Today was our “unconference” day. It is one of the best things the DEN has started at these little annual meetings of ours. Last night, a long line of people stood before the group and announced something they would like to work on. Each of us wrote that down on a piece of card stock. In order to make the announcement we had to agree to take ownership. So, that meant facilitating the discussion and making sure some type of record was available of the things discussed.
I believe we had over 30 groups suggested. Steve Dembo divided them up into 4 time slots, assigned each a room, and attendees were free to go to whatever session they desired. If they found the session to be of little value to them, they were encouraged to leave and find another group that would be more fulfilling. What a fantastic way to do PD in a local school or district!
Since our system in Bradley County recently changed our cell phone policy to include the educational use of cell phones and personal electronic devices during school hours, I announced that I would like to discuss that to learn about best practices, pitfalls, AUPs, and more. At 2:15 we began our group and we finished at 3:30. What an amazing time it was!
I didn’t bother to count the people who attended. I know there were more than 10 and less than 100. I put a Google Doc up on the screen and gave them the link to edit it. I explained that I would facilitate the discussion around a few questions I had already loaded into the doc. I asked that they write their own notes collaboratively. If they contributed to the discussion, I asked that they write that into the notes (websites, ideas, questions, etc). If they didn’t want to talk, they could still contribute to the conversation by simply adding to the doc.
I really liked this way of facilitating discussion. As a computer lab teacher, I could see doing this same thing as a way for a class to make collaborative notes that they can then study for assessments later.
I also posted the link on Twitter and Facebook and invited others not attending the LC Symposium to also participate in our online discussion. We had a few drop by!
I found this idea of an unconference to be quite refreshing. There is Leadership Institute next week where other STAR DEN members will come and spend time with Discovery staff. Some things we are doing this week will be repeated next week, and, our posting about it seems to take a little of the surprise away. But the unconference assures them of having a unique experience on Wednesday totally unlike what we had today.