Powering the future of education conferences

John, It seems like we’ve become some of the cool kids on the block, with all the conferences we’ve been invited to and the ones we’ll be participating in. This weekend, for instance, I’m lucky to be a part of the TEDxNYED conference, an offshoot of the famed TED conferences. It’s my second year going. […]

John,

It seems like we’ve become some of the cool kids on the block, with all the conferences we’ve been invited to and the ones we’ll be participating in. This weekend, for instance, I’m lucky to be a part of the TEDxNYED conference, an offshoot of the famed TED conferences. It’s my second year going. The set-up is simple: speak up for 10-20 minutes on an idea that’s either insightful or innovative. Include some striking, fading graphics and have an interesting story to tell about how you arrived at the idea. Data and research doesn’t hurt, but the idea is to be bold, original, or at least entertaining. What’s beautiful and uncanny is that, because of the sheer volume of the offshoots, we’ll have no shortage of “expertise”, but we’ll also decentralize that which is special about a speech. There’s a limit to the effectiveness of this relatively new idea.

Thus, even the idea of the education conference has to change. TED is trying to do this with its brain trust idea. Some of the conferences have made me rethink many of my own practices. Dan Meyer, Diana Laufenberg (below), and Andy Carvin come to mind immediately. Michael Wesch, too. What’s most common amongst all the great videos I’ve seen is that none of the videos came in some abstract package for us to try ourselves. Their research came from their having actually done it. Thus, the future of conferences will necessitate action.

A good step in that direction is the edcamps and unconferences springing across the country. However, even they can get bogged down by the ideas of structure, even when the solution is right at their fingertips. I see conferences becoming less structured around the speakers’ words, but the speakers’ actions. Imagine that, instead of seeing Meyer’s example of water filling up in a tank, we could actually see the class react right in front of us, mixing real-time observations and visits with the decompressed feeling of having fellow colleagues around.

All of this is not only possible, but important. While all these discussions happen, I often feel the itch that others do to actually implement these ideas. People speaking at the center of the spotlight itch the same way. During the intermissions, the buzz could potentially bring about solutions, whether locally or nationally. Admittedly, some people just attend conferences to network and stockpile their own “influence” points. They usually fall off to the side when it’s solutions time.

We as part of the TeacherSolutions team can be part of that solutions team. We are imbued in that reality. Whether we make mistakes or otherwise.

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