March 29, 2013

Educational conferences and Spotted Dick

The Brits have a dessert that’s tasteless in both senses of the word. Spotted Dick is, according to various sources, a boiled suet pudding with raisins or currants stuck to the outside. Serving the delicacy with custard doesn’t help much. It’s best to eat the sweet, dried fruit and then look for the dog to finish the rest.

I’ve been to a few educational conferences in the past three months. They, too, have had some sweet treats in a flavorless puddle. The good parts are real and exciting; the boiled suet is soul-crushing.
The conferences have had these general characteristics:

  • There are excruciatingly few questions from the audience. Most of the few questions are the teacher-equivalent of “Will this be on the test?” The educators ask about logistics and process, rather than digging deeper into the ideas. 
  • Even the good presenters often aren’t interested in talking afterwards. They’re good on stage, but have a tough time with individuals and small groups. 
  • The Twitter stream and other social media channels are quiet. Some of this depends on conference organizers. If’ they promote it online, more people respond. Otherwise, there’s little chatter inside the room and even less from people outside.

    Academics tend to be politically and socially liberal, but very conservative on matters of changing the way they teach. #UMass
    — Karl Hakkarainen (@RoasterBoy) March 28, 2013

  • If the people at the conferences are the innovators or interested in innovation, imagine the dispirited temperaments of those who didn’t attend. We should be worried about the future of education. 
We also need to make sure that the catering staff (mostly students) checks their spelling before lunch.