April 22, 2016

T.I.M.E. Unconference

Teaching Innovatively Moves Education

A while back my co-worker Kelly saw a post on facebook for an unconference during our April break. Neither of us had plans for that day and so we decided to attend. Going in we had no idea what to expect, we hadn't hear anything more about it and were somewhat concerned we'd be the only ones there!

There was no traffic so we arrived early and wandered around campus while solving all of the world's problems. The event was at Olin College which has a unique feature - originally tuition was free, now (post recession decimating the endowment) students only pay half tuition. We wondered how that would work and decided that a "pay later" model for education is totally reasonable. Students could attend a school, get the education needed to find a job, and then pay tuition later. That tuition could be dependent on their salary or optional. It occurs to me now that this is exactly how public schooling works. The idea of opening a high school like this sounded radical on that early Saturday morning, and truthfully with the right branding we could run it as a radical new idea, only to follow up with "Hey! You just funded a public school! How about you keep doing that since it is a worthwhile cause all the time."

When we arrived at the meeting space there were only five other people there. But teachers, given the opportunity to talk about teaching, will jump right in no matter who is there. By the end of the last session in the afternoon we were up to about a dozen people. I was especially excited to talk to another teacher who teaches the language based disability program at her middle school since I have so many students with language based disabilities this year.

I was part of three round table discussions. The conversations in the first two flowed naturally as we shared ideas, asked questions, learned more and made connections. In the third session we had a more deliberate facilitator who made sure that everyone was given the opportunity to speak, including the pre-service teachers who had been quiet all day. Inspired by some NCTM tweets, I tried taking notes in a more free form manner. I don't know that it's fair to call these sketchnotes as there aren't any drawings/doodles (turns out I'm self conscious about my ability to rapidly create images! A new weakness I get to develop into a potential skill) but the web style of notes was interesting. I hadn't planned on doing this so I only had a pen with me. That evening, post-unconference, I went to a coffee shop with my markers and reviewed my notes. Adding color, highlights, additional notes (the brown) and taking the time to digest the flurry of information was a great way to spend the evening. Now that I blog I am more likely to look back at my notes but often I take notes more as a thing to do with my hands than because I expect to use them later. Taking the second pass to further process and connect ideas was time well spent.

I'm happy to further explain any of the ideas in these notes or discuss ideas inspired by them. For now, I leave you to the synthesized version of 4 hours of conversation:



  1. Is it the same model as an EdCamp?
    I think you can still call it a sketchnote even if it doesn't have drawings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNQJReku9Gw