17 February 2013

Conference or not? ICOT2013

No doubt I took away from ICOT2013 heaps to think about , discuss, weigh etc. BUT!

I sat for five days and listened for five days. I took in: I wanted to be there, both the keynotes and presentations engaged me. I had built my own programme selecting from hundreds of breakouts. I was prepared, I knew what to expect, it was part of the deal.

The speakers were big guns that I respected and wanted to learn from. There was a bit of "fangirl" time going on there.

But a dimension was lacking: I wished some unconference times had been scheduled : I could have heard more but also talked and exchanged, built a better picture there and then.

Hazel blogged live here about her wish to an alternative approach to the conference lecture

And Viv captured it very well in this tweet:

Not saying that big ticket conferences need to go: maybe to be attended sporadically (cost, time value for money, reporting back etc. to be taken into consideration) for the big picture inspirational stuff, where some seriously good presenters are truly going to kick your thinking into action... Or I say, read about it online and engage in discussions with others on matters arising on social media or discussion groups to make sense of it.
What is an alternative? I believe in the value of robust conversations with colleagues,anytime anywhere, as a pillar of professional learning.  User driven conferences, where practitioners share experiences, discuss, make sense of together on matters which actually really matter to them and make the necessary connections, provides a frame for these conversations to take place. Attend an educamp sometime,  there is always one near you. Or there may be a repeat of a frenchCamp!  (Note: what you get out of it is proportional to what you put int, and those gatherings do have a method behind their madness, it's a matter of do what you want in a framework. Nuance!)
Not a place where practitioners expect content delivered in a tidy one hour slot of listening before moving to the next tidy one hour slot, not necessarily connected to the previous, not a space that is partitioned, not an environment that is close to only those present, not a time where somebody tells me what I am going to listen to. I want to choose, I want to lead my learning, I want to decide what I need to learn about to further my understanding, I want to do it as I own it. Stuff that conference conveners,  no matter how much they labour on a programme, coerce presenters to deliver, decide on a venue but are limited by cost, choose what I will eat and drink, try to keep the cost down but still there is a cost, just can not decide for me.
Then that will be teachers embracing their learning and thus being able to truly get students to embrace theirs.

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