I have always been a bit undecided about the whole backchannel and people surfing the web thing at conferences. In our 1:1 teacher district it is not an issue because no one brings their laptops to any professional development or meetings, and the two times I did I was asked to put them away. At our last PD the few that had them were also asked very professionally to limit our time with our laptops and the internet. I could have totally misinterpreted the message, but I closed my lid.
That last PD was on Data Teams. There was research, names, books, and of course various data shared over the course of two days. I was in a very weird situation of not having heard of almost single study, name, and book mentioned by the speaker. The speaker welcomed questions, but I didn’t know enough about what she was mentioning to question her information. I am specifically talking about questioning her facts…not questions about the facts. I suspected a trend in her presentation of one-sided narrow information. It was hard to tell since I did not have any background information on data teams or her sources. For almost all in the room, there was no reason to question what she was saying. So let it be said…so let it be done.
Afterwards I was able to go back and research her sources, and wish I knew at the meeting that her main source runs an institute that is connected with a company that makes money off him convincing schools to make data teams. I wish I knew more about what she labeled a very famous study that I had never heard of…the 90/90/90 study (come on, have you ever heard of it?)
I am still not sure of whether I support a backchannel and surfing during sessions. Would I have paid less attention if I was busy researching the other side of the story? Would I not have thrown myself into as much after school research as I did if I was able to do a bit of internet research at the workshop? Would I have closed my mind to an opinion that I don’t agree with, but was still worth me understanding?
I am not sure..I know I would have been a more active participant during the workshop and have been able to question her authority. I know I would have been able to bring another perspective into the conversation. I know that I felt naked.