“People don’t go to conferences for presentations. They go for the networking.” Overheard on tram 48, 6.47pm, 16.4.15.
As educators we know and understand the importance of providing authentic, rich and fulfilling learning experiences that provide real world contexts for learning. We provide choice for students and empower them to be lifelong learners, giving them agency to learn from their mistakes. We use contemporary pedagogies and digital technologies to prepare them for a life in the 21st century. Yet, when we attend a conference our learning is not always treated with the same respect we give to our learning design.
This year I am once again the chair of DigiCon, the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria annual conference and working with a wonderful committee we have been able to step outside what has become the traditional conference structure where educators are led through learning experiences in a linear and set structure.
We started last year with the concept of a self organising conference and have learned a lot from that experience, which has allowed us to go a step further. But how do we change a conference that has a long history of concurrent sessions flanked by keynotes? And how do we change the tradition that a conference is something you come to where you are talked to. It is even more difficult for a not-for profit who relies on the conference to produce other resources and events for students. We knew we wanted to support our delegates through this change, a change we believe will allow us to think about conferences and professional learning differently.
We wanted people to leave the conference empowered. We believe individuals are in the best place to decide their own learning and to filter what they need and what they don’t. We wanted people to leave sessions in the middle if they are not meeting their expectations but also to contribute. We want them to ask questions, share ideas and to make connections.
When we were designing the conference program at the end of last year we drew inspiration from The Edinburgh Festival Fringe where in 1947 a group of theatres who didn’t want to conform to the traditional constraints of a festival took advantage of the crowds in Edinburgh to showcase their alternative events. DigiCon – a festival of learning, will also have an alternative place to showcase learning. The DigiCon Fringe Festival will allow presenters to showcase what they are doing in digital learning in an alternative setting with no constraints to time, location, people involved or traditions.
We had lots of interest from presenters who also wanted to think differently about how they present. In the Fringe Festival we will have a radio station, students coding, developers to chat to, students printing a 3D printer, loads of new gadgets and a series of inspirational mini keynotes. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the unexpected in The Fringe.
DigiCon15 is on 24th and 25th July 2015 at Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn.
Register at digicon.vic.edu.au