As the landscape flew by and the Maglev train sped up to over 420 km/hr, Paul and I discussed everything from our families and backgrounds to our interests and career goals. I’d met Paul less than an hour earlier in my hotel lobby in Shanghai, shared a taxi with him to catch the Maglev train and spent the whole time sharing information with him. Our connection was that we’d both attended Learning 2010. To me, this is the power of a conference like Learning 2010 to build networks.
Learning 2010 was a two day conference at Concordia International Secondary School in Shanghai, China that brought together students from international schools in Shanghai, and educators from around the world but primarily from South East Asia, China, Japan and Korea. Learning 2010 used a hybrid conference model including dedicated time to work in cohorts on a chosen topic and unconference time. The conference was designed to include a student as an equal participant in each cohort session. During the 6 hours spent in cohorts, each team had to create a product related to their topic. My cohort was online learning and we divided into subgroups based on interest. My group worked on a framework for schools interested in hybrid education (available here). All of the products are available on the moodle site but unfortunately, we ran out of time to share with each other during the cohort sessions. I think that time to share would have been valuable because we would have been able to tie things together and get the big picture. Of course, I can do that by looking through the products individually but I think that there is added value from being able to discuss ideas with others in the group and get a chance to clarify their thinking/reasoning. It’s much more cumbersome to do that online.
For the unconference sessions, the content was really up to the participants. Sessions were one hour long and the topics were suggested by the participants and decided through crowdsourcing; each participant voted for the sessions that he/she was interested in and sessions with the most participants ran while the others were discarded. The quality of the unconference sessions depended on the participants; there was a facilitator but each participant could contribute to the discussion and share ideas. An unconference really is a shared learning experience. Unconference sessions are optional; I actually skipped two of them during Learning 2010. I skipped one to continue working on my group project for my cohort; I was doing research on hybrid/online learning and was immersed in the experience; I did not want to leave it for something else. I skipped the second session for a chance to process my experiences from the conference and speak with some individuals who I felt that I could learn from in a one-on-one discussion.
A conference like Learning 2010 gives you all the pieces that you need and then asks you to create what you want. I’m sure that no one else at the conference had an experience just like mine; the experience is as individualized as you want to make it. You get what you put into it; cliched but true. You need to know what you want to know so that you can suggest it for unconference sessions, and even for areas of exploration in cohort sessions. If you’re unsure of what you want to learn, you can leave the decisions up to the other participants and simply attend sessions (suggested by others) that interest you. If you learn nothing in your time there, it’s your fault because you’re essentially one of the organizers.
One of my favorite opportunities during the conference was talking to students. A couple of seniors joined me for lunch one day, one from eastern Europe and one Chinese-Canadian. One of them was surprised to learn that I’d studied computer science at university and had taught computer science. He’d never met a female programmer. I explained that I don’t consider myself a programmer but have female programmer friends who work in industry. That was an interesting discussion. On the last morning, I struck up a conversation with another senior who I found out is Spanish. I enjoyed speaking with her about her views of the world and education, her experiences as an international student and her goals for the future. I was disappointed that I couldn’t join her and her facilitators for dinner that night (I got caught up on the Bund) but I did exchange e-mail addresses with her and look forward to finding out where she ends up next year.
Learning 2010 was time well spent. My next step from that is to explore the viability of having an online computer course that students can work through at their own pace with support from me as part of their middle school curriculum.
- Blended Learning in K-12 – http://www.dpresident.net/journeywithtechnology/?p=934
- Learning 2010 Unconference Sessions Day 1 – http://www.dpresident.net/journeywithtechnology/?p=922
- Notes and finds from #learning2cn Tell a Story in 5 Frames Unconference session (speedofcreativity.org)
- Talk with Media: Visual Literacy and Digital Storytelling #learning2cn (speedofcreativity.org)
- Seven Shanghai Surprises (edtechpower.blogspot.com)