I’m attending a conference in Brussels, Belgium and it is a delight. There are several reasons for this. First among them, I have the opportunity to spend quality time with real friends, all of whom I have met through Twitter. Second, I am here as a consumer. I am not presenting, speaking, serving on a panel or otherwise organizationally committed beyond being a responsive participant. Third, I get to spend time with my friends – did I already mention that?
The conference: International School of Brussels Learning by Design. It’s a gathering of of 400-500 people, including some student participants which is a refreshing aspect. (Consider how many education conferences you have attended where students are the last kind of participant we are likely to meet.)
The guiding question: What Is School For?
I of course want to play with that right away. I keep thinking: What is school for whom? What is school for, when? I also want to ask: What does school have to do with education? The pleasure and privilege of being able to toss these questions around without the responsibility of changing anything in my practice or in my institution feels generous and freeing. It also illustrates a weakness in the general conference model. I attend, get all fired up and have a bunch of nifty ideas to tote back to my school and classroom and between right now and when I am actually back in the office, well, I might as well be trying to transport a large snowball in a plastic bag through airport security.
That said, while I am here, I can talk and play with some inspired educators. I can make personal connections that spark and further my thinking. I can keep up with a few new folks on Twitter. I can write a few things out.
Consider, too, that my primary benefits derive from being among friends. Seeing, hugging, smiling at people I am used to interacting with via words in small boxes on a platform interface – the emotional boost is huge. An intellectual homecoming complete with shared meals, 2 small dogs, tasty Belgian beer and talk of books and people and history. I am in my element and because I am in my element, my capacity to be open to fresh ideas, to be free to play in an improv session, to engage in meta observation – all of these things are in high gear. It’s a lovely experience to say the least.