Hurrah for unconferences!

I really like the idea of an “unconference” - see Tony Hirst’s description of his recent experience at one. I feel increasingly dissatisfied with most conferences I go to. The presentations invariably don’t live up to the promises made in the abstracts and ‘death by powerpoint’ is just plan irritating. Usually the most useful part is chatting to people outside of sessions. Yet I still keep on going and hoping… I think we do need to try alternatives - that really enable us to connect with the work of others, to give us enough space to really critically engage in the many, many tough issues we are trying to address. Unconferences provide a nice example, but why don’t we brainstorm some ideas for other alternatives - ’spaces for critical debate’. So here goes with some ideas, feel free to suggest others!

  • A walking retreat - get a group of people interested in the same research area (learning design, student experience, web 2.0, whatever) and go off for a couple of days on a long trek (somewhere scenic of course). Loose rules but the general aim would be to use the space to talk in small groups or all together around the topic of interest. I can’t claim this is a novel idea, I remember David McConnell saying his group had done something along these lines.
  • A castle in the hills - get a group together (probably with different perspectives and from different cognate disciplines) to tackle a set of tricky research questions. Encourage major critiquing of each others positons and try and come up with a collective set of statements summarising the different positions.  We did something like this a couple of times for the development of the Contemporary perspectives in e-learning book, once in Sudeley Castle and once in Dublin. The group was even nicknamed the “Sudeley Group”. I have to say those few days were some of the most creative and engaging that I have been involved with. 
  • Online e-learning debate - set up for and against arguments on a controversial topic - lets say VLEs versus Loosely Coupled Systems for example ;-) Target key people to kick it off and then sit back and watch the mud fly!!!
  • Speed dating for e-learning research - five minutes per table to find like minded e-learning research soulmates. OK OK I admit this one could be a tad dangerous ;-)

One Response to “Hurrah for unconferences!”

  1. Sarah Stewart Says:

    oh, I dont know, I quite like the ’speed dating’ idea!

Leave a Reply