It’s been a month (and a bit) since the annual ECIS November conference in Copenhagen. The theme of the conference was ‘Cultivating Curiosity’. The two keynote speakers, Bill Rankin and Ewan McIntosh, both did a wonderful job of addressing this topic from their various perspectives. Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh focused on the need to rethink education. ‘How we learn is as important as what we learn. Sometimes it’s the haystack you need to find, not the needle.’ One of his questions that still sticks with me is ‘Are we teaching the kids who are going to do it anyway or are we teaching everyone else?’ The idea being that in every institution at every level, there are students who are going to do whatever is put in front of them–even if it’s boring, even if it’s not engaging–and do it well. If we gear our education to the students who will do it anyway, where does that leave everyone else? How do we engage the rest of the class? How does technology help us to reach everyone? Who is education for in your class and what does it look like? Change thinking, change learning, change working. Have a look at the NoTosh website to dive in and find out more.
Ewan also lead the group through the ‘Design Sprint’ exercise later in the day. As ECIS moves forward they are keen to change the way this conference looks. They are keenly aware that the standard giant conference model isn’t working and looking for new ideas and new thinking around what conferences should be and how every attendee can get more out of the conference. The design sprint activity got everyone actively engaged in rethinking what we want from conferences and why it hasn’t always worked in the past. Big conferences can be like a taster menu where you walk away not quite full but having sampled lots of ideas. Most people agreed that they want a richer, deeper experience. They want to make connections that last longer than two days and come away with actionable items and goals as well as a support network to help make them happen. There was certainly consensus in the room about wanting to make change happen in our classrooms and schools but feeling the excitement of the conference wears off as soon as we step foot on campus again. What kind of professional development models could help support real change? That is the question.