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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Unconferences - Constructive Time for the Big Kids

We’ve all been there. Conference after conference. Training after training. Receive the agenda ahead of time and peruse for breaks and down time. Is it lecture after lecture? And yes, I’ve hosted many of just those types of trainings with panel discussions, dynamic speakers (and some not so much), and agendas that have packed in too much, leaving participants exhausted and overwhelmed.

Those days may become a think of the past if the unconference movement continues to grow. And for the sake of our own learning, let’s hope so!

Just attended my first “unconference" yesterday, hosted by EdCampLeader and Remind101. What a relaxed day of learning, discussions, and brainstorming.

The approach is fairly simple. Get a group of people together, have no preassigned topics in mind, invite no keynotes, and plan breaks and meals.

Got it!

But wait….attend a conference with no agenda? I works. It really does. Imagine joining in on productive conversations that go where you drive them, in an era of so much structure and ticking hands on a clock that you can relax into the informality and be real with yourself and your needs while at a conference!

Our “unconference” was the EdCampLdr (aka Ed Camp Leader) held in San Francisco, thanks to Remind (aka Remind 101) co-hosting. We were one of some 13-15 locations in the nation simultaneously unconferencing their way through the day. Our day began with an overview of the “rules” – everyone participates in the brainstorming, topics are winnowed for similarity, and we use the “Law of Two Feet” to join another group if the one we are in isn’t meeting our needs. Oh…no one presents either. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

The first round had us engage in 45 minute long conversations. The topic of the first breakout I joined was “mindset.” Ready….talk. Those who were present raised questions, shared their work, and ultimately expanded my thinking in a way that I’m not able to do at a conference. Here are just a few of the topics we covered:

  • Bringing data back from implementations to move to growth mindset iterations

  • Must provide time to reflect and revisit

  • How to use data to build growth mindset

  • Build framework as a school leader

  • What is the common vision of the student we are trying to build as a school?

  • Need to move teachers out of isolation and silos

  • How do you build it in a school staff that is at a very high performing school

  • Must create an ecosystem that supports team-taught classes

  • How might we use strategies that we already have in place to build growth mindset

  • Check out instructional rounds

  • What kind of pressures do our staffs, students, families face?

  • Six seconds for social emotional needs

  • Assessment of Learning vs. for learning

  • How to we build mindfulness in all stakeholders?

Get the idea? The best part is that we’re empowered to share our expertise and look at how we can add, change, or support programs we have in place. While I gave a great deal, a focus on give and take certainly meant that I took more ideas than I gave today.

A day built around conferences. That is an unconference. That is EdCamp. Check it out and attend one.

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