Sunday, October 25, 2009

Collaborative Conferencing

Image used under a Creative Commons License from ChrisL_AK on flickr.

I am more and more loving the idea of the collaborative conference. On Saturday I attended a day-long session with Steve Hargadon on Social Educational Networking. (Steve has officially renamed it). His session model was inspiring. Here’s why:

- He posted an agenda on a wiki page and then proceeded to rewrite it based on the interests and needs of the group that came out during the introduction to the day.
- During introductions he mined the group for talents or knowledge that individuals were willing to share.
- He reassessed throughout the day to determine that individual needs and expectations were being met.
- The feeling of spontaneity and serendipity was exciting. He connected our session with another in California by Skype during the lunch break and the two groups shared what they had learned that day. He brought in three other educators using Skype to talk briefly about their experiences with networking.
- He ensured that the interests of both beginners and more seasoned practitioners were met through the use of breakout sessions.
- He ended the day with an energized speed-geeking session where participants shared useful tools or ideas.
- He developed a real sense of community amongst participants who left with a desire to reconnect with each other and extend conversations beyond the session.
- We didn’t ‘sit and git’ but rather shared our strengths, asked questions and had deep conversations.

I came away with a clear sense of how I might restructure the training sessions I do.  I also wonder how this might be effectively used in the classroom.

Do we have the courage to step away from the front of the class and allow students to create learning clusters that better meet their needs?  Clusters that change as the students' needs change.  Would this help to build a sense of trust and a culture of learning in the classroom?  I think it's worth a try.


Errin said...

After reading your post I'm kicking myself even more for not going!

I wanted to share that for the first time I'm (almost) entirely stepping back in a course I'm teaching. I started teaching a Photojournalism course in September. The main goal is to create the school yearbook, however there is enough time with the course inside the school schedule to do newsletters, multimedia projects, etc.

As it's a board authorized course, I have a lttle more leeway and I decided to let the students write the course outline, including how they would be assessed and evaluated. It took almost two weeks, but now, for the first time, I'm teaching a course that is completely created by and run by, students. It's an interesting experience and so far, the course is running smoothly. The students are definitely showing positive signs related to the fact that it's their course and they are responsible for directing the learning activities.

I don't know how I would do such a thing within a Ministry IRP, but it's a start!

Jan Smith said...

Lesley, you nailed the experience and now I don't have to write a post about it! :) Funny how Steve was a master at orchestrating a harmony in the group but said very little--just pulled out the desires of the group and highlighted the common notes.

Felt exciting and fulfilling. I agree we can teach this way if we change our vision of what it means to educate- maybe back to the Latin root of the word: to nourish and drawing out.

What a memorable experience. Thanks for sharing your reflections.

Lesley Edwards said...

Errin, that is so exciting to hear you've taken the plunge. I would love to hear your course-end reflections. Are you writing about the journey in a blog? You are giving your students life skills.

Jan, thanks, so glad to have shared that experience with you. I'm sure we'll be having aha moments for weeks to come as we think back on the day.

Mr. B. Miller said...

Great reflections on the day. The thoughts in your closing paragraph are exactly what I was thinking on the drive home - how do I take this style into the classroom?

The learning on Saturday was phenomenal and I would love my classroom to be more like that. Perhaps it can't be that way all the time, but I'm now committed to trying an "un-unit" or "un-class" before the end of the year. After-all the only way to succeed it to try by doing. Thanks for your thoughts and all your contributions on Saturday.

Steve Hargadon said...

Thanks for posting about this day! I just wanted to add that days like this are extremely rejuvenating to me personally (and I needed a little rejuvenating!). It's really fun to watch people have a fun and exciting day, especially since the major motivation for these workshops is to help bring in educators who feel like they are starting from scratch.

I'd really like to develop a handbook for holding these. Maybe we need a catchy title that indicates professional development built together and locally. Keep me posted on your efforts!

Lesley Edwards said...

Blair: Thanks and you're welcome. It was truly an invigorating day. Will you be sharing your experiments in collaboratively teaching with your students? Maybe in the CEET community? Although I don't enrol any classes of my own I can see using this approach when I introduce new tools to classes in the library. Give the kids a chance to explore and then share what they've learned or help others who need a boost.
Or give them options and let them group according to their interests. So many possibilities!

Lesley Edwards said...

Steve, it was an inspiring day. A handbook sounds like a great idea. I was interested to see the comments from those who are wanting to transfer this approach to their classrooms. Great stuff!

I've joined the Future of Education ning and am looking forward to sifting through the archived events.

Will indeed keep you posted!