I’m sitting in JFK Airport, NYC, waiting for the plane to take me to Barcelona for OpenEdTech 2009. I’m tremendously excited to be joining such an illustrious crew for the OET experience. And it’s my first time to Spain, so my anticipation is pretty much off the scale. At the same time, I’m leaving behind a lovely two-day conference experience with Miltonists from the US and Canada (and perhaps other countries as well–I need to review the registration list).
So as I look ahead to a great session with visionaries every bit as determined as I am to bring positive change and catalytic innovation to higher education, I look behind to a classic scholarly gathering: professors taking turns reading papers to each other, fielding questions about their work, and hashing out the finer points in the hotel bar. (Sometimes there’s even some busking in the bar by members of “The Miltones”–but that’s matter for another post.) In most respects, the Milton conference is unchanged in terms of its processes from the one I attended for the first time in 1991.
But here’s the point–and it’s one that I find myself making from time to time when I think about all that’s broken about the academy. There are times when scholars reading papers to each other yields wonderful results. Delivering a sustained argument over the course of twenty minutes, and listening attentively to that sustained argument, can be an extraordinary educational experience. Not always, and maybe not even most of the time (though I proudly claim that the Miltonists yield a very high percentage of fine presentations), but often enough that we shouldn’t lose sight of what this experience can bring, or how we might share it with our students.
Of course I can’t share very much of this experience with you, as almost none of it was recorded. Of course not all the papers were equally interesting or equally well delivered. Of course there are many ways in which Web 2.0 could augment the conference and make it more meaningful and powerful for those of us who were there in person–and those of us who could not be.
Once again I’m struck by the need for our thinking to be both-and, not either-or, when it comes to thinking about education. Or to put it more simply: it’s complicated.
More stories from the Milton conference ahead. And I’ll be doing my best to blog the OpenEdTech conference as it happens–despite the jet lag and my touristy goggle-eyes. I’m grateful for both these opportunities, and mulling over the striking juxtapositions I’m living through.