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Student Edcamps: Adding Choice to Presentations

By Kriscia Cabral on May 16, 2014
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Student Edcamps are a great way to showcase student work. I was first introduced to Edcamps last summer and loved the experience. Edcamps are an "unconference" gathering where eager learners in the world of education come together to share ideas and learn from one another. Edcamps are generated from the user — meaning all of the information shared and created at an Edcamp comes directly from its participants.

I loved the idea of not having a schedule of presentations. I love the idea that I can be a part of any of the topics shared on "the board." The board shown here is blank when you arrive, and as teachers show up, they write in topics that they would like to learn more or share about (e.g., apps for reading, Common Core State Standards math, BYOD tips, etc.).

Teachers in attendance can then choose or "vote with their feet" as to which presentation they want to be part of. Each block of time allows for an opportunity to learn something new, add to what you already know, or collaborate with others and try something different together!

I love that there are conversations that take place and not just a presentation for me to watch. The conversations bounce from one educator to another, sharing best practices. If you'd like to learn more about Edcamps and the whole experience, check out the Edcamp homepage. Look for an Edcamp near you and plan to attend. It was a wonderful kick-start to my professional learning this past summer.

When a colleague of mine, Dena Glynn, (you should totally follow her on Twitter!), told me that she created a student Edcamp with her class, I thought, “What a great idea!” and created one with my teammates. We used the Edcamp format for our students when they wanted to present their Genius Hour projects. (Read more about Genius Hour on my "5 Ways to Help Students Think Creatively With 20-Time" post.)

The format can be used for any type of presentation your students may be doing. Instead of having students share one at a time, you can set up small group-sharing opportunities. Classmates can create their own schedule of what presentations they will look at throughout the allotted time period. My students said that the benefits they gained from presenting in this format have been the opportunity for choice, the smaller intimate group setting, and the ability to relate and connect with other individuals.

Here are my six steps to help you set up a student Edcamp for your class or in your school. Note: Steps one and two can take place on the day of, or on the day before the Edcamp. But I tried to have those two steps in place before the big day because setting up for presentations usually gets the kids all excited and nervous at the same time.


Step One: Create a Sign-up Sheet

Note: Do this at least one day before the presenation day.

After students finished their projects, we decided on the date for our Edcamp. 

Students had access to a sign-up grid that was divided into 15-minute increments within a certain block of time (i.e., 90 minutes). Each block of time had a different location for students to present (classroom right corner, patio left side, classroom next door, etc.). They were told to fill the grid with their name and the title of their presentation. Students were reminded to take note of the different locations and think about what tools they would need when presenting. If the student needed a computer, for instance, they had to make sure they signed up in a location where there was a computer. If a student needed a grass area, they needed to make sure they signed up in a location where that was possible.


Step Two: Create the Choice Sign-Up Sheet

Note: Have this in place before the presenation day.

I took the filled-in sign up sheet and created a new grid where I typed in just the titles of presentations (keeping the original grid for myself so I was aware of who was doing what and when). I did this so students would be intrigued by titles and not the names of their friends. Once the titles were typed, I added numbers indicating spots where students could sign up to attend that presentation. I allowed for five students to sign up per presentation.

After printing this new grid, I put it up on a wall for students to begin signing up (reminding them to NOT sign up to participate in someone's presentation during a time when they are presenting!) Students were reminded to use the titles of the presentations as a place to start. I asked, ”Does the title intrigue you? Does it make you want to know more?”

Students wrote down their schedule for the day on their reflection sheet. They wrote the title of the presentation and the area where the presentation would take place. (Example: Firehouse Dogs: Common Room, left side).


Step Three: Setting up for Presentations

Note: This can be done on presenation day.

On presentation day, each student took out his or her own reflection sheet. This is the same sheet where they write down their schedule for the day. Under each presentation, students were asked to write down one thing they learned, one area where they saw the presenter "glow" (do well), and one area that they "could grow" (improve for next time).

We reviewed presentation expectations as a class (be kind, respectful, and listen with purpose). We talked about what it feels like to talk in front of others. We shared our working agreement (check out how to do this by reading my "Creating a Working Agreement: Revisiting Classroom Expectations" post), and then we got started. We let the first set of presenters set up while the rest of us reviewed our schedules for the day. I posted the schedule on our wall for all the students to refer back to (just in case).


Step Four: During the Fun — Presentation Day

While students presented, I walked around and tried to catch a few. In order to capture the moment of all the presentations at once, we checked out iPads from our school’s iPad cart and assigned the presenter the task of finding a recorder before the presentation began. This gave us video footage that we could go back to after Edcamp was over. I continued monitoring and gave students a five-minute, non-verbal reminder to keep them on track with time.

When students finish early, it is important to remind them to stay at the presentation station they are at until time is up. Our first go-around with student Edcamps, we did not have this reminder in place and kids were going to their next presentation while the first presentation was still in process. Lesson learned! We’ve done about four Edcamps since the first one and the kids are professionals now.


Step Five: Reflection Time — After Presentations

Once all of the students have presented, I bring my class back to the classroom and we reflect. We start with a whole class sharing. People share out what they saw and what they learned. They share the titles of the presentations and what they took away from them. They also fill out their sheets.

I like to share this way because we often have recurring Edcamps where the kids can share for multiple weeks. This allows those who did not see a presentation the first time  the opportunity to watch and listen to their classmates as they share their knowledge. Again, once a student has viewed a presentation, they can complete the reflection sheet they were given before the Edcamp started. It also gives students the chance to go to their personal space and think about what they saw, learned, and experienced.

I ask students to think about the following questions when reflecting:

  • Are there things you liked today?

  • Were there ideas you would like to try?

  • What did you learn today?

  • Was there something interesting you saw today?

  • What made it interesting?

  • How can you add to your own presentation?


Step Six: One Down . . . Many More to Go!

Give yourself a pat on the back! You will be amazed at all of the learning that goes on doing an Edcamp. It is such a fantastic experience to take part in. A student Edcamp is an opportunity for students to have choice. It allows for smaller group presentations that in turn give presenters a better opportunity to feel connected to their audience.

I love participating in Edcamp with my students. I love the variety and the creativity of how students decide to share. I love that my students go to presentations and listen with purpose and reflect with reason. It is inspiring to watch them learn and grow from each other. Do you have student presentations coming up soon? Consider creating an Edcamp experience for students to try.

Do you have a neat way that you share student presentations? I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for reading.



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