Building Learning Communities 08: See you there?
I was fortunate enough to have an invitation from Alan November to give a few talks at 2007's sell-out Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston. I'm delighted to have been asked back this coming summer to deliver the opening keynote and provoke some thoughts for the rest of this festival of learning.
I've chosen a theme close to my heart: teachers and how we feel when confronted with newness. Conferences and workshops often aim to 'train' us, give us new skills and some enthusiasm to tackle new things in our classrooms. This keynote will hopefully shake up something far more profound: our attitudes towards our own learning as teachers.
As we design curricula that inspire students to learn in more independent and personalized ways, the role of the teacher becomes increasingly vital and increasingly complex. It's a role most educators are not comfortable navigating. When we could learn to be enthusiastic for so many learning approaches, tools and technologies, when everyone else seems to be so fluent in change, just where exactly are we meant to start?
Maybe the question has nothing to do with the approaches or tools. Maybe it's all to do with attitudes to our role as teachers and as learners. We may wax lyrical about offering opportunities for our students to be more creative in school, yet how creative do we as teachers get? Is creativity in itself helping to bring around educational improvement, or is there a longer game to play?
In this keynote address, I will show how every teacher and learner can be remarkable, not just creative but ingenious and, in turn, how this is actually being reflected in the work and attitudes of learners in Scotland and beyond.
There are certain things conference goers can expect from this hour. First, it's a lot longer than one hour. The keynote will be the beginning of a conversation that will take place on the web, on mobile (cell) phones and in person, over a beer. The channels will also be open before, during and after the talk itself. It's hard (impossible) to have a conversational dialogue of the nature Will is talking about when addressing 700+ people in a room, so we'll have to find other ways to interact.
One of the principle means will be (if Alan allows it) a backchannel that is displayed on a big screen for all to see. I had this two years ago at Les Blogs 2.0 and really enjoyed the 'live' feel of it. It changes what you say, makes you clarify your position when your vague and makes sure no-one walks out of the room feeling that there isn't enough substance or that I've left out an important point. Ultimately, it takes something that has often been for those "in the know" and makes it accessible for everyone.
I hope that by next summer I'll have a US cell phone number that participants can text message to, in order to take part without a laptop. That means that most, if not all the people in the room, and elsewhere around the world, can take part with whatever technology they have in front of them (or in their pockets).
It's time for conference keynotes to become the most accessible and most approachable elements of the conference, rather than the opposite. I, for one, hope that we manage to achieve this next summer.