Let’s Talk About Attrition Rates at UnConferences

I’ve been helping to run UnConferences since way back in 2009 when Liz Davis and I organized the inaugural EdubloggerCon East at BLC. I’ve since helped to organize that conference for three years, a TeachMeetNJ, EdCamp Common Core and two EdCamp Leaderships.

Running an unconference is not rocket science, but it is a commitment of time and effort. I’m happy to do it. I welcome the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. I’m even happy to go to vendors asking for money to pay for food and door prizes.

Here’s my concern:

Is 50% attrition acceptable?

Why do we accept only half of registrants on a free event showing up as a good turnout?

For planning purposes the organizing committee must plan for:

  • enough space
  • enough food
  • give-aways
  • sponsors

Honestly, the time and efforts donated by the organizers is the same whether it’s 200 people or 400, but I hate to see the wasted food, that could have fed some local hungry families. I hate to see the vendors spend the money on the wasted food when they could have donated equipment or supplies to a local classroom in need. I hate to see the organizers stress over how many people will ACTUALLY show up and whether there is enough space and food for them.

So, why do I bring this up now after four years of hosting these events? 

I have seen the attrition rates creeping up over the years. Back in 2009, almost everyone that registered for a free event would show as the concept was such a novelty. Over the next couple of years, we would plan for 30% of folks that had “bought” tickets not showing. Then, last summer I planned for 50% attrition. But, last Monday, for Edcamp Leadership, we had only 25% of registrants show. Believe me, we all had a fantastic day, but it was disappointing.

What’s the plan? Do organizing committees continue to guesstimate? Or do we establish some unwritten rules about only registering for something that you are committing to attend. Please share your thoughts.

NY/NJ Mobile Learning Summit

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.

I looked back at my recent posts and realized that I am only posting about once a month. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that work and life is so busy. Lame excuse, right?  You’ve probably said the same thing at some point in time, so let me off the hook, just this once as life really has been hectic.

I’ve been working on many things since I moved over to the SGEI at Kean University 11 months ago. Here’s a few of them:

  1. Designed and launched a new SGEI website
  2. Contracted with new consultants so that we are now a Google Apps EDU Professional Learning Organization
  3. Worked with the SGEI staff to develop this amazing list of PD sessions for the 2012-2013 academic year
  4. Planned several large events at the University including the 2nd annual NY/NJ Google Apps Summit and the Mobile Learning Summit coming up this November (see below)

On November 2, school administrators, teachers and network specialists will gather at the STEM Building at Kean University for the inaugural Mobile Learning Summit

Presenting districts in New Jersey include:

    • West Morris Regional School District
    • Randolph Township School District
    • Parsippany-Troy Hills School District
    • Springfield Public Schools
    • West Orange Public Schools
    • Morris School District

Keynote Speaker,  Lisa Dawley, Ph.D., will be presenting “Creating a Successful Mobile Adoption in the Classroom and Beyond!” in the STEM Auditorium and then attendees will select sessions of their choosing including Mobile Devices for Formative Assessment and a panel presentation: Moving Towards a 1:1 – Policies, Procedures and Legal Landmines.

The Mobile Learning Summit is designed for the K-20 education community to discuss, learn and share best practices in regards to Mobile Learning. Visit the Summit website for more information and to register.
Seating is limited. (Please contact me with any questions.)

For Edcamp Newbies

Yesterday, with the support of SGEI and Kean University, where I work, I hosted edcamp Common Core. The idea was to gather NJ educators to discuss a common theme.

Here’s what I heard from attendees in the morning before we shared opening remarks in the auditorium:

  • Why weren’t the sessions posted ahead of time?
  • Where are the experts?
  • I did not come prepared to talk.
  • I just came to listen.
  • Don’t you have any handouts for us?
  • Am I going to learn anything?

I was nervous for a bit in the morning before the session board filled. Thank goodness Ann Oro did such a good job at settling the nerves of some of the attendees and even got some of them to post sessions.

Once we all got into the auditorium I went over some basic notes on the facility and then reviewed the concepts behind an unconference. I also went over the schedule with them so that they could see what types of discussions were going to occur and possibly even add an idea of their own on the way up to the first sessions.

I ended with these rules for the day:

  1. Listen. Everyone has something to contribute.
  2. Participate. You have something to add to the conversation.
  3. Think with your feet.
  4. Have a good time.

Here’s what I heard at the share-out at the end of the day and from e-mails sent to me that evening:

  • I wanted to take a moment to express my enjoyment at today’s sessions! The conversations throughout the day were healthy, respectful, and informative among the educators in the building, I look forward to future edCamp events.
  • Thanks for setting this up.  Best day this summer.
  • Again, the conference was great and got me thinking in a lot of new ways.
  • I’m becoming an edcamp junkie.
  • Thank you so very much for the opportunity to attend the edcamp today, It was my very first time and I must admit I was a little leery not knowing what it was really about. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. It was great to see, hear and discuss a common ground with other teachers.
  • I greatly enjoyed meeting teachers from other school districts to share our thoughts on different areas of education.  Thank you for setting up this unconference.
  • Would you please email me information on how to set up an edcamp in my school?

It’s not that I didn’t attempt to educate attendees on what the day would be like. It was all on the website that was linked to the Eventbrite. It’s just that the concept is still so new to so many people.

There are many, many more edcamps already scheduled. There’s even another in NJ on December 1. Please share our experiences from yesterday with your colleagues and future edcamp attendees.

edcamp Common Core

A few months ago, as we were planning our PD for the summer at Kean, I realized that I really wanted to provide an event at the SGEI this summer that was of no cost to educators. The theme that we chose for this edcamp is the Common Core Standards.  Educators are encouraged to gather at this event to discuss the following topics:

  • What are districts doing to implement the Common Core?
  • What am I expected to know about the Common Core Standards for the grade level(s) and content area I teach to prepare my students for the 2014?
  • What am I expected to know as a classroom teacher?
  • Just how different are the Common Core from previous state standards?
  • What kinds of professional development are available to assist with implementing the Common Core?

is proud to present this FREE event for NY and NJ educators. 
This “UNCONFERENCE” will be held at the STEM Building 
at Kean University on August 9, 2012 from 8am – 4pm.

Register for this event using

We are looking for educators that have been implementing the standards in the classrooms/schools/districts to join us that day and facilitate conversations at the roundtables. Please contact me directly if you are interested in helping make this event a success!

Ed Tech in the NJ Classroom

Today I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of faculty/staff from Fairleigh Dickinson University in NJ. I promised them that I would post the slidedeck and resources while at Starbucks soaking up wifi in-between meetings. Unfortunately, I could not get to a Starbucks, but I was able to find a Panera and write the post.

I had originally presented this information at WETech  Symposium back in March. Using this blog post, I gathered stories from educators from around NJ regarding how they were using technology in their schools.

The following are the resources and websites that I referred to in the presentation:

Looking to Hear Success Stories from Educators in NJ

On Saturday, March 17, 2012 I will be speaking at the first ever West Essex Tech Symposium. This special free event has been designed to educate K-12 teachers, administrators, media specialists, school boards and interested community members on the innovative uses of technology in education.

I am one of three keynotes that will be presented that day. Eric Scheninger and Patrick Higgins will also be presenting, so I encourage you to attend and also check out the many sessions from fantastic teachers and admins across NJ.

I would love to share your story during my keynote, “Possibly the 648th Time You’ll Hear About 21st Century Learning”. Please consider filling out the form below, contacting me directly or passing the link to this page on to someone you feel has a story to share. It’s these stories that encourage other educators in NJ and elsewhere to shift their teaching strategies to help prepare our students for what is to come.

Looking to Learn Something New? Come to NJ!

March is a busy month in NJ for professional Development

Maximizing the Possibilities of a Connected World

NJECC 26th Annual NJ Educational Computing Cooperative Conference
Co-sponsored with NJ Dept. of Education and Montclair State University
MARCH 13, 2012
Keynote Speaker: JON LANDIS
Post-Conference Workshops:
March 14 & 15, 2012

Conference Booklet – http://www.njecc.org/site/files/2012registrationbrochure.pdf

From My Classroom to Yours

Digital Content in the Classroom
Create, Integrate, Assess!

Annual From My Classroom to Yours Conference
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 
on the campus of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Pomona, New Jersey

A teacher-to-teacher conference that offers teachers, technology coordinators, and educational administrators the opportunity to share “best practices” for teaching and learning.

First Educational Technology Symposium at West Essex March 17, 2012!

This special free event has been designed to educate K-12 teachers, administrators, media specialists, school boards and interested community members on the innovative use of technology in education.
For information, contact Raquel Williams at rwilliam@westex.org. To register, visit www.westex.org/wetech. To read the press release, click here.

The first ever NY/NJ Google Apps Summit!
This event will be held at the Kean University STEM building on March 22 and 23, 2012.

Register now as it is filling quickly. Come hear from Googlers, Google Certified Teachers and Google Apps Certified Trainers on how to deploy, implement and sustain Google Apps in your school. Take a look at the conference grid at https://sites.google.com/site/nynjgs12/conference-sessions and register here.