Sunday, January 29, 2012

Conversations in the hall...better than a workshop or keynote?

I was surprised when my best friend said that unlike me she loved highschool. Really? Why? Everything she went on to explain about her love of high school had NOTHING to do with classes or teachers. It was all about the fun she had in the halls, passing between classes, laughing with friends, checking out what people were wearing and gossiping about who thought who was cute. In other words, what she valued wasn’t what was happening in the classrooms, but rather the relationships she developed in the halls. It was this part of her high school experience that led her to the successful career she has today.

As I reflected upon my time at Educon this year I realized that sometimes we don’t give enough value to our time in the hall. In fact, my buddy   even apologized to me for it as she encountered some friendly detours as we were moving together in the hall from one thing to the next. 

In our rush to get to the next session, workshop, or activity, sometimes we don’t stop and savor the smell those discussions that might be the roses that help our learning and personal growth bloom.  Instead of rushing off to sessions, what if instead we rushed over to people who had ideas we loved and wanted to explore further?

As I was hurrying off to a session on Saturday I saw   camped out at a table in the hall. He seemed to be holding court as his fans passed by and shared ideas. I did the same and said, I was surprised to see he was not leading any conversations this year.  Instead, it looked like he had found quite a satisfying way to spend his time, though he told me he did indeed plan on attending sessions. I happened to notice a few tweets between Will and another Tweep who was critical of conferences and conference goers. Will shared that what he valued at conferences wasn't necessarily the sessions, and certainly not the vendors (Educon has no vendor floor), but rather connecting with new and old friends, face-to-face. Where does that happen best?  While it can happen in a session whispering in the back of the room, sometimes this leads to others sending a sneer your way.  The reality is it often happens in the halls.

My Educon "halllights" included my chat with Will Richardson to catch up on what is new and glean any new ideas from the cool things he was doing, a few moments with the host of the conference Chris Lehmann where he shared that he felt this year's conversations were the deepest so far, and a couple serendipitous conversations with David Ginsburg @CoachGinsburg who had some insightful advice and ideas about supporting learners outside a school environment.

I'm thinking at my next conference instead of sessions or workshops I might just plant myself in the hall and put out a shingle that says, “Come talk to me about…” If I do, I hope you’ll reconsider rushing off to that next session or event, and giving me a chance to be your conference "halllight."  


  1. Hi Lisa,

    The unfortunate part is that at many conferences, the conversations in the hallway are the only way to take away anything meaningful. I think the format at Educon where the sessions are labeled as "conversations" helps a lot. It is exciting to me that people are so engaged in the conversations that they spill over in to the hallway. I am sure you have been at a few conferences where you have attended sessions that were not engaging and where the discussion about the topic ended as soon as you walked out the door.

    My problem with Educon is there are so many engaging sessions and conversations (informal and formal) that I am disappointed that I can't be involved in all of them. I guess that's a good problem to have?

  2. @Patrick Larkin,
    I agree completely. Educon is hands down my favorite conference because of exactly what you state. The conversations in the rooms are exciting, thought-provoking, and relevant.

    I think for me, this piece was a way of dealing with a bit of guilt I have at times for not being everywhere. I think it's also reminder to me to slow down and appreciate what is in front of me because it may be just as, if not more, important than what's ahead.

  3. Hi Lisa.

    What's cool, though, is that if you go back to the educon page, there are videos (of varying quality -- but still impressive!) of just about every conversation, so you can catch up on some of what you missed. I'm watching David Jakes' session on "What if?" for example, at

  4. Have you heard of Open Space Technology ( It's a way of organizing an "unconference" centered entirely around exactly what you describe here. It's also something I've been thinking about working into a new radical pedagogy.