Okay so after attending the ASCD conference this year I have a number of recommendations that I have for holding future conferences. I don’t know if anyone will listen to these ideas, but there must be a better way to run these sessions. Near the end of the conference, I got the chance to meet Cate Brubaker and Shane Krukowski who are very interesting people and seem like they are excellent educators. We had a great discussion about how to run a conference, so a lot of these ideas we came up with in collaboration.
The first thing we talked about is the fact that ASCD should have had more space for collaboration and guided meetings between professionals. Our thought was, why not an unconference? Of course I very much doubt you could run an entire conference the size of the ASCD using the unconference model, but surely it would be possible to have a few sessions which were run in this style. For reference an unconference is essentially a structured conversation about a topic. Typically people show up with a facilitator, they brainstorm some topics, form groups based on the topics, and spend most of the time discussing issues about which they have a common interest. Ideally at the end of the session, there is time to come back together to share what was discussed.
Actually this collaboration could easily happen before the sessions as well. If each conference had a Ning site, and each session had its own group, people could be in communication and download information related to sessions before they happened. It might also help with follow up if people have a space available to ask follow up questions and share ideas related to the implementation of the professional development. We all know that follow up is key in PD, and happens so rarely.
Another point we thought of is that some of the topics, particularly in technology, were out of date by the time the conference finished. So we thought that there should be some reserved for technology sessions which are more current. Technology especially is changing at quite a rapid rate that although this particular conference may not have especially benefited from this process, for future sessions it will be important. Imagine the tools that have been created this past year alone which would be useful to share with participants.
We each went to at least one session on technology where we quickly realized that the session was at a level appropriate for a beginner, and this area at least we didn’t consider ourselves inexperienced. So our next recommendation was that every session should have information about what audience the session is intended for, beginner or expert.
Pass along important information, like sessions being cancelled, in multiple ways. ASCD had 3 people whose job it was to pass along information via Twitter yet I didn’t see a single tweet about cancelled sessions. Don’t get me wrong the work they did was great, but trying to inform a group of five or six thousand teachers by using a printed newspaper is just not going to work, not to mention the fact it’s a huge waste of paper. Another possible recommendation here is to do what the airlines do, and use a giant screen to post updates to session availability in the information area.
There were lots of good things about the conference. The ability to see which ticketed sessions still had room was very cool. Meeting up with fellow Twitterers in the three Tweetup sessions was awesome. Having a humongous selection of sessions we could go to made finding things we would find interesting easier. Being able to listen to amazing keynote speakers and actually follow along with their presentations with the giant projection screens was excellent.
All told, I enjoyed the ASCD conference, but we found these small things they could do to make the sessions run a bit smoother.