Last week I tinkered with a panel presentation. I work in equity-focused computer science education policy reform at the state level. I was invited to facilitate a panel of experts who would speak about how they moved education policy to increase the number and diversity of students in K-12 CS education.
If anyone has been following my discussion threads you will see that my background is in informal education. I am now working on the formal side of K-12, seeking to blend the two distinct worlds/cultures/communities. My tinkering resulted in the dismantling of a panel (literally and figuratively) and the building of an interactive workshop. Interactive workshops are more common in informal settings, K-12 policy folks (I’m generalizing a bit) tend to appreciate a panel.
The goal of the summit, of which my presentation was to be a part of, was to expand CS education across a state, with a focus on diversity. I wanted to draw out the experiences and expertise of the 80+ people who were registered for my ‘panel’. I knew that a panel format was not going to do this. By the time 4 experts spoke and engaged in some Q&A, there would be limited time to have the audience really engage with their own ideas and knowledge. I wanted to build a more dynamic experience.
I convened the panelists for a virtual working session to design the ‘panel’ session. This allowed me to engage their knowledge and expertise and construct a more interactive session for the attendees. The panelists were game and jumped right into tinkering with an agenda that would engage the group. The result was a 1:20 minute session that explored the local context of CS education and drew out strategies for state education policy reform.
Had I not tinkered with the panel, the voices of the local experts would have been lost. They would have heard from a strong panel and gained new ideas, but that would have been less engaging. Instead the 77 attendees networked with colleagues, shared their practice and understanding of CS policy in the state, and made recommendations that will impact their state’s CS education reform plans.
Tinkering, play and creativity doesn’t always require wood, paper and glue. Sometimes we need to tinker with ideas, models and concepts. Although the colorful sticky notes, markers and flip charts did make the room more playful and inviting.
Initial feedback was positive. After the session, the panel facilitator next door approached me and asked what our ‘panel’ was about because she heard so much conversation from the audience…success!