Open Space Consultant’s Conference

Yesterday, April 12th. Our school division hosted a conference for consultants and superintendents and frankly anyone interested in supporting teachers and classrooms based on the open space model.

Thanks to a podcast by Steve Dembo, I was inspired to try this out. Since our division and entire province for that matter has undergone a major restructuring and reorganization, there has been major unrest. So the opportunity to try something different seemed possible.

I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout. I was hoping to meet with a half dozen interested parties. As it turned out there were 35 people representing 8 different school divisions as well as representation from our provincial department of learning. There was a high level of energy and buzz regarding the invitation to meet and discuss issues that were important to each individual.

I created the entire conference and agenda in a wiki. From here, each organization had the opportunity to contribute over the past month in preparation for the day. By the way, wikispaces offers their service free for teachers which enables you to create totally private areas if you wish and ad free. This proved invalueable in developing the day.

During each discussion we utilized Jotspotlive which as far as I know is the only online notetaking service that allows for simultaneously notetaking.

The concept of an openspace conference seems like a natural way to organize thinking. I’m sure I didn’t lead it exactly according to the book but was pleased with they day. We embraced these principles:

  • Whoever comes is the right person – You don’t need every person in the organization, just whoever cares the most. And if you’re the only one who comes, you might finally have some rich, focused quiet time for thinking and writing on that issue.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have – Let go of your expectations and work with whatever unfolds.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time – Creativity doesn’t happen on a schedule.
  • Whenever it’s over, it’s over. – If you find a solution in 20 minutes, move on to the next group. If it takes 2 hours, keep the conversation rolling.

In keeping with my tagline, the day was relevant, authentic and engaging. Everyone had ownership in the content and their learning. Several remarked at the use of technology to connect and provide a richer experience. Using a tool like Jotlive, you were able to sit in on one session and yet snoop around at the activity happening elsewhere. As is the principle of open space, this allowed you to excercise your right to use your feet and move over that conversation and bring with you the good discussion you had at other sessions.

Thanks to Steve and also a old post on How to Run Useless Conference for some of the inspiration behind the day.

Conference photos: