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The Speaker-less Session

My first session to attend at the Philadelphia TESOL Conference was on using 'Gamification' to design language lessons. I was really interested in hearing what the speaker had to say. Games and gaming at home and in the mobile space is taking off, and I wanted to hear what clever people had to say. I sat in the front, I got my notes out, I had my coffee nearby within arm's reach. It was 7:32 am (4 o'clock in the morning CA time) and there was no speaker.

No problem.

I would just get up and go to my alternate session. I said something to the guy next to me and we both agreed that the speaker was a no-show.

I gather my stuff and walk out. As I am going down the hall I overhear two guys talking about 'gamification' coming towards me and towards the 'speaker-less' session. I politely interrupt them and inform that the guy didn't show up. There was disappointment on their faces.

I then suggested out-of-the-blue that we should just get together and chat about the topic. We should not wasted the opportunity. We walk back in and still there's no one there. I then went crazy...

I got up and introduced myself to the 40-50 attendees still waiting for the speaker. "I'm not the speaker for this talk," I said, "but if you want, I can facilitate a discussion on gamification, since you are all here vested in this topic."

There was agreement. So, I get my iPad out, use my VGA converter, and open a note-taking application. The large screen responded beautifully!

I asked folks the audience to start sharing. I told them that I'll take notes that would be projected on the screen. And who ever spoke, I would put their contact information in the notes next to their comments. I told the audience that if they wanted a copy of the notes, I would post them online later in the day, and they could email me for the link.

Let the gamification "speaker-less session" begin!

It was a truly amazing hour and a half. People shared their thoughts, concerns and resources. Others would answer their questions, clarify, and share their insights. All I did was take notes, give a few comments, moderate discussions and thank the impromptu contributors. I kept on thinking to myself: 'This is so rich! I am truly engaging with their like-minded educators. I am helping others with concepts, I am not wasting my time!'

I wished at that moment, when we were wrapping up our talk, that more sessions would be like this. A genuine mutual sharing of ideas and practices. We identified unanswered questions that we would need to find answers for. We resourced each other. We encouraged each other and felt that we were not alone.

It really does remind me of how lucky I am. My favorite place at work at UCI is our little kitchen area. I learned so much just chatting with my colleagues. These short (not always short) conversations were again the mutual sharing of ideas, and questions. There was that same feeling of camaraderie.

Why aren't conferences more like this? I really don't think that the rest of the sessions that I plan to attend are going to be as uniquely special as my first one.

The link to the 'Speaker-less Session' is on my blog:
Scroll down and look for the Gamification Jam-Session posts (there are 14 individual posts!).