The Following is Cross-Posted at the 21st Century Scholar blog:
A month to reflect on the Digital Media and Learning (DML) Conference, and my mind is still buzzing with the ideas and innovative shifts in educational learning I was able to engage with during the three-day conference. As with the two prior conferences, I left the conference with a strong sense of optimism for the possibilities of schools and teachers and learning as a result of the presentations, conversations, and debates I participated in during DML 2012.
And while the ideas and individuals I encounter are so inspiring, I left with a looming and frustrating sentiment: we can do more. While I typically blog at DMLcentral about the ways that the Digital Media and Learning field can continually improve, I want to stress that I am talking here about the conference space. At the DML conference, we can–and need–to do more. The format of conferences is an ego-boosting and elitist one: typically, presenters stand in front of a crowd share their work for 15–20 minutes and take questions from the crowd. Keynote speakers get longer and panels basically allow audiences to witness a conversation amongst three or four experts on a given topic. The problem is, when it comes to digital media and when it comes to learning, we are all experts to a certain extent.
As a conference that brings the latest innovation from a nascent field, the DML space needs to become more egalitarian. What is the net impact of this conference convening? If we are bringing together hundreds of the most motivated and knowledgeable people interested in DML, we should be doing more than listening to a select few in a glorified show-and-tell.
As one of the conference committee members for the 2012 conference, I saw first-hand how competitive and selective the programming process was. A small percentage of the proposals submitted could be selected and I regularly heard from frustrated applicants that were eager to share their valuable work. What if we moved beyond a traditional conference format to a space that encouraged bazaar-like trading of ideas and it was facilitated to have purposeful outcomes by the end?
I want to note how powerful the DML backchannel is: the screens displaying recent conference-related tweets and the participation by a majority of conference attendees in the backchannel made it a robust and valuable resource. And isn’t it, thus, strange that a conference that can so ably illustrate the power of newly emerging backchannel tools cannot redefine the traditional components of a conference?
Ultimately, if the DML enthusiasts (myself included) are critically and enthusiastically pushing against worn and hackneyed learning formats, isn’t it time we also begin pushing against the traditional conference and presentation format as well?