Wow. That simple word summarizes my initial reaction and continuing respect for the organizers of #EdCampHome. I’m a huge fan of EdCamps and have attended in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Metro DC. This year I want to get a couple teachers to day trip it to Baltimore for another EdCamp. The difference with EdCampHome was the lack of travel. There was still all the excitement and the great conversations without having to deal with traffic and parking. People were not limited in geographic region; there was global participation (I heard at least one person from Mexico and another from Canada).
The organizers showed extreme flexibility and creativity when problem solving. Not surprising with the number of people, the technology was finicky. There were too many people trying to work on the GoogleDoc, so it just slowed down for everyone. During some of the downtime I envisioned a ParentCampHome.
This post is me attempting to think through all the different steps that need to happen for ParentCamp Hershey to be a success. I’ve wanted to have an unconference for the parents. We already provide technology open houses, but the topics are set by the organizers. I think we should ask the parents what they want to know more about. Their requests are not limited to technology, it could be pedagogy, policy, or something else. In non-traditional EdCamp fashion, I would have parents turn in their topics ahead of time through a Google Form. Getting the Google Hangouts On Air took more time than anticipated. I want those ready to go before the parents log in. For ParentCampHome, the participates do not have to worry about far distances, for some they will prefer to be on campus, which is fine. The online option will make it more convenient for families who would otherwise need a babysitter.
The sign up document for the session did not work (in my opinion). Like mentioned before, the hundred people trying to sign up at once froze the process. Finally I was able to sign up for two sessions, but I never received an invitation into either. However, I was able to attend a session through a link someone posted on Twitter. For parents I would forgo a signup sheet, and just provide the links to join posted on the website. The first 8 parents in could participate live. Other parents interested in the topic would still be able to watch from YouTube and send in their questions through a backchannel chat. For parent comfort and clarity, we would use Today’s Meet instead of Twitter for the backchannel. I envision a different backchannel for each session and an additional one for technology questions.
Just like for EdCampHome, the website is extremely important at the event central. I’ve already come up with the skeleton of a website for ParentCamp that can be edited and adapted as necessary.
I do not know how many teachers are already familiar with Google Hangouts. This would be something we need to provide professional development for. It could either be a 15 minute explanation during a faculty meeting or a 3 hour session that they can earn PD credit for. Google Hangouts have application outside of this one event. I found four resources that do a good job explaining Google Hangouts:
I would also need a group of students to be Hangout trained so they could help teachers on location and remotely help parents through a backchannel help desk. I already have the perfect student group in place. This would be something fun to use with our BYOT Club. It does have academic applications. Students have mentioned joining together on Skype to complete homework or watch required videos. Google Hangouts would be another way for them to collaborate at home.
Parents would need a condensed version of training. Videos showing parents how to join and what to expect would be posted on the ParentCamp website. For them it would be differentiating between their comfort level: either participating with their webcam or just watching and basically texting in comments or questions.
For the evening of the event. There would need to be at least two teachers per session. One could focus on the online elements and the other to work with the parents on location. The teachers would need to make sure to relay comments made by the group of parents to the camera so everyone can hear. The Google Hangout would need to be projected while the teacher can still be in front of the camera. I hope that sessions recorded on through Google Hangout can be saved as private, link only YouTube videos. This is an option for normal videos uploaded. I think they would be a valuable resource to have, but probably not something the district would want to be public.
Ok. This is more than a skeletal outline of projected events. I am confident that this has potential to get more parents involved in our technology trainings.