As someone who has rarely missed attending the Jerusalem ETAI Summer Conference over the past 26 years, I can certainly say I firmly believe in the benefits of attending conferences.
I still haven’t filled out the speaker proposal form because a question has been bothering me.
Do conferences have to be devoted solely to “input”? One goes from session to session, sets up an attention device and prepares to receive input. That is the pattern. Sometimes there will be more than one speaker, sometimes questions from the audience will be answered but the pattern remains.
Is it possible to have an “output” session?
Perhaps I could suggest a few topics to be voted on before the conference over our teachers’ mailing list. Let’s take “Error Correction” as an example of a topic chosen.
Perhaps there would be a session (or one on each day?) devoted to hashing out a set of Do’s and Don’ts related to that topic that could be posted on the conference site after the conference, as a combined effort teachers output of that particular conference. I think the number would have to be limited – we would have to come up with no more than seven or ten strategies / attitudes that are recommended, and the same number which most certainly are not. If we use this example we would perhaps need to produce a separate document for talking and writing. Short lists will be a useful document to have as an “output”.
In addition, having a limited number will make it more into an interesting discussion or debate. While I would call on everyone to be very polite, accepting everything said (sort of “anything goes” attitude) will not lead to an actual meaningful debate over what is effective or less so. Actually, its adding the element of polite dissent to brainstorming (I posted about this here).
On the other hand, this seems a very risky proposition.
I don’t know if teachers are as interested as I am in debating issues of classroom strategies.
I don’t know if the number of teachers in a session at a time should be limited for such a thing.
I don’t know if I can moderate such a session and keep the discussion on track and civil.
I don’t know if I’m simply trying to recreate the amazing dynamics of an #eltchat at a face to face conference without the help of the marvelous moderators we have there.
Has anyone encountered such a session?