Last month, I had the extraordinarily good fortune to be able attend the EUROCALL Open Educational Resources SIG Conference hosted by the Centro Interfacoltà di Linguisitica Teorica ed Applicata (CILTA) at the University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy). The title of the conference was “Learning Through Sharing: Open Resources, Open Practices, Open Communication.”
The venue was incredible, to be sure. But what made this conference possibly one of the best meetings I have attended anywhere was the simple fact that the organizers were determined to do something different and to make the meeting more interactive. Everyone who attended had written a paper and therefore was presenting a paper. All of the participants’ papers were released to the group a month before the meeting, with the expectation that we would read them BEFORE we came to the conference, and certainly before we attended a session.
In the conference program it stated:
Authors will be given 45-minute slots in which two or three related papers will be discussed together. The authors of the papers will be given 5 minutes each to summarise the main issues discussed in their papers (which all the participants should have read beforehand). This will be followed by a 30 minute discussion. It is hoped that this format will encourage deeper reflection and discussion, and provide authors with valuable feedback on their work.
And guess what? IT WORKED. The session moderators kept the presenters (as best they could, because yes some people just can’t limit themselves, oh well) to the 2-4 minute limit for presenting a synopsis of their work. After about 10 minutes of that, the rest of the session (35 minutes or so) was filled with questions from the audience and conversations in and amongst all of the people in the room.
Oh and the other thing? This was a NO POWERPOINT conference. So as a presenter, you did not need to fuss about slides and all of that…just summarize your work and be ready to ask and receive questions. Brilliant!
While it might have been argued that the two keynotes could have been flipped as well, the final closing “plenary roundtable” made up for that. Using Today’s Meet , people were put into small groups and asked to post thoughts about ideas, innovations, questions that were presented during the conference. It struck me as a GREAT way to pull together the themes and ideas of a meeting using a variety of perspectives. To see the archive of what we all pulled together about the conference, click here.
So, for all of you out there who think conferences can’t be flipped, I beg to differ. My new colleagues here in Italy have shown us all that it can be done.