Learning – not in a classroom

photo by Learning2 CC-BY-NC-SA
photo by Learning2CC-BY-NC-SA

I had some delusions before the conference started that I might actually attend some of the learning sessions. I was looking forward to sitting in on workshops and extended sessions, getting hands-on with robots and trying out Genius Hour, trying out augmented reality games…

Boy, was I dumb. Since I was organizing Learning 2.014 – the first in Africa – I wound up spending all my time running around building schedules, printing room signs, adjusting the website, organizing prizes, unlocking & locking doors, checking up on visitors, helping vendors… and when I did have some down time I wanted nothing more than to sit down for a few minutes and just breathe. (Thanks, Maggie!)

So I didn’t attend any sessions …but I found the process of running Learning 2.014 an incredibly powerful and valuable learning experience. Even now, days after the event finished, I’m still learning and reflecting (as well as organizing and doing!).

Here are a few of my takeaways about the learning experience in organizing a conference (or other such event):

Connections

I definitely learned about the power of connections. I met people in the flesh who I’d been following on Twitter or connected by email… those virtual connections made the meetings more valuable & more memorable, and no doubt the physical meetings will add to later virtual connections. It was also brought home to me how fostering those connections can add value to one’s personal and professional life. I’d never met Trevor, or even connected with him, until he showed up at the conference. Yet he’s built things for the conference that I intended to do and added value in many other ways. I fully intend to keep that connection going!

Details

The Devil may be in the details, but so is salvation. I got frustrated by the niggling little details – how many minutes of transition time? which key opens that blasted door? – but by paying attention to the details, a fuller understanding of and appreciation for teachers’ work emerges. That locked door means delay of preparation, which can throw off the lesson. Insufficient transition time leads to confusion and frustration. Paying attention to the details, anticipating issues and preventing problems leads to a smoother experience for all and therefore a better learning experience.

Time

Possibly the most important lesson I learned was the power of time. Having enough of it for important activities. Having transition time. Allowing time for important tasks.

And taking some time out. Maggie Powers taught us about the power of mindfulness. I took her information to heart and took a few minutes every now and then to just breathe and self-monitor. That really helped to de-stress and to re-focus myself.

As teachers, we often worry about or complain about our own lack of time. Do we consider this from our students’ perspectives? Classes, assignments, studying, sports, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Do we give them time to be mindful, to just breathe and self-monitor?

Risk

Finally, organizing Learning 2.014 brought home to me the importance of taking risks. (Calculated ones, mind you! Not foolhardy ones.) Just running the conference was a big risk. Would we get enough participants for it to be worthwhile? Could our school’s infrastructure (and our country’s ISP) handle it? Would the learning experience be worthwhile? It was all a risky proposition.

In the end, things went smoothly and the conference was a huge success. The risk was definitely worth it. It was a bold and daring move by ICS, and it paid off for our school and the continent.

But smaller risks also paid off. Margaret Powers was an “unknown” in international schools… and she made a very valuable contribution. I signed up Nick Kwan (working in Poland) to our organizing committee, and he proved to be an incredibly hard worker and contributed much to the conference. Taking a risk with people is often a great thing to do. Most people will, if you show that you trust and believe in them, rise to a challenge and make sure your risk-taking pays off.

…so in the end, I learned much from the conference. Now I just have to go back and review the Learning2 Talks and the resources from the L2Leaders’ sessions so I know what actual participants learned!

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