I just got back last night from APDEC 2016 in Taiwan. I’m pretty tired but I want to get some initial thoughts down – hopefully I’ll write more about these topics in the coming weeks (once I recover).
- Play is really, really, really important for children’s development. It’s important for cognitive learning, and also equally important for emotional health (Peter Gray).
- Children spending time away from their parents is really important, and they cope with it very well – they’re not nearly as dependent on us as we (like to?) think they are (Henry Readhead).
- Children need other children to play with – there’s nothing wrong with also playing with adults, but playing with other children is vital.
- Play is also vital for adults – ideally you’ll experience your work as play .
- Parents need help to be the best parents they can be – without training they’ll tend to copy their own parents.
- Educators, parents, and children (and indeed, probably everybody in the world) would all do well to learn Non-Violent Communication. This is something I feel I might be able to help people learn, though I also need to learn a lot more about it too.
(Note: although this was about the fourth conference I have ever been to, it was the first I have ever traveled to and the first about my primary topic of interest, democratic education):
- Getting together with a whole bunch of people who share your enthusiasm for something is fantastic – I had so many fascinating conversations and learned more than I can comprehend right now. I think my brain has actually gotten bigger….
- I’ve gained a huge amount of energy from this – I’m now itching to get to trying out new ideas in my own work, to share my experiences, and to learn more.
- A free-flowing environment with plenty of space for improvisation is important. The Open Space format worked brilliantly by allowing people to improvise – I only planned one Open Space but ended up doing three.
- Before getting there I was a bit concerned that the things I have to say about education would be a bit old hat (a bit “preaching to the converted”) so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that even amongst this much accumulated experience I had something of relevance to say. In fact, when I talked people really listened, which was very humbling, and allowed me to feel I was giving back as well as taking in.
- The casual relaxed nature of this conference worked really well – it had a real festival/beach party vibe which allowed it to be more fun and spontaneous (and therefore more creative) than if it had been in a hotel with us all in smart clothes. Something for the Tokyo 2017 organizers to think about – maybe a holiday-type venue might work better than a city-conference-type venue?
- Having so many students around worked really well – it was a great reminder of why we are doing this, they brought lots of life and youthful energy to the whole event, and I’m sure it was a great learning experience for them too. I’m kicking myself for not bringing some students along – next time!
- For future conferences, maybe a little more time where nothing was going on might have been good – there was so much to talk about just in free discussion that the timetable was almost a bit too full. Specifically, some of the best conversations were in the bar (of course…), but to have them you had to either A)miss the main stage events, or B) talk late into the night (I mostly picked the latter, which is maybe why I’m so tired….). Maybe a little less going on on the main stage in the evening might have allowed this (though the events were great fun and all credit to the organizers for putting together such great entertainment).
- Also, Peter Gray and Henry Readhead held Open Space sessions after their keynotes which worked really well and could probably be expanded for all keynote speakers in future conferences.
- Sometimes just hunkering down can be important and necessary, but getting out, meeting new people, and having new experiences just opens up so many new possibilities. Time to put the hermit years behind me?
- Baby steps are important. You don’t need a big plan, you just need to do something, see how you feel about it, and repeat – you’ll soon start to get somewhere (and it’s fine to not know where you are headed). For me this conference was a good baby step, getting out into the wider community of democratic education.
- Traveling with my fellow staff members was great – we talked a hell of a lot and really bonded as a team.
- I really envied the young students their energy and vitality, especially with the drumming and dancing. I might need to learn to make some music, maybe try to go out dancing occasionally…. (maybe start doing Capoeira again?)
- I really felt the gap between my ability to express myself in English and in Japanese – I want to work on my Japanese more, close the gap a bit. I know that the best learning comes from doing, though, so I think I may need to seek out more opportunities to read, write, talk and listen in Japanese in ways that get some useful work done (for example the Japanese half of this blog).
- Speaking of languages, Chinese is really, REALLY hard to pronounce, though the upside is that if necessary I can amuse Chinese speakers by trying to introduce myself….
That’s probably about enough for now. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will get to writing some posts that expand on the above thoughts. Huge massive giganormous (Note to non-English-natives: “giganormous” is not a real word) thanks to the organizers, APDEC 2016 was a fantastic experience and I am so glad I skipped a whole week of work to go….