Re-booting educational conferences

The IATEFL conference 2012 is being held in Glasgow this year. I have never been to one of these conferences but what strikes me is the lecture dominated nature of the delivery. Some concession has been granted to the 21st century by the accompanying IATEFL conference online resources which include forum discussions and useful videos of the lecture sessions. But why not more practice based sessions?

If you agree that

Lecture is the lowest common denominator of learning

Chad – Classroots.org

then why do we stand for it in conferences which are supposed to promote our professional development?

Alternatives can be drawn from the world of games, web development and maker communities. Usually these events involve building code, or web page or whatever in a limited time frame using various constraints.

See this video from the Cut&Paste design battle:

Cut&Paste Global Champs 2010-11 from Cut&Paste on Vimeo.

In this battle they have 3 categories, for example in one of these categories participants have 15 mins to create a 2D design based on an assigned brief. They are provided with computers and software and are allowed to bring one pre-made asset.

Maybe a future IATEFL conference will host a Lesson Plan Jam where competing teachers have 15 mins to design a lesson plan using an assigned theme. Then they swap the lesson plans and have 15 mins to adapt the plan, the ‘jam’ in Lesson Plan Jam. The audience response along with a jury would be judges of the best plans?

There could be various categories such as Video-based lesson plan, Online-based lesson plan, Dogme lesson plan etc.

There could be participative sessions to improve or ‘hack’ current teaching practice and training, e.g. improve CELTA training by cutting down or out input parts as suggested by Scott Thornbury in a comment on a Willy Cordoso blog post?

Whether you agree or don’t agree that educational conferences have to set an example and change their format please do comment.

Update 1:

More riffing on this theme at We Can Flip More Than Classrooms by @cogdog and Flipping the conference by @audreywatters

Update 2:

Sharon Hartle (@hartle) warns us of Hannibal Lecturing in The silence of the audience and Naomi Epstein (@naomishema) wants participative debates in Is it possible to have output session at a conference?

Update 3:

A glimpse of what participant based edu conferences can look like by Roger Dupuy (@rogerdupuy) The Speaker-Less Session.

Update 4:

Willy Cardoso describes an open space session on professional development. And read this English Central Anti Conference Conference for more details on open space discussion outcomes shared by Tyson Seburn.

Penny for your thoughts

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