17 May 2013

Compare and Contrast...

I put my hand up to "convene the French programme" at an upcoming regional Language teachers day conference. Here are a couple of reasons:
- to help out
- to keep in touch with the local Language teachers community
- to share experiences gleaned from a range of professional learning opportunities
- to further support my conviction that this model of Professional Learning has seen better days

This is comparing and contrasting the traditional Subject Association Conference day with the Unconference day, educamp style.
Both are intended to be "for teachers by teachers" (the only "both A&B" of the Venn Diagram)

I have attended a range of subject associations conferences in NZ and abroad, four educamp and one Ignition. I have previously been a convener helped organise Week End d Immersion the upcoming Fransème and put together FrenchCamp 

Convening for a day's conference involves:
- Attend committee meetings
- Go over what was has been done traditionally and that was deemed "to work"
- Follow it to the letter (including mail outs, venue booking, catering, establishing conference fees, finding sponsorship, finding/inviting a "flash" keynote speaker, collecting fees...)
- Convince teachers in your network to present "something spectacular" "their excellent practice" to fit in one of the "lines" of the programme,  ask them to take a day of school, plan relief,  ask SLT for relief ($300), pay for their conference fee (because there is not enough money to invite them),  travel to the venue, send a bio and a presentation outline by a certain deadline, convince them "it's good for their CV"
- Exchange countless emails with the committee, hope that there are enough registrations to break even, ensure that all is on time for the programme to be published
- Decide for others on a programme for the day, plan all its aspects
- Meet and greet the presenters on the day, intro them when they start, thank them when they are done, give them a bottle of wine and a handwritten card of thanks.
- Decide on how /when to give the Evaluation form that is so hard to ellicit from attendees at the end of the day.
- Use the few evaluation forms returned to continue to do mostly the same, as some "will always be moaners" and "it is hard to please everybody"
- Count on attendees to come and expect to be given "a presentation"
- Count on listening a lot
- Count on listening to "experts"
- Expect no media coverage
- Expect tech to be limited to dedicated workshops
- Expect limited access to resources, if shared online, to those who have paid their conference fees
- Timetable of sessions reinforce silos (I ll never know what the Japanese teacher or the Maori teacher have to say, I ll just run from one session to the next, just like at school from one lesson to another)
- Opportunities to network and exchange ideas beyond the programme or about the programme are limited to morning tea and lunchtime
- Go home tired after another day

Organising an unconference involves:
- Pick a date on a week end, the self directed learner knows when it is worth giving up a precious day off for quality professional learning
- Whip up a google form, send the link via a range of social media
- Share the list of attendees and watch it grow by word of mouth
- Tap shoulders or just wait till someone offers their school as a venue
- Check the numerous website offering tips on coordinating a flow of activities to make the day go smoothly, start a google doc and watch the contributions grow
- Just check there is wifi and heating is on
- Organise a bowl for koha and coffee
- Ask people to bring a plate or to walk to a nearby café
- Rightly assume that all come to share something and ask something, prepared to talk, present off the cuff, take hard questions
- Count on participants to come and give, and share experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly
- Count on exchanging, collaborating a lot and maybe even critic and argue!
- Count on co-constructing knowledge and understanding
- Expect extensive social media coverage
- Expect online resources shared and open to all
- Expect tech to be embedded to communicate beyond the event and to support learning
- No need for evaluation: if people stayed on and did not vote with their feet, consider all got something out of it
- Expect to read many reflections and blogposts on what has been learnt, shared and questioned by participants
- Go home enthused after another day

So if the question is "What's next for Learning Languages?" I would argue that those who have traditionally provided Professional Learning opportunities start thinking about Professional Learning in the context of both the NZC and of the current era.  Professional Learning is not something a teacher should be expecting to be organised for them and to receive passively by turning up but something that the teacher would go and get in their own terms, when they are ready, when they need it, that is accessible, in a range of authentic contexts, that they reflect on and share,  just like the learning of our students in the classroom.
To continue to ask a few to focus huge energy and effort on providing costly Conference days which value is determined in terms of attendance and on the spot evaluation is too big an ask when the alternatives abound. Subject Associations, hand over the learning to the individual teacher,  by empowering them to share their practice openly in an environment conducive to exchange and conversation. Create the right climate and accompany change.

1 comment:

  1. Ever so on the nail, as usual, Madame. You could be echoing my thoughts after my morning at Educamp. I'll just cobble together a wee report thereof.
    Hang on to your chapeau......


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