Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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There are different ways to measure success. Last week at the first ever Learning2 Africa conference that was held at ICS Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we measured it in a few different ways.

  • 118 of 119 of the participants on the survey said they would recommend the conference to a friend or plan on attending next year.
  • Before we left the conference we had a school step up wanting to host it for 2015
  • We had inquiries from other schools in Africa to host the conference in 2016.

Now there are a lot of ways to measure success and when you get responses like this from the participants from the first ever Ed Tech specific conference on the continent you’re doing something right.

It’s crazy to go back through my blog and read about this conference over the years. The things we have tried, the failures, the successes and how a little conference that was suppose to be a one off in 2007 in Shanghai, China has turned into a yearly conference that sells out in a matter of months and is slowly spreading….is well….I pinch myself.

What makes this conference so successful? I believe it’s the values of the conference that we try and hold true to every year.

Learning is Social:

Traditional Ethiopian coffee ceramony
Traditional Ethiopian coffee ceramony

The majority of the money for the conference goes to social gatherings. At the recent Learning2 Africa conference that included taking all 150 of the participants plus committee members and presenters out to a local Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. It means finishing every night with a social event with free flow wine and beer. It means giving space during the conference for people to talk and bounce ideas off each other.

 This is also why we run a “cohort” strand through the conference. An hour each day for those that teach the same subject to come together and talk about what they are learning at the conference, share resources from different sessions, and set up a way to connect even after the conference is over.

 We know learning is social and so we make social a large part of the conference

Learning is Participant driven:

Matt Kelsey, one of this year’s Learning2Leaders in Africa, wrote a great blog post about this as he reflected on the conference. Less than half of each day’s learning is driven by the conference timetable. The 3 hour “extended session” where participants spend 3 hours going deep in one area is less than half of the conference each day. The rest of the time is driven by participants. Unconference sessions which participants get to create and then choose to go to each day, the workshops that are a time for participants to share with each other what they are doing in their own classroom, and the cohorts which are driven by what that group wants to discuss together.

There has been a lot of talk in education about student’s driving their own learning. We believe the same thing about conferences. We believe if you get out of participants ways they’ll learn on their own. Set up a structure and then let them go.

Continue to innovate:

Students try on Google Glass for the first time
Students try on Google Glass for the first time

One of the core values of Learning2 is to continue to innovate as a conference. We were one of the first conferences to use Twitter. In 2007, the first year of the conference, we made every participants sign up for a Twitter account. Twitter had only gone mainstream about 6 months earlier.

In 2012 we switched from participants uploading and sharing images of the conference on Flickr to Instagram. As Instagram was just going mainstream.

This year there was no big “tool switch”, however because the conference is participant driven and it was our first time putting a conference on in Africa we found being able to adapt on the fly in the middle of the conference was our biggest asset. Educators know this….if something isn’t working in a lesson you switch, you adapt. You get feedback and you make changes.

I found it interesting how many people thanked us for listening to them and making changes on the fly. Everything from setting up a “Mindfulness Center” after one of our Learning2Talks focused on “Being Mindful” to changing the schedule, adding or rearranging transportation and just doing what was best for the participants.

It’s amazing what happens when you apply the Pedagogy or better yet the Heutagogy we want to see in the classroom…..to a conference.

Inking at Learning 2.012
Inking at Learning 2.012

I know I’m bias. I was on the founding committee of the conference in 2007 and I now sit on the advisory board that oversees the conference and its’ structure. So you can take all of this for what it’s worth. But you can’t tell me we’re not doing something right. That we have something special here worth spreading. The #learning2 hashtag alone tells the story of how participants are feeling. The fact that a couple of our Learning2Leaders last year felt they wanted to remember the conference by inking themselves with the conference logo says something. There is something here when a High School Science Teacher seeks me out after the conference to tell me in his 29 years of teaching this is by far the best conference and PD he has ever attended.

Here’s what I’ve learned. No matter their age students want to be in control of their learning, they want to be engaged in the conversation and they want us to continue to learn with them. It is a simple recipe actually, create a conference the way we know students should be taught and then innovate with them.

Learning2 Asia is Oct. 2 – 4 I encourage you to follow the hashtag #learning2 on Twitter and learn with us.

 

Learning2
 

Excited to see the Learning 2.012 conference is filling up fast. The conference that I helped to start back in 2007 continues to explore the meaning of what it means to be a modern day conference. Every year the committee plays with different formats and different ways to get participants involved in the learning process. The one thing this conference has never had is a keynote speaker with the committee always trying to find ways to get participants involved in the learning process.

For Learning 2.012 in October the breakdown of sessions looks like this:

  • Two Extended Sessions led by Learning 2 Leaders (3 – 3.5 hours)
  • One Learning 2 Leaders presentation: the big idea in a nutshell
  • Two additional workshops or presentations
  • Two ‘unconference’ sessions
  • Three ‘cohort’ sessions in curriculum/common interest groupings
  • Three sets of Learning 2 Talk sessions

You’ll also want to check out the website and have a look at this years Learning Leaders. The conference continues to attract some of the best in the field and within International Education. 

I’m honored that after stepping down as a main conference organizer two years ago that the committee has asked me to stay involved and has again invited me back to be a learning leader. It is one of my favorite conferences to attend and be apart of for no other reason in that it’s just different from any other conference I’ve been to.

The Early Bird Registration ends this Friday (June 1st). If you haven’t registered already you might want to head on over and get registered quickly. After June 1st it will cost you an extra $50. I wouldn’t be so worried about the extra $50 as I would be that the conference will fill up. It’s limited to 500 participants.

Have you been to Learning 2.0 in the past? What have been your take aways from the conference?

If you are going in October what is it your looking forward to the most?

Learning 2.010 Learning 2.010ended last Saturday and four days after the end of the conference I think I’ve recovered enough mentally to actually talk about my experience.

This is the 3rd Learning 2 Conference that I have helped to organize and pull off with no less than 20 other educators from in and around Shanghai. Putting on a conference is a lot of work…and only after you’ve done it can you really know how mentally exhausting the time is during the conference.

What I love about this conference is each year we focus on breaking the conference mold and giving educators new ways to think about learning not only through the content of the conference but the conference structure itself. We talk about the teacher needing to be a facilitator in the classroom, so this year we had no “teacher”. There was no keynote, no presenters just facilitators. I think we did a very good job of finding both international talent and flying in facilitators that understood what we were going for in this conference. You had to be flexible, wiling to adapt, and easy going in order to change as this conference progressed.

FacilitatorsFind another conference that 24 hours before it was to begin nothing was planned. Not one session, not one cohort…nothing. Yet some how when you allow yourself the ultimate flexibility to adapt and change, some of the best learning occurs.

We started planning this conference with the notion that we can not foresee and meet the needs of 400+ participants without knowing what they want to learn.

By using facilitators and the cohort/unconference model we were able to adapt and create sessions on the fly that hopefully met the needs of everyone at the conference in one way or another.

I had a couple people approach me and tell me how great it was to actually attend a conference were you had to be activity involved. If you were not giving feedback to the facilitator in your cohort, or if you were not actively creating, leading or voting for unconference sessions you were out of luck. Participants were energized by the conversations and the flexibility to learn what they wanted to learn.

I believe the best of this came out in unconference sessions around Prezi. Prezi was the hot tool of the conference and because of our unconference model it kept getting voted in for sessions. People were able to go to 4 sessions on Prezi if they wanted to discuss and play with that tool in a collaborative environment.

Hosting this conference in Shanghai, China also has it’s challenges. It’s hard to believe when we ran our first conference in 2007, we were one of the first educational conferences to fully incorporate Twitter into the conference. Now 3 years later Twitter is blocked in China and only those die hard twitters who found ways around the firewall were able to post updates. Still #learning2cn had a pretty good following, but I think there have been more updates to the hashtag now that the conference is over and we’ve all returned to our unblocked countries.

It did however make us be create and come up with other ways to get the community at the conference involved. Darren Kuropatwa introduced us to 12seconds.tv a site that allows you to post 12 second videos. We created a conference channel and used it to capture thoughts and give away prizes at the conference.

It’s only fitting that a student created video ended up winning the grand prize…a Barnes & Noble Nook Reader.

12 Second Movie- Made by Alan (CISS student) on 12seconds.tv

There were a lot of great moments and, as the above video shows, once again I think it was our inclusion of students throughout the conference that will be remembered by many. They helped organize unconference sessions, ran unconference sessions, were part of our cohorts and were treated just like any other participant throughout the conference (alcohol excluded). In the end we had some 50+ students join us over the three day conference and the only complaint from participants was they wish we had more students. Note: we did not limit the amount of students that could come….just trying to find students to give up their weekend to hang with a bunch of teachers is not easy. 🙂

As I reflect on the conference as a whole I think we did a pretty good job. I’m always my hardest critic and there are things I would change for the next one….if there is a next one…..and if I’m involved in it. But people I talked to throughout the conference seemed excited, engaged and on more than one occasion I was told this was the best conference they had ever gone to. I just hope…pray….that what was started at this conference will be taken back to schools throughout Asia and the world and effect learning in some deep and meaningful ways. If that happens….then the four sleepless nights were well worth it!

For the 3rd year <a target="_blank" mce_href="http://carrotrevolution.blogspot.com/" href="http://carrotrevolution.blogspot.com/">David Gran</a> has created the logo for the conference. This year taking inspiration from the <a target="_blank" mce_href="http://en.expo2010.cn/" href="http://en.expo2010.cn/">World Expo</a> which will be happening during the conference in Shanghai.
For the 3rd year David Gran has created the logo for the conference. This year taking inspiration from the World Expo which will be happening during the conference in Shanghai.

In a world where content is continually changing, and you can learn almost anything for free, what’s the point of going to a conference?

This is the question we started with in designing your Learning 2.010 Conference experience. The content is free and easy. If you want to learn how to use Facebook in your classroom, a simple search on Google will bring you back many hits on how teachers are finding ways of using it.

But what if you wanted to actually talk with those teachers? What if you wanted to pick their brains, sit and have coffee with them and bounce ideas around?

Sure we have Skype, Remote Desktop Applications, and even iChat, but there is still something about sitting  down with a fellow educator and having a conversation around topics that you are both interested in.

That is what we hope Learning 2.010 is for you. A conference not built on content, but on having conversations! Learning 2.010 has two parts to it. Cohorts of learners and Unconference conversations.

Cohorts of Learners:

Our idea is this: Let’s bring together educators from around the world to have conversations around a given topic. Let’s give them time to sit together, to brainstorm, hypothesize, and then create some sort of artifact that we can all learn from. Let’s help build Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) by having educators spend time together face to face discussing big educational ideas and then go away with new friendships and networks they can continue to grow and use after the conference. Let’s not go out looking for the best presenters we can find and afford but the best facilitators of conversations. Those that question the educational world we now live and and strive to help us all become better for tomorrow. Lastly, we leave to many conference with nothing to take with us. We get back on our planes or trains and we walk away with no hard artifacts to remember our thinking, or ideas. What if we challenged each cohort to have conversations and than leave artifacts of those conversations behind for all of us to use?

This is our hope for the cohort sessions. That each participant will be able to find and join a cohort that interests them and have deep meaningful conversations with 19 other educators who feel the same. Will it work? We hope, but your participation will be the ultimate assessment. We have identified 10 key topics that we hope participants will want to have conversations around.

1. Social Media Tools in Schools
2. First Steps in Changing the Classroom
3. What does a classroom in 2020 look like?
4. The future of Learning
5. Relationship Between Teachers and Students
6. Leading the Pack – Leadership for Change
7. The Changing Role of our Libraries and School
8. Digital and Visual Literacy
9. Fostering a culture of learning and curiosity in our schools
10. Online Education

We have also invited cohort facilitators who we are challenging to lead discussions, and project manage the product that each cohort will create. That’s right, we’re not bringing in presenters, we’re going after facilitators. As we secure contracts with Cohort leaders over the next couple weeks we’ll be posting their names on the Learning 2.010 website, and they will be names you recognize and will be excited to join in conversation with.

Unconference Sessions:

Unconference400 educators from around the world will join us in Shanghai. How do we know what they want to talk about, want to learn about, what to spend time exploring? We can’t!

So, the second part of our conference allows you the participant to create the topics that you want to learn about. Starting Thursday night, you’ll be able to throw ideas and topics out for other participants to vote on, and you vote on theirs. Those ideas, sessions, conversations with the most votes will be assigned a room where the conversations can take place.

This is our third time using the unconference session format at the Learning 2 Conference and each year we receive feedback saying that it’s the best part of the conference!

Vendor Free

We’re taking a big risk this year and going vendor free…costing us somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 in income that in the past have helps us to provide great food and atmosphere for the conference. What does this mean for the participant? Nothing except no vendors trying to get your attention and a focus on learning. What does this mean for us. It means we’re relying on educational organizations such as EARCOS and ACAMIS who have help to sponsor the conference the past two years to help fill the void…and they have stepped up to the plate again this year. It means relying on support from local companies who send their kids to our schools in Shanghai. Companies like Coca-Cola China who have supplied shirts for us in the past, and Starbucks who supplies our coffee. We have sponsors but no vendors. If you or your company would like to be a sponsor for the conference please contact the Learning 2.010 committee via the website contact info.

400 Dedicated Educators

We’re limiting this years conference to 400 dedicated educators who want to spend three days discussing educational issues and building personal connections that they can take with them when they leave. Understand that this conference is international although almost half of the participants come from International Schools in China, the other half come from schools around the world bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Yes….I’m starting to get excited for the conference already. Especially as I look over my reflections from Learning 2.0 and Learning 2.008.

No….I’m not looking forward to the hard work that goes in to pulling this thing off every year.

No…I don’t know if this format will work…but if you aren’t pushing the edge you’re not trying hard enough.

Yes….doing a laptop conference in China will be difficult, with mostly every Web 2.0 tool blocked and not knowing how the connectivity out of the country will be until the day of the conference is nerve racking.

Yes….ever year I say I won’t do this again, and yes every year I get excited to do it.

Biggest fear….that it will completely flop, that this time we took the overall structure of the conference to far outside a normal conference that people don’t understand it and don’t come.

No…. I don’t quite understand how it will all work either….but that’s the fun part right?

I hope you can join us!

http://www.learning2.asia

Yes we try and make the Learning 2.008 Educational Technology conference a little different each year. We don’t just talk about changing the was we teach and learn, we try and model it as well. We don’t always succeed but it’s about taking risks and pushing ourselves as educators. We can not expect educators to go to a conference where we tell them that they need to take risks, learn something new, and reflect without us as conference organizers doing the same.

We continue to try and do that sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. We’ve already learned a lot this year about the hassle of trying to accept Credit Card payments. It’s not as easy as one might think and then put China on top of it and…well…let’s just say we took a risk and this time it didn’t pay off. But we learned something! We learned that Pay Pal is not the answer and that if we do continue the conference in the future we’ll have to rethink some things.

We’re also rethinking how to hold a pre-conference. With over 150 teachers (at this point) flying in from all over the world for the conference during a school week we had to think about how we best utilize time. We wanted to run a pre-conference but found that many schools and educators weren’t willing to release teachers (or didn’t want to miss time with students) for a pre-conference day or two before the actual conference. David Gran one of the main conference organizers contacted Chris Smith who owns International School Island in Second Life. Together they’ve been working to create a SLearning 2.008 Pre-Conference not only for those who will attend the conference in Shanghai, but for all of you who want to participate virtually.

Chris has created an amazing setting on International School Island in Second Life for our 3 pre-conference sessions. Below you will find the dates, times, and events. I hope you can make all three events, but I’d like to draw your attention especially to the third date, Sunday, September 14th. This event, one week before the “Real Life” conference will be an open forum for our Learning 2.008 Committee to meet and talk with participants. Note that this will be 9 PM Shanghai Time.

Dates (Sundays)

Times

  • 6:00am S.L. time (California)
  • 9:00am New York time
  • 2:00pm UK time
  • 5:00pm Dubai time
  • 8:00pm Bangkok time
  • 9:00pm Hong Kong/China time

If you are unfamiliar with Second Life, its a great opportunity to log on and give it a whirl. It’s pretty easy to get started, but you’ll need to download the program from : http://secondlife.com/ . Once you’ve downloaded the program, entering the SLurl below into your browser will take you directly to International Schools Island. If you need any help at all, contact Chris Smith or David Gran.

Venue
* International Schools Island
* SLurl http://tinyurl.com/2o44dw
* http://slurl.com/secondlife/International%20Schools%202/71/172/56

Chris has done an amazing job in organizing this, and it will be a great opportunity to participate in an online collaboration in a 3D environment. I hope you’ll join us.

I woke up this morning to find myself in Manila. You know, one of those you roll over open your eyes and can’t remember where you are mornings. I’m just getting use to waking up in our new home in Bangkok and I’m off to Manila to do some consulting work with EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools).

I equate EARCOS to an Educational Service District (ESD) back in the United States. According to the stats on the website:

The East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools is an organization of 110 member schools in East Asia. These schools have a total of more than 72,000 pre-K to 12th grade students. EARCOS also has 87 associate members— textbook and software publishers and distributors, universities, financial planners, architectural firms, insurance companies, youth organizations, etc— and over 19 individual members.

Basically, they support international schools in the region as well as hold conferences every year for teachers and administrators. Once again this year I’ll be presenting at both the administrator’s conference in November and the teacher’s conference in March. I’ll also be helping with the GIN Conference this year (Global Issues Network Conference) a conference for students. Student groups from EARCOS schools come together and present different global issues projects they have been involved in. Using Jean Francois Rischard’s book High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them students present different ways they are helping to solved or are involved in these global issues. Last year the conference was an amazing event in Beijing and this year it will be hosted at ISB in Bangkok (Isn’t that just perfect!).

Last year the director of EARCOS approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing some consulting work for EARCOS. Dick Krajczar is a long time international educator and now head of EARCOS which is based here in Manila.

“I don’t know what we need to do, but I know we need to do something!”

Is what I remember Dick telling me when we sat down for a chat last year. Dick understands that you don’t need to know it all you just need to know people who can help you learn what it is you need to know.

Today my wife and I will go out and explore a bit and relax here in Manila and then I’ll spend Monday and Tuesday at EARCOS headquarters trying to help them help schools in this new digital age. When you think of the potential EARCOS holds in a new connected world. The ability to connect 72,000 students in 110 schools across multiple countries you can see why I’m excited to talk to them and figure out a way to use the web to help these students and schools communicate more effectively.

It’s also good to note that EARCOS is the main organization supporting the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai again this year. They have always been strong supporters of grass roots conferences like this and have helped to fund many weekend or mini-conferences over the years through their member schools.