Last week, when preparing to attend Meeting of the Minds 2012, I will admit I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable. I would classify myself as introverted, happy to share but needing time to think , preferring to write than speak, and much preferring to play ‘behind-the-scenes’ roles. What was I thinking? I had registered for an ‘unconference’ which promised things such as ‘squirm debates’, and input from the participants was a required feature. I totally understood the concept – use the power of the room, determine the needs and interests and then attempt to satisfy them from within. I thought to myself that what was being asked of the participants of MOTM is exactly what we want of our students everyday. Active participation in their learning.
I was out of my comfort zone. So, with some trepidation I attended, and immediately the feelings of discomfort dissipated (well mostly). As with Teachmeets, the participants were all volunteers – they all wanted to be there, giving up precious weekend time to attend. Everyone had something to offer and the friendliness was tangible. Many people attending were already part of my on-line Personal Learning Network, and now those relationships are enhanced by face-to-face meet ups. Others were new to me and they now further enhance my PLN. People were as happy to talk about ‘Why?’ as ‘How?’ and that made for some great conversation. The fact that the same amount of time was spent analysing a question as was spent answering it, indicates the nature of the event.
Driving home, I likened it to a ‘perfect classroom’ – a place where children;
- can follow personal pathways
- can be supported by their peers and vice versa as well as by ‘experts’
- experience information presented in a variety of ways
- have time to question and reflect
- can laugh and express their learning in creative ways
- are extended beyond their comfort zones in a supportive way
- invisibly use technology to support and extend learning (OK, it was not invisible but it was definitely purposeful)
It became obvious that the amount of planning for an ‘unconference’ was just as rigorous as for a conventional conference. The behind the scenes work had been well thought out – QR codes linking to Google docs, lunch activities that made us mingle, beautiful and thought provoking musical presentation, keynote (that’s not a keynote but a conversation starter) etc. These things do not just happen, they occur after clever people put their minds together – and for that I am very thankful.
I am now left with some homework – connections made that will create some fantastic opportunities for both my students as well as my own professional growth. The ‘unconference’ is over but the effects will linger. As one participant tweeted “Still have to unpack my brain from MOTM12”. So, is feeling uncomfortable a good thing? Yes.
PS. A great summary created by Roland Gesthuizen who did not attend in person but followed on Ustream and Twitter and created this Storify