30hands Learning Blog

Flipping a Teacher Conference
Ericbraun_linkedin_head_thumb_mini Posted by Eric Braun on May 30, 2013 1 comment
I attend a lot of conferences, both as an attendee, as a speaker and as a workshop facilitator.. It has often occurred to me that there is a disconnect between what we say we want for a classroom experience and how we conduct conferences. We say we want Project-Based Learning, Experiential Learning, Flipped Classrooms and all forms of Blended and Differentiated Learning. Yet, we still set up conferences as a series of lecture-based sessions in a schedule that looks very much like a traditional school day. We have keynote speakers who act a lot like the Sage on the Stage. 

What if we... FLIPPED this model and created a Flipped Conference?

The fundamental question is, "How do we get the innovative ideas to stick?" How do we find a way to realize in the classroom what we so fervently discussed at EdCamp or any other collaborative event? This is what sticks with me and even haunts me at night. With everyone so busy, is there a way we can be both creative and productive in the events like EdCamps and PlayDates? What comes to mind is a conversation I had with a colleague at EdCamp. In the midst of our PBL discussion, she said she wishes that Professional Development could be more experiential, more hands-on, just like we are advocating for our students in our own classrooms. There was universal agreement but no concrete ideas on how to accomplish that. Yes, there are pocket events that offer hands-on, experiential PD, but wouldn't it be great to have some experiential learning sessions with actual takeaways that fit into our classroom curriculums?
In my life beyond the classroom as an entrepreneur, I have organized what we call "Work Parties", where a group of us get together to work and collaborate in a co-working type of space. Even for those who work on a daily basis in a co-working space, going to a new place with new people for the purpose of working and collaborating proved to be very useful. When it becomes a series of Work Parties, there is an even greater benefit, because there is a sense of continuity. I think this concept could work well with teachers, too. We get together to work side-by-side on a "project" that we want to implement in our own classroom, and collaborate with others. 
The key difference between an Unconference (or regular Conference) and a Work Party is that the latter requires some preparation before the actual event. It looks a little like homework. Most conferences assume that no one is preparing except the speakers. The attendees come to listen and "learn", but if we believe learning is better when it is experiential, shouldn't we be learning hands-on? Shouldn't we be learning the way we want to teach? Shouldn't we do our homework just like we expect our students to do?
What if the conference were not an Unconference but a Flipped Conference? What if the presenters were actually facilitators and they prepared homework for the attendee "students"? What if the students did the homework and came to the FlippedCon class prepared for hands-on learning? Wouldn't that be cool! This is what I do in the classroom and what I expect from my students, and it works really well. This is what I try to do with teacher workshops at schools where it is possible. 
My main takeaway from the conferences of the past year is to find a way in the next year to create a conference that is a Flipped Conference. It is an action item for me and a call to action to others who also believe this will be amazing. Let me know what you think and if you're interested in participating or helping out with FlippedCon 1. We can align it with another event or create it from scratch (preferably, drag-and-drop). Even if it's just a small event to start, let's make FlippedCon a reality! If you are interested in participating, comment below or contact me on twitter or tell us on Facebook.
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1 comment so far.

Person24 Bill Strickland on August 13, 2013 @ 01:34 PM

This has long driven me crazy, too. I'm "just" a high school teacher, but I'd love to get our district admin on board with this philosophy.

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