EduBloggerCon, NECC Uplugged: Catalysts For Learning Revolution?

[I consider this post to be a first draft, a few ideas I want to share and explore further. As such, I'd love your ideas and additional connections you may identify.]

NECC Unplugged, EduBloggerCon (and similar, forward-thinking conference formats) can be catalysts for change toward such a revolution, models for the kinds of changes that should be taking place in our classes.

Informal, oft-times spur-of-the-moment, unconference-type gatherings - in both online and face to face venues - can produce not only learning connections (Siemens, 2005) but spark ideas that likely wouldn't emerge without such interactions. In combining Gladwell's (2008) thoughts about the generation of ideas and Shirky's (2008) notions regarding collaborative action one can create the perfect cookbook for use in constructing the next revolution of learning.

As I have recently elaborated on Shirky's ideas related to this concept, I will now expound upon Gladwell's article, emphasizing how his thoughts relate to social networking, unconferences in general, and NECC Unplugged in particular. Please keep in mind that page numbers, as I have included them below, are relative references to the printed result of Gladwell's work that is currently distributed online by The New Yorker.

  • Invention sessions (p. 3) are a fascinating idea. Why shouldn't such idea-creation sessions serve as a model to be followed in other learning environments?
  • The idea of "multiples" (p. 6) is equally intriguing. Is it just a coincident that Gladwell has written about these invention sessions at the same time that Steve Hargadon has also been thinking about them (see his post here and my post here)? I don't think so. As Gladwell has noted in quoting Stephen Stigler, "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer" (p. 9).
  • I love this quote: "Ideas weren't precious. They were everywhere, which suggested that maybe the extraordinary process that we thought was necessary for invention - genius, obsession, serendipity, epiphany - wasn't necessary at all" (p. 5). What is necessary to bring new ideas so easily to the surface? Sharing, cooperation, and collective action (see below and Shirky, pp. 49-53).
  • Another great quote from Gladwell and the reason why we could be on the verge of a learning revolution:
Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them, which is how a group of people can sit down to dinner, put their minds to it, and end up with eight single-spaced pages of ideas" (p. 7).

In following the "invention sessions" model as described by Gladwell, there exist a number of conditions that must be present in order for "insight to be orchestrated" (p. 8):
  • Gather several intelligent people from different backgrounds in an informal, relaxed setting. It would be nice if EduBloggerCon and other unconferences (like Classroom 2.0 Live Workshops, for example) attracted more people outside of ed-tech, leaders in their respective fields. Furthermore, if the Classroom 2.0 social network had wider array of participants, coming from a wider diversity of fields, the conversations would likely improve. With time, a more diverse group should develop.

    To continue, Shirky's final words in Here Comes Everybody offer fascinating insight to this very concept:
Our social tools are dramatically improving our ability to share, cooperate, and act together. As everyone from working biologists to angry air passengers adopts these tools, it is leading to an epochal change. (p. 304)
  • Pose a series of stimulating questions. Let the ideas bounce off of each other. Remember, similar to many brainstorming sessions, there aren't really any rules. The trick to a great EduBloggerCon session is to begin the discussion with the right set of questions.
  • You can put together an invention session "anywhere you can find enough imagination, a fresh set of eyes, and a room full of [smart people]" (p. 9). These smart people, however, don't have to be Einsteins. This is exactly why Classroom 2.0 works so well.
Finally, in considering further the idea of a learning revolution, one must additionally account for Shirky's advice concerning the same. "Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new technologies - it happens when society adopts new behaviors" (p. 160).

Unless we, as a conference-attending society, adopt new learning behaviors, no revolution will ever take place.

Image Source: Flickr user Cayusa

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