Things that Suck

One thing that is wonderful about my work with Discovery, and there are many, is that I get to try out a lot of stuff. I was invited to present at LearnEast in Fredericton, New Brunswick which is a free conference for educators put on by Bryan Facey and Jeff Whipple. These guys do a great job and offer a top notch day and a half for teachers. They asked me to Keynote and offer some sessions. When I asked what they wanted, they said, “whatever you like”. Dangerous response. 

I’d seen the “Things that Suck” session a few times posted as part of a few EdCamp sessions and was able to see it in action previously under the direction of Carl Hooker. Carl did a great job of engaging folks to open a conference and using it to spark some great conversation about controversial topics. I think it sets a great tone for civil discourse and exploration and sharing of diverse opinions. I thought I’d use LearnEast to take it for a test drive. I think it was an enjoyable drive. 

I created 10 topics and supplemented them with links in case the conversation stalled. Turned out the 35 or so attendees had more than enough to say. Instead of physically moving around to vote, I had them use an object and placed it on one side of their desk or another. Not ideal but it worked considering the room configuration. I tried to include some locally relevant topics along with some more universal issues. Keeping each topic to 5 minutes seemed to be about right. I’m sure it’s a format many have tweaked but for the most part I’m planning to reuse this again. The audience seemed to appreciate a forum to share their ideas and in the case where they felt uninformed, they heard from others. While I’d have liked to see a little more debate and disagreement, folks generally were comfortable exploring varying viewpoints. It felt like we all learned something. 

Here’s the template I used courtesy of Bill Selak which comes with a built in timer. The deck below is the one I used at LearnEast. 


I would encourage you to explore this format in your classroom, at your next staff meeting or presentation. One suggestion might be to intersperse some non-threatening, non-educational topics like: “golf”, “fast food”, “Disney” or my favorite thing that sucks, “pants”. Either way, I’ll be using this again in the near future. 


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  3. Donna DesRoches said:

    I used this activity with our division’s tech team after Dean’s original post and it was extremely successful. I posted a number of topics and had people take their side by moving across the room.

    The discussions that ensued were passionate, professional and lively. Even those that are often quite in our meetings spoke their piece.

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