Come to the event formerly known as Prince – or #bleetchat

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Apologies for the title – knowing what to call this post sums up much of what I want to capture here following one of those Twitter excursions where an indeterminate number (but including  @JefferyKeefer) discussed our interest in devising something risky that could be called an unconference, a barcamp, a hackathon, OpenSpaceTechnology, a serendipitous happening, or a fringe event. (Oh, the #bleetchat reflects the similarity of some of the thinking to the tweetchat but locates it in a blended context, and what’s wrong with the allusion of sheep flocking anyway?)

We began by noticing how some people read their conference papers… and a while later we were discussing how to think about conferences differently. I think we agreed on certain ideas that could contribute to us making an event happen (note I did not say ‘organise’). These included:

  • would be open to anyone
  • no admission fee
  • no set agenda or programme
  • valuing people being in the same place (but not necessarily physically co-located)
  • could think about ’round tables’ – as in format more than furniture
  • could flip the hard stuff (eg papers) to value the soft stuff (ie people)
  • where the event makers support the curious to find their voice – respect the novice (yes, we’re all novices really…)
  • learn from networked behaviours in designing a blended place that is open and connected
  • consider how the physical space is not necessarily raked or teacher-orientated. In fact, consider atriums or other busy spaces (and therefore a conference with movement? Nobody mentioned flash mobs, but maybe I should for completeness)
  • could look at an event with a purpose (or purposes ecologically and heutagogically speaking) rather than a programme
  • Perhaps the visual artefact has a place where before only the written text was given space. Certainly, we mentioned being creative with formats.
  • Redefine scholarliness (slightly different to scholarship – that would be audacious) ie we mentioned papers without references as being unsatisfactory.
  • Innovation – as in anything, but maybe as in creating a space for ideas. Did we shift away from people who already have content towards people who want to discuss? Yes, I think we kept coming back to just valuing people and whatever it is they bring.
  • Despite this open and vague idea, we come back to being clear with people who want to be involved. Does this mean having few set ideas, but being very clear about what those (principles?) are?
  • ‘We just need someone to take a risk’ – so I think the ‘someone’ here is everyone? Value risk as the basis for getting together and taking part. (But at some point we will get real and there will be risk about investing time to making this happen and hosting it – though #BYOS4L (Bring Your Own Sandwich for Learning) answers much of that.
  • ‘Place and Space’ could unite us thematically – and perhaps that (and our networks) is all we have… (though I note we also have teaching, learning and research in higher education, ideas about networked learning, disruptive thinking about space and place, and a healthy attitude towards technologies and media in common I think)
  •  – see http://agileforall.com/proposing-open-space-technology-sessions/ sets out a useful approach that reflects much of what we discussed.
  • We could take a ‘fringe’ approach – that is, take ‘the idea’ to an event or events that are already taking place (and funded). This connects with the idea of MetaTeaching&Learning – an experiment I developed last year with Alex Spiers and Viv Rolfe to connect, open up, and create a bigger platform for people presenting at their own Teaching & Learning Conferences. To amplify peer reviewed ‘local’ sessions and make them national by sharing Slideshare versions of presentations and other digital artefacts. See: https://metatl.wordpress.com/ (a great idea – if still only full of potential. And it’s time to promote this again anyway)

So, to conclude. We are interested in taking a risk to create an event that is accessible and will encourage people to participate in ways that make connections and support new thinking about Place and Space in higher education.

PS: The other thing is, we could find a common date and time, set a common problem/challenge, meet in our institutional spaces, with our institutional T&L mavericks/innovators and PLNs, and network in situ and across social media to ‘solve’ the problem…

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