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Put Conference Learning Into Action Now

Frederick Brown image
Frederick Brown

Earlier this month, more than 3,600 people participated in Learning Forward's Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. They came to Music City to explore new ideas, deepen their understanding of key professional learning concepts, and engage with colleagues from all over the world. By noon on Wednesday, Dec. 10, the conference was over, and attendees returned home to their schools, districts, provinces, states, and regions.

So what's the next step for people who attend a major learning event like Learning Forward's conference? Here are two options to consider.

Option A: Put it all on the shelf.

The easiest thing to do after returning from a conference is to put all those materials on a shelf in your office and continue doing what you've always done. This happens all too often, and those considering it will be in good company.

People leave the conference energized and full of great ideas about how they will change their systems, and sometimes they even put their ideas in writing during the flight home. However, once they return to their offices or classrooms, the realities and responsibilities of their jobs send those amazing new ideas right out of their minds.

Before long, they may even forget they attended a conference, let alone had some fresh thoughts that might have changed their organizations or systems. In a few months, they'll look over at that shelf and see the conference guide and their notes. Perhaps some positive feeling will overcome them about that "wonderful conference" and how much they are looking forward to attending again. However, those pleasant thoughts will quickly fade as the phone rings or the next email arrives.

Option B: Consider developing implementation strategies now.

In this scenario, conference attendees immediately strategize about how to share what they learned. If a team attended, they will schedule a debrief meeting upon returning home.

With Option B, returning conference attendees will:

  • Strategically capture what they learned from sessions and networking opportunities;
  • Explore how new ideas complement strategies currently underway in their systems;
  • Follow up via email or phone call with individuals whose business cards they collected during the conference;
  • Use their membership privileges to further explore key ideas and strategies found in Learning Forward newsletters, JSD, and other resources from the website;
  • Explore additional opportunities that might extend their learning (e.g. an e-learning session, institute, etc.);
  • Consider one or two ideas that can be put into practice right away, and develop a strategy to assess implementation; and
  • Strategize about how they will be more proactive as they prepare to attend next year's conference in Washington, D.C.

While Option B offers the greatest potential, I know Option A is the reality for many who attend conferences and similar learning events. Now is the time to consider the benefits Option B offers. Use the conference as a starting point in a process that will ultimately improve educator practice and results for students.

Remember, there aren't many documented cases of students benefitting from a conference program sitting on a shelf.

Frederick Brown
Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward

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