Wednesday, June 1, 2016

So Yeah, We Just Hosted a TEDx Event With Middle School Speakers...

The feeling in the room was tense. Months of planning and work coming down to this moment. As she takes the stage, Jolie is unaware of how awesome this day is about to be. The first sentence from a speaker could not have set the tone more perfectly: "Ladies - have you ever been told you couldn't do something because you are a girl?" With that, we were off and running.

TEDxDePereMiddleSchool was a TEDxYouth event planned by a large group of staff at De Pere Middle School. I happened to come up with the crazy idea, so people looked to me as the "leader". In any case, the challenge could not have been any greater:  starting in mid March, we had two months to procure 20 excellent student presenters, 5 community speakers, a venue, sponsors, and combine that all together to generate day long celebration of individuality, based upon the theme of "My Unique Contribution to the World". I wrote at length about our planning process in a previous post.

We had a few challenges to overcome to make this happen. First, we needed the venue. Thanks to our lovely sign, and the donation of two big screen TVs by local company Camera Corner, our venue was pretty much set. We had three iPad tripods and utilized the RecoLive Multicam app ($5 on the app store per device) to create some groovy multiple camera angles. For our live stream, we simply had a laptop near the front of the stage that ran on Youtube through Open Broadcast Software. From there, the fanned our chairs in rows. We had 96 seats in total. Our awesome secretaries and head custodian helped block out our 27 windows so the room could be dark like a theater.

Next, we needed volunteers. We had some student greeters, a student social media person, some student camera people, and student MCs. I have to say that if you are going to do this, get students as involved as possible! We didn't have an opportunity to really work with these students on how exactly the process was going to go until the very last week. Guess what happened? They so totally rocked! Check out our Facebook page from that day. Every single post was done by the Amazing Alyssa. She doesn't even have her own Facebook account!
Our Super Incredible Volunteers
My Library Media Specialist compadre Donna Young was sensational in helping plan the event and running it. She was in charge of presenter flow. We had to organize 36 humans, 28 of which were students, through the process. We did have a dress rehearsal on the Tuesday prior, so that helped. However, Donna was simply steady as a rock on the day of our event. I could not have done this without her. Another honorable mention was to Melissa Flucke, who helped build our schedule, procure some community presenters, reach our for sponsorship, and got use media coverage with a local TV station!

We utilized our Food Service to feed us during our three breaks and lunch. I felt that the breaks ended up being a little long by about 15 minutes. The day as a whole could have been condensed by about one or two hours, even with the amount of talks we had.  However, it was nice to have downtime between each group of speakers.

Being well planned has it's benefits. Because most things were taken care of, I was free to solve tech issues. We had one right off the bat. The microphone for our live feed was not working. While our first speaker was firing away, I was just a few feet in front of her frantically trying to solve the problem, which we did. Jolie's talk was very good, and unfortunately because of this, only the people there got to bear witness to it. Thankfully, the iPads recorded everything so it will be up on Youtube soon! In addition to that little snafu, we also had to quickly generate a new live stream after lunch. Ours must have timed out, so just minutes before our first after lunch speaker, I had to fight with the keyboard to make it happen. Then, while he was rolling, I was updating the links in a million different places. Ahh. I got quite the workout.

I can't say enough about our speakers. They made this event possible. They made this event awesome. Having the opportunity to work with so many students made my entire year. As a tech integrator, I have very few students I get to work with and know. This was such a cool opportunity to work with students over weeks to build towards something and improve skills. It was a proud moment to see them stand a deliver on their passions. Our community speakers also brought some great perspective, cool ideas, inspiring stories, and of course, the feels. There was a lot of heart and a lot of emotion. Everyone was giving their all. Everyone was sharing their unique contribution to the world with the world.

All in all, this was the most incredible experience I have ever been a part of. The amount of camaraderie that was developed between me and my colleagues could not be created out of thin air. All of us working towards the same cause, a clear cause, did wonders for our relationships. I feel like I got to know everyone so much better. 

Of course, the event doesn't end when the event ends. Each individual talk needs to be edited out and uploaded to the TEDx Youtube Page. This is where the videos will be housed forever. I am currently in that process now. Using the MultiCam app made my life a lot easier. However, because we didn't really have the infrastructure to support a sound system, the volume isn't ideal. Hopefully we can improve this if we do it again in the future.

If you are looking to do this yourself, understand that the sooner you can start the process, the better. Have a large team, and especially make sure you have enough adults and volunteers to cover everything. Who is welcoming people? Are students introducing the speakers? Who is taking pictures? Who is recording the official video? Who solves the technical problems? Who organizers the presenters? Is there a green room for presenters? How will your breaks go? Will you run all day? The evening? A weekend?

If you are reading this and want to try this yourself, feel free to reach out. I would love to help you in the process as much as I was helped when we were getting started. We didn't do everything right, but we had a unique venue and a totally authentic experience. It also underscored something very important - when students can have a choice in what they talk about and have it rooted in something they are passionate about, they can exceed expectations. These students most certainly did.

Will there be a TEDxDePereMiddleSchool in 2017? Time will tell... :)


  1. Mr. Gauthier, I left you a message the other day about wanting more information on how you implemented the lessons to the students for your TED talks. However, I forgot to leave a contact email for you to return my message. My work email is

    Renee Skogg

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  3. Great Work! Thank you for sharing at #mwgs! Great meeting you. Your enthusiasm is contagious!