Saturday, January 4, 2014

EdCamp Home and flying blind . . .

I don't want to sound like I don't appreciate the hard work that went into this experience.  I know that many people benefited from it, and I know that it can be - and was - a great experience.  I'm telling this story because I'm hoping that it might help people think about how to prepare for new kinds of PD, and help organizers think about managing bumbling fools like me.  

So, I was pumped up about EdCamp Home this morning.  I thought I was ready.  I had the kids prepped - stay out of the camera view and keep it to a dull roar.  I had coffee and some of my breakfast left.  I was dressed semi-casually (sweatshirt and Winter Break stubble).

I found the Google Plus community, found the web page, and followed the live webcast of the organizers.  I set up a second screen (laptop), and I pulled up Twitter and started following the hashtag.  There were a bunch of questions about where to sign up for sessions.  Then, the organizers pointed out that they hadn't sent out the sign-ups yet.  They politely reminded the volunteer moderators to set up their hangouts, share links, and get ready.

Then there was a flurry of vicarious anxiety.  The organizers (I love and respect these people for making this happen - I don't want to sound like I don't appreciate what they were doing, so please don't think that) seemed to be disconcerted by the slow speed at which the moderators were claiming topics, and there was a call for more moderators.  I clicked back through the Google Plus community, looking for the place where I could sign up to be a moderator, and found a spreadsheet that I thought was right, but wasn't clearly the right place to sign up . . . so I continued waiting.  It turned out to be a good thing that I didn't attempt moderating.

Then the signup for sessions went out for participants.  We were reminded that not everyone who was watching could participate, because there might not be enough room if everyone was allowed to join sessions.  I signed up for one session - because the form made me pick one - even though I wasn't sure what all the sessions meant.  I chose GAFE in the Classroom.  I waited for something to happen after I submitted the form - but it came back "You must select an option."  I thought I had!  I looked back through my list of options again, and I found that GAFE was gone!  So, I chose something else - managing Chromebooks.

A few minutes later, I received an invitation to join a Hangout about Chromebooks.  There were other invitations that I hadn't signed up for, so I wasn't sure if it was the right invitation.  So I waited a little longer.

I didn't know who was signing up for what session.  I didn't know what some of the sessions were about - I remembered some topics from that discussion, but I wasn't sure if there was some other source that I was missing.

I was never sure if I joined the right Hangout or not, but I clicked on the invitation and spent the next 20 minutes listening to other people talk about Chromebooks and fighting with my browser.  For some reason, it kept freezing.  I dropped out of the Hangout completely at least once.

After all of that, I was disappointed.  I felt like I had a lot to say about Chromebooks, and I didn't have a chance to say it.  I was excited about the YouTube archives of the hangouts and having people able to watch (because I've watched others in the past), and I didn't really get to add anything.  Aw, man!

So, I signed up for three different topics for the second - and final - session.  I tweeted a bit while I was waiting for an invite, only to find that my tweets weren't being sent.  (Curse you, TweetChat!)  I joined the first session that sent me an invite - not knowing who was in what session - and found that I was in a hangout with one other guy from New Zealand.  I liked the topic, and I felt like we had a reasonably good conversation about how technology is affecting literacy instruction, but I was hoping for more of the give-and-take of an intelligent conversation with multiple voices and multiple perspectives.  I love that stuff - that's why I'm addicted to Twitter and to things like these - and I didn't feel like I got it.

I went back to the Google Plus community and read some posts from people who were really excited about their hangouts.  I listened to some of the details of the Slam (the big group share-out), and I was disappointed that it would be just a shared doc.

I think I have a lot to learn about Google Plus and using hangouts.  I think that it would be a good idea for me to stick to regular EdCamps for a little while - I know a little more about navigating those and getting my PD fix.

Afterward, I told my wife that I felt like a failure because of this.  She ignored my obvious cry for reassurance and told me it was time to take the kids sledding.  At last, technology I could manage - hopefully!
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