Learning, Processing, Reflecting

bostonThe end of BLC means the end of my summer is right around the corner. A couple days before I step on a plane to head back to Bangkok, and my thoughts return to all the educators I’ve been able to interact with this summer.

No matter the conference, the session, the keynote, educators seem to quickly get overwhelmed with information and possibilities. Not that I blame them…there’s a lot of sessions on a load of different tools, ideas, theories, and just plain cool stuff! Add on top of that all the resources for all the sessions and anyone would quickly become overwhelemed. 

The problem is once overwhelemed the brain stops processing information, you stop learning, and things go down hill from there. 

Part of it is the schedule of conferences. Funny how we continue to talk about schools changing yet most conferences continue to look very much the same as they did __ years ago (I’ll let you fill in the date).

We know we need time to process information and we tell ourselves during the conference that we’ll take time to reflect once the conference is over, but the reality is very few people actually do. You get on your plane, you get back to life and the notes from the sessions, the resources, are left for “another day”.

What if we started building time into conferences to reflect? What if…..much like we talk about in schools….we cut back on the content….and up the learning…the depth, the idea generation. What if instead of 10 sessions there were 5? 

What if we cut half the sessions and then added “Reflection, Unconference, Conversation” sessions throughout the conference to build in the time to process, reflect, and go deep in new learning during the conference itself? What if we made conversations the focus not the content (My EQ for my session: How do we make the most of our time face to face when content is free and avalible to all?). 

This has always been the focus of the Learning 2.00x conference that I helped to start in Shanghai and continues. Each year the best feedback we get is “don’t stop the conversations”.

We educators need to feel OK with taking time to stop, reflect, and allow our brians to be silent. Allow our brains to process the information.

Run Keeper in BostonOn Thursday at BLC I started feeling the anxiouty catching up to me. New links, new things to think about, and feedback on my own sessions had pushed me to the edge. So I skipped a session and went for a 5 mile run along the Charles River….the best 40 minutes of the whole conference was that run. 

It wasn’t the run itself (although it felt good to leave the hotel) but it was the thoughts and ideas that were flying through my head….I didn’t want to stop running…I was processing, thinking, and preparing my next steps. My brain needed the rest, needed the time. When I got back to the conference I just felt better, more relaxed, more focused and energized. 

Do we give ourselves permission to reflect? Do we give ourselves time to play?  If not we leave conferences not knowing where to start.

Yes, we tell ourselves we’ll do it later, we’ll “get to it” but how many times do we actually get to it? Can we build time into the conference schedule to allow people to reflect, to use that valuble time with others thinking and learning with us in a very productive way? Can we use the time at conferences to make global connections, meet each other face to face? Can a conference help facilitate us to step out of our comfort zone and have a conversation with someone new? 

Maybe I’m way off….maybe this isn’t a good use of school conference time. Maybe we’re suppose to be professional enough to reflect on our own time, to process on our own time?

I’m not sure if this is the right answer, but it kills me when I’m presenting the last session on the last day and I have conversations with more then a few educators who are saying “I don’t know where to start”, “There’s to much to do”, or worse yet just break down and cry because they’re so overloaded and feel like they had to go to every session, use every moment to it’s fullest poteintal and for some reason we view that as being in sessions and not by ourselves in deep reflection.

I just hope we all give ourselves permission to reflect at conferences, during the school day, throughout life. Reflection is a very important part of learning…and we need to give ourselves permission to do it more often.