The Unconference: ASB Playdate Prototype
Through our initial research, one professional learning model that seemed to fit the personalized
learning requirements for our future model of PD is the “unconference”. An unconference is a free,
participant driven gathering, lacking the top-down structure and sponsored presentations found in
many conferences available to educators today.
Unconferences are based on Open Space Technology, an approach to purpose-based leadership that
first appeared in the early 1980s. Two of the intended outcomes of an Open Space event resonate with
the formats of the various open space unconference models that have made the transfer from IT and
business models to education. They are:
The issues that are most important to people will get discussed.
The issues raised will be addressed by the participants best capable of getting something done
Though the Unconference has been gaining in popularity in the United States, there are few examples, if
any, of their occurrence in the international private schools community. Unconferences rely on the four
traits of connected network knowledge which are diversity, autonomy, interactivity and openness. As a
result, we decided to prototype an unconference at ASB to learn how it would impact professional
learning in our community. The two key models that we studied in an effort to learn more about this
approach to professional learning were Playdates and Edcamps. Due to time constraints and special
circumstances, we decided to prototype our own version of a Playdate.
Our Purpose in Prototyping a PlayDate was to learn:
How effective are PlayDate-type practices for providing the conditions for intrinsic motivation
and connected knowledge networks?
How might the principles from a PlayDate be applied in other learning contexts?
At the conclusion of each Playdate, participants were surveyed by the Task Force to determine whether
meaningful exploration and learning took place. In short, the answer was overwhelmingly “yes”. Some
combined survey results:
97% responded that they had learned something new.
94% said that they found the collegial sharing format of Playdate to be helpful.
99% responded that this was more engaging than most other PD experiences they have had,
and 21% of those said that this was the most engaging PD session they have ever attended.
Zero respondents claimed that the hour-long Playdate was too long to be effective, and 43%
indicated that it was not enough time.
In the written feedback portion, response after response was a request for more sessions like