Reflections on e-fest

I was inspired to do this post by reading Mark Nicholls’s blog. I was sitting in a relaxed mood during the last speeches at e-fest when in a moment of inspiration I checked my plane departure time to discover it was in 75 minutes, not about three hours as I thought. I left far too quickly, with no sense of closure, good-byes or wind-down.  There was for me no debrief . . .
I am interested in three comments by Mark:

I have been reflecting on my eFest experiences and the discomfort I felt when discussion turned toward our ‘inadequate’ education system (at all levels – this criticism wasn’t confined to tertiary). It is very easy to rubbish things; all you need are perfect expectations, a simplistic perspective of the world, a few examples and a preferred solution that fails to consider all of the world’s complexities.

It is interesting how we can attend the same event, and get totally different things out of it. I didn’t see much of this view. Maybe Mark is referring to the last session where I did leave early: I did catch a very interesting speech by a High School student, referring to the TED podcast Do schools kill creativity by Sir Ken Robinson 2006

Mark also asks:

Should we do away with schools and tertiary institutions because of the potential of Web 2.0, and the rise of the digital native? That is as naked a question as was enthusiastically affirmed at eFest.

I think the theme for me at e-fest was using new tools for improving old (necessary) practices – like creating authenticity, encouraging engagement and reflection . . . I spent some time in some of the sessions where the question was How to cope with the non-digital native? – when they need to become digital. Like Lee said: If I have to teach one more person how to insert a hyperlink . . .
What are the basic competencies I wonder? Nancy White has spoken on this . . hers is quite a clear view.

Mark also commented:

My bone is that Web 2.0 and networked learning are yet to convince me that they could do a better job than the ‘ongoing progress’ being made by the status quo. Communities of Practice are simply not as communally representative as are local schools, so are therefore impoverished as substitutes.

Hmm. I’ve talked with Mark a little about this, but the conversation remains unfinished. I suspect the communities of practice Mark is referring to are either NOT communities of practice (maybe in the sense a school may be a community, but not a CoP) (ref the wikipedia definition) – or else they are communities gone bad. As Etienne Wenger says:

(Community) . . .  can be both a strength and a weakness…the locus of creative achievements and the locus of inbred failures; the locus of resistance to oppression and the locus of the reproduction of its conditions; the cradle of the self but also the potential cage of the soul  Possible reference

[As an aside, Lev Richard didn’t like this bit of the book]  Etienne said in his Christchurch workshop that he wanted to title the chapter the Dark Side of Communities – but the publisher went with the Downside of Communities.  At efest I was party to more discussions of the difficulties and the promise of communities rather than a romantic rose coloured view.

This brings me to my reflections. I greatly enjoyed the workshops and sessions I went to, and once again discovered some hidden gems amongst the people who work in this country. I never thought I would ever say this:  I missed the first time practitioners giving presentations.  I enjoyed meeting some old friends, but I regret not making proper connections with others: Stephen, Richard, and Bernie – you know who you are!!

I did NOT like being on deck for a stand to advertise courses.  I found the support for everything great.

I was however a little preoccupied by having to be on deck for facilitation on day 2.
Day Two was supposed to be an interactive day.  Four sessions with a facilitated after session table group.  I’m undecided how to respond to the actuality.  If we were going for real interaction and synergy:

  • My black hat/glass half full view: we wasted some of the day.
  • My glass half full, AI lens: well, it could have been better, we learned a lot about what to do and not to do and how better to structure things.

So the S word.  Structure.  Back to my interest in more open dialogue/conversation based events rather than either the traditional academic paper treadmill, sharing of ignorance or thinking in what occurs first in an unco-ordinated way.

Open space?  For a quick overview, see a YouTube video link courtesy of Stephen Harlow.  I’m not quite yet suggesting a full open space event in a big conference like environment like eFest.  You need a critical mass of people with a mindset – or I am happy to structure it a bit if I am in a leadership role (like last year’s ::FLNW:: open space event in Christchurch) – or (and there is one other alternative)

Open space?   From wikipedia:

Open Space Technology (OST) is a way to convene people for a conference, retreat or meeting. “Technology” in this case means ‘tool’ – a process; a method. Attendees are asked to generate the meeting agenda as well as participate by leading small group break-out sessions during the meeting time. There is usually a facilitator, but no official meeting leader who demands compliance.

It is similar to Future workshops, BarCamps or Unconferences.

“This entry is written more like an advertisement”

I considered editing this entry, but it was just too big a job and I felt ill equipped.  I love the possibilities in the unconference model, especially after my experiences at Setubal and The Prato Dialogue at Florence.  And Cathy’s FLLinNZ roadshow. . . .
Back to day two at e-fest: Superb talks, all of them, but if our goal was more than just listening, I think

  1. we talked too much to the people on day two, and not enough clear time for conversation and dialogue, and . .
    (Maybe it was a question of ratio to talk)
  2. not enough capture of the gems – there was random broadcast of some ideas, but they often reflected a confident personality rather than a considered group process.
    In this I do agree with Mark: an ongoing process is important.
    We had once again a major e-learning conference with no management of the artifacts produced – no conference aggregator – no conference upload. . . .
  3. The structure was not quite enough . . .  or something.

eFest 2007 marks the end of an era, with significant eCDF funding. I wonder what the future will hold?  If there is an opportunity, I think I’ll be back in 2008.

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