Babies and Bathwater

I was recently in Hong Kong for the excellent 21st Century Learning conference, where I had the very great pleasure of running some hands-on workshops in Google stuff, and also giving the closing keynote. As I mention at  the start of this talk, it was quite intimidating to think that I could say anything worth hearing after an amazing couple of days of learning from so many other amazing educators. (Having people like Stephen Heppell and Gary Stager in the audience didn’t make it any less intimidating either)

I actually didn’t even realise these talks were being recorded so when I spotted this on Twitter today it came as a bit of a surprise. For what it’s worth, here is a video of my talk, called Babies and Bathwater.

I go to quite a few conferences, and I’m always a little surprised at how few of them bother to video the presentations. Given the amount of time and energy that conference organisers put into running these events, you’d think they would be better at capturing things for later reuse. Good on you Paul, Justin and Graeme for making sure that you do it right at 21clHK.

Reflections on China, Part 2

During the Learning 2.012 event, a number of the Learning 2 Leaders had the opportunity to present a short mini keynote on a topic of their choice. I thought it was a good arrangement, being able to hear a little bit from a number of people, instead of just one long talk from one person. In the previous Learning 2 event I attended, there were no keynotes at all, what with the conference focus being on the participants, rather than “speakers”.  This year, we brought back the keynote idea, but in this new format, and I thought it worked really well.  We got to hear from 10 different people, with very different styles and perspectives, and I really enjoyed it.

I somehow ended up being the first person to speak on the opening night of the conference. I decided to recycle a short presentation that I had actually shared before with the staff at Yokohama International School, but I thought the message was still relevant to this group.

Here is my talk…

There were lots of other great short talks from other L2Leaders and they are all being posted on the Learning2 YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/learning2asia.  I won’t repost them all here but it’s definitely worth checking them all out!

Creating Creativity

Dear Internet,

I could use some of your help if you have a moment.

I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to present an extended workshop at the Learning 2.012 Conference in Beijing China in a few weeks. It’s very exciting. I presented at the Learning 2.010 conference in Shanghai two years ago and it was totally awesome, absolutely one of the best learning events I’ve been part of.

The session I’m running this year is called Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom. It’s a big topic that could really go in any number of directions, which is both exciting and scary at the same time (made even more scary by the possibility that we might not have any Internet access that week in China!)

Obviously I feel as though I have something to contribute on the topic or I wouldn’t have suggested it, but I would really love to tap into some of your collective wisdom. I’m a big believer in the wisdom of the crowd, and I’m hoping to pick your collective brains a little.  I’m well aware that all of you together are far smarter and more creative than I can ever be on my own…

Here’s the actual blurb that is listed on the Learning2 website…

Increasingly, the ability to be consistently creative and to think in innovative ways is what distinguishes great companies, great products and great individuals. As educators, what lessons can we learn from this? How can we apply the same principles of creativity and innovation to our classrooms in order to build engaging, interesting and challenging environments for ourselves and our students.

There are some learning outcomes listed there too, just to try and give me some focus. Really though, the cool thing about this particular conference is that it kind of evolves on the fly, and the participants are just as responsible – actually moreso – than the presenters in fleshing out the content of the sessions.

So here is my request…

If you were coming to this session, what sorts of things do you think should be part of it? What ideas, suggestions or activities would you suggest if you were participating in it? If you were running it? Do you have any great stories or ideas that would fit in with the theme? What do you do in YOUR classrooms to make them places of creativity and innovation?

I would really love to bring the wisdom of my network into these sessions. If you can offer your insights, and I really hope you can, please leave a suggestion in the comments below. You could also Tweet, email, Facebook or Google+ me, but to be honest, having all your ideas in the comment thread below would be really convenient.

Thanks! You guys are awesome…

Looking for Indonesian Partners

Indonesian FlagThis post is a bit of a call for assistance from any schools in Indonesia. If you could assist we would really appreciate it.

Our year 5 classes are just embarking on a thematic unit of work on Indonesia.  The students are doing research into life in Indonesia, learning about the culture, food, transport, religion and so on. It’s being done as part of their HSIE strand.  By the way, HSIE stands for Human Society and it’s Environment, for those outside NSW…  Oh, and NSW means New South Wales, for those outside Australia. See the joys of writing for a global audience?

And that’s the point really. Getting kids to think outside their own backyard, and realising that when they use certain words or abbreviations that they don’t always translate across borders and timezones. Knowing that other people are asleep when you’re awake, and that words and phrases you take for granted can be complete mysteries to people outside your own culture is, I think, a really important mindset to develop. It’s one of the reasons I’d love to see more and more projects include a global, collaborative element.

If we’re going to learn about Indonesia – a country that is one of Australia’s closest neighbours and yet so very culturally different – I’m really keen to connect our students with other students who actually live there.  I know it can be tricky to arrange global collaborations, especially where language can be a barrier and these sorts of “soft learning” projects are not always valued by others as much as they are by me.  So I’m trying to come up with something that is relatively “low impact” to potential Indonesian partners. I’m looking for something whereby we can encourage them to be involved, while at the same time not becoming onerous and overcommitted. It’s got to be something where the partner schools can contribute at a level they feel comfortable with.

To that end, here’s what I’d like to suggest (or rather, request)…

I’m going to get our three classes of Year 5 students to work in teams to build three websites about Indonesia, one per class.  Our students will be put into pairs and each pair will work on creating a section on the website about one aspect of Indonesian life.  We will be using Google Sites to build it.

Ideally what I’d like is to establish a handful of Indonesian schools to act as “consultants” to us as we build these websites. We’d invite comments and feedback about the pages we make, perhaps letting us know if we were somehow missing the point on something, getting our facts wrong, or just not quite understanding the spirit or nuances of the Indonesian culture. It would be pretty cool if one of our students who might be learning about, say, Indonesian food, could, instead of just finding an image using Google Images, be sent a photo from an Indonesian buddy showing what they had for dinner last night.  That sort of thing would be just perfect!

I’ve already managed to enlist one such partner teacher in Endang Palupi, an ESL teacher at a school district in Pekalongan. We have arranged a series of Skype calls between her students (who are keen to practice and extend their use of English) and our students (who are keen to meet Indonesian students and learn more about life there.) On that level, it’s win-win. Endang’s students will also try to provide us with feedback and some level of consultation as we build our websites.

In an effort to not place too much expectation on any single teacher or school, I’m also looking for a few other Indonesian partners who might be willing to contribute to this project. I’d like to think that it will be a two way street, and that they will benefit from working with us as much as we hope to benefit from working with them.  Like I said, it’s just a nice easy project that would be based around getting some “consulting” and advice from them as we build our websites. This consulting can be simple and easy (maybe just take a look at our websites occasionally and drop us some feedback on how we’re doing), or become more involved (Skype calls, travel buddies, co-collaboration on the sites, etc)  It’s really up to the other school as to how much and what they’d like to contribute.

So, Indonesian schools, how about about it… can you help me out?  We’ve just started working on this project and we’d expect it t run for the next 7-8 weeks. We’d love to get you involved!

If you can help us, or know someone who can, please leave me a note in the comments below.

Photo Credit: CC BY-ND http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/2503224501/ 

Good Morning Vietnam

After leaving Shanghai the other day I traveled south to Hanoi, Vietnam.  My Sydney school has an “arrangement” with a Vietnamese school here.  The school is called the Vietnam Australia School, or VAS Hanoi, and the arrangement is that as well as the school offering a standard Vietnamese curriculum it also offers a scaled down and modified Australian curriculum focusing on English and Commerce.  This Australian component is taught by native English-speaking teachers, using courseware and textbooks developed by staff back at PLC Sydney, and the goal is to get the kids leaving school with qualifications in two languages and two countries.  I’ve been keen to get to VAS for a while to see what it’s all about, so when I asked my principal for permission to attend Learning 2.010 in Shanghai he suggested that I drop into VAS Hanoi on the way home and do some training and support for the staff here.

So for the past few days I’ve been at the school, seeing how it operates, talking to staff, meeting the kids, and generally trying to offer some support where I can.  There are certainly places where that support is needed, so it’s rewarding to be able to offer it.  Now that I have a clearer understanding of what’s going on here at VAS Hanoi I’d like to visit again at some point to really follow through on a few things.  For now though, that’s a decision that’s out of my hands.

I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with Hanoi though.  Don’t get me wrong, it has a definite charm, if charm is the right word.  Perhaps ‘character’ would be a better word.  The city of Hanoi is celebrating its 1000th birthday this year, so although I don’t know much else about its history, 1000 years is a long time, and it’s had plenty of time to cultivate that character.  The people are generally friendly, the food is excellent and inexpensive, there’s plenty of interesting culture, and the Vietnamese women are amongst the most beautiful in the world.  So what’s not to love?

While I’m enjoying seeing a new place and experiencing a new culture, there are a few things about Hanoi that I simply couldn’t deal with long term.  The obvious one is the traffic.  It’s crazy.  I mean, seriously crazy.  It’s one of those places where people can tell you it’s crazy, but until you see it for yourself you just have no idea.  I made a little video below to give you a look at what I mean.

The traffic also creates another problem… air quality.  The pollution from all those millions of bikes is frightening. I’ve had a hacking sore throat from almost the minute I stepped off the plane. At times it’s been hard to speak and hard to swallow, and I really don’t think I could live here for an extended period because if it.  In heavy traffic, the swarm of bikes also kick up a cloud of dust that further dirties the air.  I just couldn’t live with it long term.

The other thing that tarnished Hanoi a little for me is the fact that my iPhone was stolen the first night I got here.  I went for a walk along the streets to do some sightseeing, and a couple of rather pretty local girls pulled up on a motorcycle and asked me if i wanted to go for a ride around the block with them.  Naturally I said no… I wouldn’t jump on a bike with total strangers in a city with sane traffic, but especially not in Hanoi!  One of the girls was standing next to me, and started to rub me on the arms and shoulders and was trying to convince me to get on the bike, while the other talked to me. I basically said thanks but no thanks, spoke them to them for another minute or so, and then started to walk away.  As they rode off, I reached into my pocket to see what time it was, and there was no iPhone in my pocket.  I was so pissed off!

Luckily, I’d taken out travel insurance for this trip.  I don’t normally take insurance, but it seemed like a good idea for travelling in South East Asia just for the medical coverage so I ticked the box for that option when I booked the plane tickets.  I was a little less pissed off when I remembered that I had the insurance because it meant that the phone would probably be replaced, probably with an iPhone 4, so given that the insurance cost me all of $10, I’m very glad I took it out!  However, what won’t be replaced is the data added to my phone since the last sync, including a few very special podcast recordings and photos, etc.  Gone for good! So annoyed!!!

The insurance company said I needed to fill out a police report before they could process the claim, so I went to the local station, conveniently just across the road from my hotel. What a pack of losers. I’m told there is massive corruption in the police force here, and while I can’t personally vouch for the truth of that, I can certainly say there is massive unprofessionalism. The police on duty were a bunch of slobs; dirty, lazy, slow, unsure about how to fill out a report, and they treated the whole thing as a bit of a joke.  They seemed more than a little put out that I was actually making them do some work instead of leaving them alone to sit and watch television. Of course, they didn’t speak a single word of English, so I had to go back across the road and get the hotel concierge to come over and try and translate for me; this seemed to annoy them even more, since when they thought there was a language barrier they figured they could just fob me off. I think the concierge did an ok job of the translation, but really, who would know?  Overall though, if that’s the level of service and professionalism you got from official bodies like the police, I could never enjoy living here.

The other big reason I’m probably not enjoying Hanoi as much as I should be is just the fact that I’m on my own here.  Shanghai was fun because I had so much to look forward to, meeting people that I was genuinely excited to be hanging out with.  When you’re “hangin’ with your peeps” things are always lots more fun.  In Hanoi I don’t really know anyone, so it means eating meals on my own, sightseeing on my own, spending time on my own. Not a whole lot of fun really.  At this stage I’m just really looking forward to going home to my Linda.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos I took on my walk tonight if you’re interested. I took them with the new Nikon S4000 I picked up duty free as I left Sydney airport, and for a camera without any manual controls (and the fact that I didn’t have a tripod with me) they aren’t too bad for night time shots.  The traffic is particularly bad because today is the day of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, so it’s somewhat crazier than usual!

Oh, and here’s the video…

Travelling Freak Show

Chinese people, as a general rule, have dark hair.  As a race of people, they also tend to not be quite as tall as some other races of people.  And you could be forgiven for thinking that most Chinese people adhere to fairly strict diets because they tend to be fairly slim in build.

Now before you accuse me of making racist remarks, I’m simply making an observation on what I’ve seen.  And apparently the Chinese people themselves would concur with these observations because whenever they see a westerner (or “big nose” as they call us) who is tall, heavily built or has non-black hair, they tend to stare and talk.  Because I’m fairly tall, in some cases I even had some of the Shanghai locals come up and ask to have their photo taken with me, such is their interest in these strange “big nose” visitors.

So you can imagine the attention we drew when myself, Wes Fryer, Gail Lovely and Melinda Alford decided to spend a day of sightseeing in Suzhou, (苏州市) a city to the west of Shanghai.  Wes is as tall as I am, but with blonde hair. Gail has hair that is blonde bordering on redhead. And Melinda has a wild shock of long dark hair and a stocky frame.  Together as a group, we must have looked like a travelling freak show.

Our day started with a taxi ride from Pudong to Puxi and the local railway station.  The railway station was amazing… more like an airport.  People were lined up to buy tickets at the many vending machines outside the terminal, and you do need to specify exactly what train you plan to catch as all seating is allocated. Once a train is full you can’t get a seat.

The trains themselves are high speed, and we got one of the brand new G-series trains that covers the 120km (75 miles) from Shanghai to Suzhou in a mere 25 minutes.  At one point we clocked our speed at over 270km/h.  I don’t think any of us realised just how fast we were going until we got off the train at Suzhou station and another train went through on a different line. It was a bit of a blur!

Once out of the massive Suzhou railway station, Melinda, who speaks some Chinese, managed to do some negotiations with a local driver to transport us around for the day.  For a very small fee he was to be our guide (well, our driver… with little English, he didn’t really say a lot!) and take us around to some of the sights of the city.  To be honest, we had no idea where he would be taking us, but we just trusted him to do it.

As it turns out, I thought we got a great snapshot into some of the sights of Suzhou.  We started out at the Beisi Pagoda, a 9-story temple with a history that goes back some 1700 years.  Wes and I climbed to the very top for photos and to marvel at the view.

We then visited a silk factory.  China is known for its silk production and Suzhou was one of the main cities on the famous Silk Road.  It was interesting to see how they spin the silk into threads, quite literally just unravelling the silkworm cocoon and using machinery to spin the very fine silk threads into a fibre. They also used some interesting techniques that stretched the cocoons over a bamboo frame to produce a silk web that was then stretched out over a bed-sized frame in layers to produce a silk blanket.  Of course, no visit to any sort of factory such as this would be complete without exiting via the giftshop!  I started to video inside the giftshop but was very quickly told to turn off the camera because it was not allowed.  At first I thought that was odd until I realised how many products they had that used Disney characters… I’m guessing that they aren’t paying Disney a whole lot of licensing fees for the use of Donald and Mickey?

By the way, as we entered the silk factory a little Chinese guy with no real English came up to me and started pointing at my arms and touching them… I think he was making comment on my height and build, implying that I had big arms (I don’t think I do, but he seemed to think so) and this was fairly typical of the sort of attention that our little “gang of four” got as we traveled around.

Our driver decided that he would do a little “side job” while we in the silk factory, so we went and had lunch while we waiting for him.  We found a fast food noodle and dumpling place where Melinda placed an order in Chinese (thank goodness we had Melinda with us…  this would have all been so much harder otherwise!) and we soon has a fast food feast on the table.  It was kind of funny, because the food was all soups and dumplings and noodles, but the store felt exactly like a McDonalds or KFC.  The menus were all in Chinese of course.

After lunch we kept touring around, getting plenty of sideways glanced from the locals who seemed to think that we were a bit of a novelty.  Our driver picked us up and took us down by the river where we struck a deal with a barge owner to take us into the water city.  It was a bit of a highlight of the day, as we had our own private barge to show us the city from the water. Melinda said she’d been to the city many times but always on foot, and thought that seeing it from the water was the way to go.  It would have been nice to get off the barge at some point and go exploring a little, but instead we navigated our way into the central part of the canal system before turning around and going back to our waiting driver.  We all laughed when our boat captain got on the phone and rang our driver to ask (translated thanks to Melinda) “Where are you?  I’ve got your Big Noses here”.

To finish our day, we went to a silk embroidery factory and saw some silk artwork being made. Our guide was very informative, with quite good English, and he explained the finer points of silk embroidery… it’s quite an artform!

After that we visited a lovely traditional Chinese garden.  Well, I guess it was kind of traditional if you don’t count the animatronic figures in the displays! Some of them were pretty funny.  Overall though, the gardens were very nice and we all went for a walk up and down the river, taking photos and talking.

Back at the railway station waiting for our train, we were still getting checked out by the locals. People would sit in bemusement as we walked past, not quite sure what to make of the four of us. We certainly stood out.  As we waited, Wes started working on a digital story project using a terrific little iPhone app called Storykit, while I let some little Chinese kids play Fruit Ninja on my iPhone.

The trip back to Shanghai was quick and we grabbed a taxi back to Pudong, where we had dinner in an American-style cafe.  There was lots of laughing and fun as we shared a few drinks, reflected on our day, and unsuccessfully tried to demonstrate the robustness of Chinese paper money.  We finished off our day with a bit of shopping at the local Best Buy, before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel.

Overall, a great day shared with great folk.  Let’s do it again sometime…

Fullsize photos on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/betchaboy/sets/72157624864632311/

Totally Unorganised

I think I can safely say I’ve just been to one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.  It was well run, well organised and I believe provided content that was highly relevant to all the participants.  The irony is that the day before it all started, it was completely unorganised and had virtually no content planned at all.  I’m talking about the Learning 2.010 Conference held last week at Concordia International School in Shanghai, China.

I think it’s really important to draw a clear distinction between being unorganised and being disorganised.  Disorganised is when things are a complete mess, no one has any idea of what’s happening, people are not getting their needs met and it leads to frustration for everyone involved.  This conference was definitely not disorganised.

Unorganised, on the other hand, implies a understanding that learning is messy and that when we need to learn something we learn it best if we can learn it just-in-time, not just-in-case.  When you put together a conference about learning, being unorganised means recognising that you can’t meet someones needs until you know what those needs are.  Being unorganised means that you don’t assume that you know what’s best for people, but rather, you ask them what they need.  Being unorganised implies flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to listen to what people really want, at the point when they want it.

It also implies a huge risk, since you are inviting people to attend (and prepay for) an event that essentially does not yet exist. It would be far easier, far safer, far less risky, to run a conference the way they are traditionally organised… Bring in some smart people to speak, get them to stand on the stage and impart their wisdom to the assembled masses, and perhaps preplan some added workshops on what you think people need.  That’s the accepted way to run a conference, the safe way, the “normal” way, the organised way… doing it any other way is a risk and a challenge to the status quo, and potentially a threat to people’s expectations.

However, those with the goal of shifting and reshaping education know inherently that this traditional model of conference planning flies in the face of what we proclaim learning is truly about.  It’s ironic (and hypocritical) that conferences about contemporary learning should remain modeled on a structure that so blatantly contradicts the way we keep saying that learning should work in the 21st century.

The organisers of Learning 2.010 accepted this risk and, from what I could see, it paid off handsomely.  The event was run on the basis of having two quite different component parts… the first was based on a cohort (team) of learners that gathered around a key idea and worked together to explore that idea in depth over the two days, and the second component was an unconference that ran 90 minute workshops in whatever content emerged from the participants.

The cohorts were led by a team of international educators who were hand picked by the Learning 2.010 organisers (or should that be unorganisers?) and I felt extremely honoured to have been included in this group.  These are some of the smartest, most forward thinking, contemporary educators I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, many of whom I already felt I knew well from their blogs and online presence. There were many that I’ve wanted to meet in person for a very long time and others I hadn’t previously known of, but it quickly became pretty clear that this was an extraordinary group of talented educators.

As one of the invited cohort facilitators, I arrived into Shanghai the day before the conference started so I could be part of a brainstorming and planning session with the other facilitators about what and how we might make the cohort component of the conference best happen.  Although we did have general themes to guide us, the exact structure of how we’d run the sessions, what resources we’d include, how we’d manage our cohort groups, etc, was all fluid… essentially, we had four 90 minute sessions over the 2 days and we could do whatever we wanted in them. Most themes had two cohorts, each with its own facilitator, that could be run independently from each other, or could be combined together, or some combination of these.

I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Melinda Alford, a teacher at Concordia (the host school) on the topic of Creating a Culture of Learning and Creativity.  Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but having now worked in Shanghai for the past six years, I’d not met Melinda before… in fact she was one of those teachers that wasn’t even on my PLN radar. But after working with her for a few days I have to say she is one of the most talented natural teachers I’ve ever met and it was a real joy to be able to work with her. It’s so nice when you get to work with someone who is really on the same wavelength. who shares so many of the same ideals about learning and education and is so easy to work with.

As we started to plan how our cohorts would operate, we decided not to run in two groups, but rather to combine them into one.  Our general plan was to facilitate a guided conversation about the ideas of creativity and curiosity in learning, follow it up with some ideas and examples and strategies for developing creative opportunities for students, and then allow our group to organically break up into small teams based on interest and need, and produce something to share with the whole group in the final session.  The “something” was open-ended, but was basically a resource, an activity, a plan, something, that could be put to use the next week in their classroom.  We wanted to challenge the thinking of our cohort, but be practical and get them to actually create something they could use.  We were also very focused on the idea of creating a learning environment for our cohort participants that modeled the type of learning that we were expecting them to create for their students… open ended, flexible, learned centered, challenging, hard fun.  Our plan was to facilitate, not lecture. Share, not teach. Encourage, not demand.

We spent part of that first planning day tossing ideas around and creating some visual prompts. One of my big beliefs about the notion of creativity is that it should come from both sides of your brain. We were both very keen to encourage the idea that creativity is not something that just applies to “the arts”, not something that you only find in strange “arty” types who dress in strange clothes, not something that is applied to problems occasionally in a superficial way… we wanted to get the idea across that creativity is a critical thinking skill that applies to all disciplines, in all sorts of ways, all of the time.  Melinda and I both had backgrounds in the creative arts as well as science and engineering, so we found it easy to weave this into our planning.  To make the point, at the social event held the evening before the conference officially started, we got up on stage to promote our cohort sessions, me dressed in Elmo pyjama pants and a set of large donkey ears, and Melinda in a giant chicken outfit.  At least we got noticed!

So, in a 24 hour period, we went from having a cohort session with no structure, no content and no ideas, to having a session which was highly personalised, based on meeting the needs of the participants and built on the strengths of the facilitators.  I might write more about the cohort sessions later, but I felt like it was a great success.

The other component of the conference was the unconference. Again, the problem with traditional conferences is that you sometimes don’t learn what you’d really like to learn, and it treats the “presenters” and the “audience” as two groups.  If you believe that learners and teachers can have a much flatter relationship that that, the unconference model makes a lot of sense.  At the first social event of the conference, participants were encouraged to write on a large sheet of paper a topic that they’d like to learn about.  Equally, they were also encouraged to write down a topic they’d like to share about.  These pieces of paper were then sticky-tacked to the wall and people could add a vote to the ones they were interested in the most.  The ones that had enough votes then ran in the next unconference session time.

So, for example, I offered to run a session on teaching kids to think using Scratch, since I’ve been doing a lot of work on this back at school.  So, I offered the topic, volunteered to be a presenter for it, people selected it, and it ran successfully.  Conversely, someone else added a request for a session about Photoshop. They were not willing or able to run it themselves, but they were very interested in learning about it.  Because I’m a bit of a Photoshop guy, I was happy to add my name to that as the presenter, and the session went ahead.This is really the spirit of an unconference.  It’s about flexibly and dynamically connecting learners together to learn about the things that interest them.  You can’t plan that sort of thing in advance because you have no advance idea of what those interests will be.  An unconference only works if you place your trust in the wisdom of the crowds, if you believe that none of us is as good as “all of us”.  If you believe that someone in the crowd will have the expertise to share with others, and the humility to accept that that expertise can come from anywhere, then learners become teachers and teachers become learners and our learning environment becomes flatter and less hierarchical.  It goes from being about teacher and student, moving away from being about “us and them” to just being about “us”.  And this is so much more reflective of the way true learning actually works.

Of course, you can see why this is risky.  If participants turn up as empty vessels waiting to be filled, who see professional development as something that is done “to them” by someone else, then this is all destined to fail miserably. What I like about the unconference model is not just that it’s a far superior way to learn – because it is – but that it works on the underlying assumption that people are inherently good.  It’s based on the fundamental ideals of sharing and teamwork, and the belief that most people are just as eager to give as to take.

It assumes the best from people, and that’s always a better environment to work in.