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seanmichaelmorr
Instructure
Instructure

Reviewing InstCon UnCon 2015

The unconference that took place at InstructureCon 2015 was an experiment in participant-driven, self-organized conferencing and dialogue. Inspired by the student-cented learning theme of the conference, the unconference offered attendees the opportunity to create impromptu sessions on topics that were most interesting to them. The intention was to provoke meaningful conversation that could carry through the rest of the official conference.

Because of its experimental nature, the unconference didn't receive a lot of attention or promotion. However, participants generated more than enough through a Twitter backchannel and in their reviews of the main conference as a whole. Several decision makers at Instructure pricked up their ears, and we've been given a tentative go-ahead to discuss plans for another unconference in 2016.

In this discussion, I'd like to review the 2015 unconference. I'm open to general feedback, but would also love to hear feedback related to:

  • the facility (rooms, tables, chairs, etc.)
  • the facilitation (did it feel (dis)organized enough?)
  • the promotion (what did and didn't work this year?)
  • the dialogue / conversation
  • the logistics (timing, group size, etc.)

Thank you for your thoughts!

Sean

11 Replies
kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

"...a tentative go-ahead to discuss plans for another unconference in 2016" - Yay!! Best news I've heard all day!!! Smiley Happy

The facility (rooms, tables, chairs, etc.)

Overall I thought the facility worked pretty good. No real complaints, but I would like to say that going forward it's important to make sure we can rearrange furniture (possibly clear the room like we did for  @clong ​'s session) as needed and be able to hang stuff on the walls!

The facilitation (did it feel (dis)organized enough?)

I thought there was just the right amount of facilitation. Not too much so we felt stifled, but just enough to keep everything going in the right direction.

The promotion (what did and didn't work this year?)

Need a LOT more promotion. I'm not kidding, pretty much everyone I talked to about the Unconference had no idea what I was talking about. Even afterwards a lot of people I talked with were surprised that there was one and disappointed that they missed it. I understand that Instructure might not want to cannibalize from it's pre-conference workshops, but even a little promotion would go a LONG way. Most Instructure employees helping at InstCon didn't even know about the UnCon or where it was at. Smiley Sad

The dialogue / conversation

AMAZING! This was by far my favorite part of InstCon (including meeting Olivia Smiley Wink). The conversations and discussion stretched my mind, my beliefs, and my assumptions about teaching, learning, and technology (using Canvas and other technologies). I got a lot of great ideas that I'm planning on using this fall with my hybrid course and overall was invigorated by the discussion.

The logistics (timing, group size, etc.)

Timing was pretty good. I was fine with it running the morning/afternoon the conference started, but I'd love it if even more if we could get an Unconference track running along side the normal sessions throughout the conference. Or at the least a meet up the evening before (Monday evening, then all day Tuesday?). Group size was ok before lunch, but could have been a bit bigger. After lunch a lot of people didn't return (I think a number of them had pre-conference commitments), but those who stayed were a pretty awesome bunch and I still got a lot out of the sessions.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Best learning event I have attended at an instCon!

  • The Facility: I generally agree with Kona that the rooms were adequate this year, but more flexible use of the rooms is desirable. If this concept is expanded and promoted for next year, it will need a larger initial gathering space, and perhaps more breakout rooms. I suppose that registration could be more formalized, and if necessary limited.
  • The Facilitation:  Again I agree with Kona (great minds do think alike). I wish I could remember the names of the two facilitators from Instructure, but they did a great job. Very balanced, and they also knew how to draw out participation from everybody at the start when we were deciding on our topics. I think they did a great job of making sure that everybody was able to participate at whatever level of participation they desired. The topic selection piece was almost gamified.
  • The Promotion: Very minimal promotion by Instructure. Even after the fact, nobody at InstCon knew what I was talking about, and then when I described it they all said something along the lines of, "I wish I had known!"
  • Dialogue: God I hate playing Kona's echo, but it was amazing. In-dpth conversations with peers about topics you could relate to. Ever level of experience and expertise reflected in the participants for each individual topic. We all felt we could contribute, and we all felt we learned something. Many of us made new professional contacts that have persisted past the event itself.
  • The Logistics: I love that this happened on pre-conference day, and if it runs again next year, I will not be registering for any pre-conferences - just the Unconference. I know this isn't what some at Instructure might want to hear, but this really met and exceeded what we typically expect from a pre-conference session - a more in-depth, hands on exploration of a topic that you can get from the typical 30 minute sessions. The room locations worked just fine. Kona made good points about the afternoon. I was one of those who had to drop out because I had paid for pre-conferences. I will not make that mistake next year. I do not mind paying for pre-conferences, that is not the point, I just found the Unconference better met my needs.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts.

OMG - look at all those typos in my reply! Oh well. Guess we need an edit feature, or I need to be a better proofreader before I hit "post"!:smileyblush:

awilliams
Surveyor

the facility (rooms, tables, chairs, etc.)

I thought the facilities were fine. Chairs adequate. Rooms plenty big. It was an extra bonus that there was a selection of breakfast items since there was no breakfast provided that day for the conference. The only problem I see is a good one, that the unconference will hopefully grow in size and the main meeting room may be too small for next year.

The only thing I could recommend here is having projectors with KVM switches set up and ready for us to use if needed.

the facilitation (did it feel (dis)organized enough?)

I thought it worked out well pitching ideas, voting, and then Chris did a good job making "tracks."

It might be nice if there was some way to work in a lunch so we don't all disperse and only some of us end up returning.

the promotion (what did and didn't work this year?)

You definitely had to be in the "know" to find it this year. I'd love to see mentions of it in official conference advertising and community spaces.

the dialogue / conversation

Hands down my favorite part of the conference. These conversations have led to friendships and permanent changes in the way I do my job.

the logistics (timing, group size, etc.)

I can't think of a better day to do it than the day before the conference. Although,  @kona ​ did have a wonderful idea on Episode 0.5 by The Canvas Podcast​ about an unconference track during the entire conference.

Does this not work for you?

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 2.46.51 PM.png

kona
Community Coach
Community Coach

 @kmeeusen ​, you're awesome and if you would have gotten to this first I'm sure I would have been echoing your comments!

Also, our amazing leaders were  @seanmichaelmorr ​ and Chris Friend - who you are correct, did a great job moderating! I vote for both of them again for next year!

Oh, so now you're telling me I need to pay attention and actually read!

Thanks, Adam! I missed that. Now I'' go correct those pesky typos.

Always was a hasty sort.

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks for their names, Kona! They were awesome. I am suspecting that they had a teaching background of some kind, because they knew how to get folks engaged.

Adam:

It is telling me that no actions are available - rats!