A paradox exists between adult learning at conferences and student learning in the classroom. On one hand we talk about students taking ownership of their learning and collaborating with others without the teacher “giving” all the information…yet at conferences, the majority of the time we seem to sit submissively and listen to presenters in a didactic style approach.
This was one of the major reasons for bringing the EdTech MasterChef Challenge to the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014. With colleague Narissa Leung, we facilitated the event to offer an alternative style of professional development for educators at the conference.
We were inspired by the EdTech Iron Chef Challenge at the International Society of Technology in Education Conference 2013 in San Antonio. Attending as delegates from the ACCE Study Tour, Narissa and I went into the Iron Chef event excited by the possibilities of a challenge-based style of professional development for teachers at a conference. We weren’t disappointed as we had the opportunity to debate, co-construct, innovate and articulate our approach to using technology in a hypothetical setting. For the first time, we had experienced an alternative style of learning at a conference that truly put meaning to the buzz words “connect, collaborate, crate”. (Did I also mention that our group were also declared joint-winners of the challenge with another group?)
This was another reason for facilitating the EdTech MasterChef Challenge at ACEC14. We didn’t want to lecture to people about the importance of networking with other educators, we wanted them to make their own connections. We didn’t want to show examples of students collaborating, we wanted them to experience it for themselves. We didn’t want to discuss the higher-order thinking skills required for creating meaningful products, we wanted them to use the skills to make something. The organisers of the original event are offering their resources to anyone who wants to host their own challenge, and we adapted the ideas from Iron Chef at ISTE to bring the EdTech MasterChef Challenge to ACEC14.
Attendees who attended Day 1 of the challenge were encouraged to form teams to collaborate with for the duration of the challenge. Whilst most people in the room brought along a friend and subsequently ended up in the same group, it was great to see a mixture of educators from various levels of experience and backgrounds in each group.
Participants were given a set of “ingredients” to use in their challenge to address a problem. The ingredients were selected intentionally to reflect the common obstacles in our everyday education contexts, and were supposed to stimulate thinking about the effective use of ICT and resources to overcome these obstacles.
Teams collaborated on their solution and were encouraged to set aside some time during the conference to meet up physically or digitally to review their progress.
On Day 2 of the challenge, teams presented their solutions back to everyone participating and other interested delegates from ACEC14 in a fast-paced style snapshot of their solution. Guest judges formed a panel and scored each solution and presentation with a rubric.
Team PiLAUS #edtechchef #acec2014 pic.twitter.com/xeSRL9i6mW
— Anthony Speranza (@anthsperanza) October 3, 2014
Highly effective and entertaining #edtechchef @ACEC2014 Thanks to teams and to @anthsperanza @rissL for organising. pic.twitter.com/LH0HcCc2AI
— Janine Bowes (@jbowes) October 3, 2014
It was a close battle, but congratulations to Team Epicureans on taking out the win!
MT @rissL: Winner winner chicken dinner! Thanks @courosa, @kathyschrock @gronn for judging! #acec2014 pic.twitter.com/6gMtCxKU8f #edtechchef
— Anthony Speranza (@anthsperanza) October 3, 2014
All of the final projects submitted can be seen here.
Overall, the feedback from participants was very positive. Most seemed to enjoy the level of thinking required to address their challenge and present their solution with familiar and unfamiliar conference delegates. This was not withstanding obvious difficulties in some groups like time constraints or poor communication between team members; both of which are barriers to students that we as teachers deal with in these contexts in our classroom. However, it was encouraging to see that problem or challenge-based learning which we so often promote in our classrooms can have its place in adult learning at the conference level.
Hey Anthony & Narissa –
Great to see you beginning to explore and push the boundaries within a conference context. This is an excellent way to begin, because one of the biggest challenges is that we go to conferences with certain expectations, and when those are challenged it can take us into a learning zone, but if challenged too much we switch off due to falling out into the danger zone.
What interests me here is that it is still a very planned process, there are still some set activities and a process that is organised for the participants – rather than allowing them to organise the process themselves.
Love to see you iterate this, to push it further into modern learning approaches – what is the participants came and all you had was the title? What if you had them think about what they even wanted to do and work out themselves how they would do that?
And, rather than scores, what if the final result was a commitment to what the participants would take with them.
The biggest challenge is to allow things to not work. So much of the teaching profession is about planning and control over the learning space, and the greatest shift is in letting go of that control. And trusting in the capacity of the learner and their interest to learn and guide their own learning. It is how we design for that – how we support learners to think and shape how they learn that is the next big step we are all a part of.
This little side project of yours pleases me.
I totally agree that we all go to conferences with certain expectations, and hopefully learning of this style starts to break that notion of passiveness.
We are already thinking of ways that we can make the process more open to entice more people, and to exercise more creativity in the next iteration.