Random Thoughts

Learning, Processing, Reflecting

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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.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jennifer Dove Reply

    I agree that while we know reflection is critical, we rarely structure it into our life… It almost seems like fluff or something nice to do when we get everything done that has to be done. I wonder how we turn that thinking on it’s head? I have to say one of the best things I did was to skip a session and stay with two wonderfully giving presenters who gave of their time to help some of us more novice Twitter users learn how to do various things on twitter. Having the hands on time to try with someone sitting right there yo answer my questions as I was trying things was huge!! I am so grateful to Erin Olson @eolsonteacher and Shaelynn for offering yo help and for being so real and down to earth. Everyone in the room connected with them and felt confortable asking questions and voicing what they didn’t know or understand. I highly recommend making the time to find a personal tutor at blc. I learned about twitter last year at blc and was a lurker getting good ideas but had no idea how to reply, credit others, become part of a community, etc. I am so glad I took the time to get the help I needed instead of going to another session. So… maybe some hands on tutorial sessions would be helpful at future conferences. (forgot to add Shaelynn’s last name-sorry! Shaelynn Farnsworth @sfarnsworth)

  2. Sean Connors Reply

    Jeff you’re making such good sense here. I found myself thinking more than once that you were reading my mind. In reflection, I’m disappointed I didn’t take one of your sessions!

    Let me start off by saying that I have no gripes against the BLC 11 conference or it’s leadership and logistic team ( in fact quite the opposite!), however, I’ll admit I didn’t even get a chance to eat lunch on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday! Between rushing to and from each session, staying after to thank/congratulate/question/connect with presenters or just find a restroom, the time to reflect and put down or share any of my ideas happened only in the frame of 140 characters or less!

    Fortunately, I attended the BLC with other (amazing) members of my school and will have time to debrief and discuss as the days go by. I also was fortunate to participate in an evening debriefing session with other teachers from Hawaii in a session put on by the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools “Schools of the Future” group, however, I recognize that with the thousands of potential “connectiez” there are out there, I have probably missed my chance to make as many strong and potentially rewarding connections for learning as I would like… Whew!

    After reading the remainder of your post (concerning the Learning 2.0 conference you put on) and purchasing your book (or rather two copies from you in the lobby) I am wondering (as you said above)… Where do I go from here?

    Maybe it’s time for me to start a blog… Some reflection couldn’t hurt right?

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