Disruption or Demand to Learn

Picture of Microphone in the Audience Will Richardson just Twittered reference to March 11 CNN Money.com article, Welcome to Conference 2.0.  The article, by Dan Fost, tell several stories of recent conferences (SXSW), where presentations were hijacked by audiences who were carrying on their own back-channel conversations about the failure of the presentations or panels to deliver what they (audience) had come to learn.

Here is one scenario from the article:

Consider author Sarah Lacy’s disastrous interview of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival here. Lacy, a Business Week columnist and author of a forthcoming book on Zuckerberg and other Web 2.0 titans, drew the crowd’s wrath by asking Zuckerberg too many questions about his age and his company’s outrageous $15 billion valuation and not enough questions about issues more fundamental to how Facebook operates – things like trust, privacy, and accessibility to software developers. On top of that, Lacy interrupted Zuckerberg, seemed to flirt with him, and then grew hostile as the crowd turned against her. ((Fost, Dan. “Welcome to Conference 2.0.” Fortune 11 Mar 2008 26 Mar 2008 http://snurl.com/22on0 [money_cnn_com] .))

Of course this is partly the reason for stripping our students of social devices (cell phones) and our computers of social applications (iChat) as they enter our schools — because of the potential disruption that could occur in our teacher/textbook/standards-controlled classrooms.  I would suggest that we need not fear these disruptions, if we can learn to channel them.

The article goes on to list several practices of audience-empowerment at conferences, and I wonder what each might look like if introduced in our schools:

  • The “un-conference” model, in which people show up for a conference and the participants pick the agenda and run it in an “open space” model.

    I wonder about a social studies class where the students, with some overview of a range of topics, might collaborate with a wiki to write their own syllabus, and then practice and demonstrate learning literacy skills in mastering the items, through research, reading, analysis and synthesis, and compelling conversation, and then report out to an external audience their findings.

  • The “lobbycon” phenomenon, in which people don’t pay to go to conferences, they just show up and network in the lobbies.

    Certainly, this is already happening in the halls.  But I’ve heard of 1:1 schools where it is not unusual for students to spontaneously be gathered around a laptop, discussing an assignment or project.  Of course, the task is to have something going on in the classroom that students walk out continuing to talk about.

  • The “panel picker,” an online forum that SXSW uses in which people suggest panels and then the community votes on what they want to see. The winners get to present.

    This is very interesting.  Ask the class to pick the students who will compile and deliver reports on specific topics at hand, and give reasons why those particular students are preferred.  Now we are talking about a classroom where true conversations are an integral part of the learning, such that students discover each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

  • Parties 2.0

    Well, I’ll let you work this one out.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.