Gabrielle M. Dudley And Heather Oswald 2017-05-03 13:41:09
How to plan for and create participation in an intentionally unstructured environment is a challenge for the organizers of the next Teaching with Primary Sources Unconference and Workshops on July 25 at the Portland Art Museum. Run by the Teaching with Primary Sources Committee of SAA’s Reference, Access, and Outreach Section, this will be the third year that this free event will run alongside the SAA Annual Meeting. Unconferences are designed to be unstructured meetings where participants guide the conversation and flow of ideas. Here’s how the 2016 unconference unfolded in Atlanta last August and why you should be excited for this year’s event! Building on the success and lessons from the first unconference, we expanded the reach and encouraged participation from the wider community of professionals who use primary sources in teaching. A framework was provided around which attendees could form talking points and session topics. The day was divided into two sections: a block of facilitated workshops followed by informal, peer-driven group discussions. Listening To The Locals The 2016 committee developed workshops based on feedback from the 2015 attendees. We began soliciting proposals from archivists, but quickly realized this effort excluded the perspectives of our colleagues in allied professions. Given the inherently interdisciplinary nature of teaching with primary sources, we felt we were missing an opportunity to place our efforts into the broader context of cultural and educational institutions. We used the morning sessions to hear from the teachers, librarians, public historians, artists, and museum educators whose work intersects and aligns with our own. The shift in focus necessitated an updated approach to organizing the workshops. The SAA Annual Meeting provided a pool of potential archivist workshop leaders who would already be in town. However, we did not expect colleagues in other fields to travel for the unconference, so we concentrated on local contacts in museums, universities, and learning centers to find speakers. Presentations by Frankie Abbott and Samantha Gibson from the Digital Public Library of America filled out the schedule and provided essential support for the event. The final program included discussions on performing arts in the archives and the use of trigger warnings when working with difficult topics as well as several sessions on how to develop and implement innovative teaching resources outside the traditional humanities classroom. For more information on these sessions, visit www.teachwithstuff.org. Participant-Led Themes There are many reasons why participants like—and sometimes prefer—the unconference model, but it can also be chaotic. Since the unconference was only one day, we devised a plan to ensure that topics with the most interest would be offered in several formats throughout the program. In essence, adding structure without jeopardizing the spontaneous nature of the event. When participants registered online, they were invited to submit topics of interest. It didn’t take long for six “Big Ideas” to emerge as overarching themes: assessment, K–12 education, creative and adaptive uses of archival materials, teaching archival advocacy and research skills, engaging undergraduates, and outreach. Within these categories, participants could propose specific areas of discussion. For instance, the proposed topics of National History Day and Common Core Standards fell under K–12 education. Once at the unconference, attendees were given sticky notes to add a conversation track under the relevant Big Ideas. “The flow of the unconference was excellent,” commented Derek T. Mosley, archives division manager at Auburn Avenue Research Library, which hosted the unconference. “The use of flipcharts and post-it notes helped to easily guide the topic selection process which produced great dialogue among attendees.” Using the Big Ideas format to merge similar suggestions and unpack larger conversations, the committee selected the sessions which had generated the most interest and proposed an unconference schedule by the time the formal presentations ended. In order to ensure that the unconference would be collaborative even for those unable to attend, each session was assigned a volunteer facilitator, who kept the conversation on topic, and notetaker, who captured the essence of the conversation via a live Google Doc. The day concluded with a wrap-up for attendees to share their immediate feedback and impressions about the unconference. Finding Connections The local and collaborative approach to planning along with the addition of allied professionals as workshop facilitators strengthened the unconference and added variety to discussions. The issues and challenges archivists face are not unique to our profession, and the open nature of the unconference provided an excellent forum for highlighting connections and examining differences among our professions. If you are interested in using primary source material for teaching, then find your way to the Teaching with Primary Sources Unconference and Workshops on July 25 at the Portland Art Museum for a freeflowing— and free!—event. For more info: http://teachwithstuff.org/tps-unconference-2017july-portland/.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.