Wednesday of the DEN Leadership Council Symposium was scheduled to be an “Unconference.” A what? The night before, Steve Dembo asked the attendees to ask for topics of discussion that they thought would be interesting to learning more about. Steve mentioned that those coming up and suggesting ideas would also be the people who would lead the discussions at the Unconference the next day. I thought this might discourage some people from suggesting ideas, but I was wrong. After a while, we had almost 30 people suggest topics for the Unconference, including me. Each idea was written on piece of paper and we left for the night.
We arrived the next morning with our pieces of paper taped to the chalkboard. Yes, chalkboard. There were 4 sessions available, with 6 options in each session. For each session, everyone just chose what they wanted to do. Each topic was discussed in a different location. The sessions were pretty unstructured, basically discussions started by one person, but continued by whoever was in the room. The number of people in the sessions varied from 3 to about 20.
I led a discussion dealing with collaboration and how to get reluctant colleagues involved in collaboration – both on a professional level and for student learning. Here are the notes from our discussion. I think it went pretty well.
After this “unconference” was over, there was some talk about how great this would be in a school or district when it comes to professional development. Like many other educators, we’ve all been in PD sessions where we sat thinking, “This doesn’t have any relevance to me.” Think about this unconference idea. Wouldn’t it be great if the teachers chose the topics they wanted to learn more about? Wouldn’t it be great if the PD was led by the teachers? They would have a more vested interest and would get more out of the time. Ultimately, this should lead to more learning.