EduTour, and it couldn’t have started out in better fashion.  Thank you to all who made the day possible…it absolutely delivered on the promise.

AuthorJoe Sanfelippo