Roland Dürre
Wednesday July 12th, 2017

Why We Need Christophine! (I)

On June, 21st, I went to the “Schiller-Town” of Marbach. I spent the night in Freiberg/Neckar and on June, 22nd, I continued towards Marbach. A friend from long-ago days – Thomas Kleiner – was nice enough to accompany me during travels. Thanks to him, I met Lorenz Obweser and Ruth Martinelli and almost 20 children aged between six and ten. Because I sat in a classroom of the Free School “Christophine“ in Marbach. However, the term is misleading, because in the Christophine, nobody just sits the entire morning. On this morning, I experienced something so beautiful and great that I was moved to tears.

I experienced how

SCHOOL

can function in such a way that you enjoy going there! Even the children and teachers!

But first the bad news:

I have now spent some time being a little sad. My grandchildren are wonderful and rather wise small persons. But in a few, or a little more than a few years, they will start school. And then the sad part of life begins for them. I, too, do not know how to protect them from the destiny that most German children have to endure after they are six years old.

Because school – both as I remember it myself and how I experienced it when my seven children were there – is atrocious. Not only in Germany and many European countries, school is something really backward-oriented and truly evil. With few exceptions, this diagnosis is true for the entire world, and especially for Asia.

School, as we have it today, will damage our children just like it damaged us. That ruins our society and is detrimental to our future. Many persons only recover step by step when they are adults, some never.

In the following, I will relate to you what I find so evil about the classical school system and give reasons why we need to change this system if we want to gain social progress in the form of peace and more justice.


Everyday life at school in Germany (and perhaps world-wide) is worse than sad!


In our system, education means “trained authoritative learning in a quasi-military format”. Knowledge -bulimia prevails. It starts as early as primary school. Luckily, it is no longer quite as bad as it was in the times of the German pedagogue Dr. Moritz Schreber.

Roland on his first day at school (with the bag of sweets).

But they still drill students. You have to sit and cannot unfold. An hourly scheduled is pressed upon the children. Self-organization and self-determining are prevented. There is no way for the children to learn and practice when and what they want.

Agile, slim and transparent are words schools do not know. There is a clear hierarchy between teachers and children. Incidentally, the mechanism goes from bad to worse. This is why school has more and more problems. If that happens, the children are blamed and their poor socialization is cited as a reason. The parents get the blame.

Because they failed in their duty to bring the children up properly. Well, once in a while, this is probably true, but in the majority of the cases, it is not true. In those cases, parents suffer under school just as much as their children.


At school, achievement is the absolute maxim, often even worse than in real life.


The achievement-oriented society is already practiced. Everybody is evaluated, graded and judged. In primary school, it is all about achieving grammar school level. That will only work if the child adapts to the system “school” and submits to it. The ordering principle of school is clearly hierarchical. The magic word is authority. You learn obedience.

The children learn that you have to more or less accept everything you learn, along with the process.


Whenever school does not function, the teachers and society blame the parents.


Because the parents never taught their children how to respect others. Especially the teachers. As I wrote before: sometimes that is true, but usually it is not.

In order to enable the children to manage the transfer from primary school to grammar school in this miserable situation, there is an army of – mostly black-clad – private tutors who, during the few free hours, give the children an extra hard time. And thus – mostly under many tears – they are pushed more or less successfully over the threshold to the grammar school level.

I was often a “child that had no respect”. And I often doubted what they told me, and I also said what I thought. And time and again, I was punished for it. Because the teacher is always right. At school, there is collective obedience. After all, an order is an order you need to carry out. I, too, made that experience.


More than once, they also gave me accusatory feedback about my “being different”. Mind you, all I wanted is: be me.


Later in life, I reversed the roles. I justified the “bad habits” I had also been punished for in an intellectually tricky way, calling them “civil courage” and “constructive disobedience”. Those were attributes that made me exceptional.

But, basically, the school system is based on suppression. There is an order. There must be an order, because humans need order. However, it is not there for the student but for the system, and therefore against the student.

Because this is the only way for the system and the teachers to make students a homogeneous mass (that is at least what school thinks). Between eight and nine, everybody has to do calculations and between nine and ten, everybody has to read. Between ten and eleven, you have physical exercise and from eleven to twelve, you write. And between twelve and one, you get religious instruction. At school, you have to sit and “behave” most of the time. Otherwise, you get punished.

All this is justified by postulating that there is no other way of doing things. It is the only way you can learn efficiently. But that is a huge lie!


The full-time school makes matters even worse. All those free afternoons in our youth that should be reserved for playing, thinking, experiencing and living are no longer available.


Now we get the full-time school. More and more often, children will also be transported to have lunch and “levelled-out” with convenient food. The schools look like barracks and are not places where you can flourish and meet at eye-level.

Schools are organized and managed following military examples, the small persons are administered, their value is the same as that of recruits during basic training in times of compulsory service. The new buildings at grammar schools (or rather: educational plants or barracks) I know at Neubiberg, Ottobrunn and Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn also reflect this attitude in their architecture.

You have long corridors with many doors that lead to the many classrooms like hoses. You often cannot open the windows and the air conditioning creates bad air that gives the “teaching staff” headaches. Looking at these educational plants, you are reminded more of barracks than of free places where you learn something and practice for life. And since these buildings have been constructed with little money (during the bidding, the price is the most important criterion, which means the cheapest architect will win), it will not be long before you notice the first signs of decay.

To make up for it, the administrative overhead grows and grows. This is how education becomes more and more expensive – but not much of it reaches the “final customer: child”.


All social systems need structure. Both children and grown-ups look for something to lean on. But the structure of schools should support children, instead of working against them.


At school, nobody considers the great diversity potential that small people have. For reasons of efficiency and because of limited budgets, it is neither possible nor desired. They scale and measure, certify and grade. What is taught is achievement.

In short: they indoctrinate you because you need to function. After all, society needs consumers. Autonomy and the ability to criticise are not welcome.

Once in a while, something happens that gives you hope. Because the teacher is really a nice person. But the best teachers are few and far between and sooner or later they will capitulate in front of an educational system that has de-personalized itself. And the best they can hope to do is perhaps minimize the damage that the system produces. And teachers will be selected for their good grades. However, those with the best grades are seldom pedagogically the best. The best will then try to find a job in a private school or drive a taxi or do some private tutoring.


Children, too, should be treated as if they were humans!


I actually once heard this lapse of the tongue (although it was not from a teacher but from an entrepreneur who did not say “children” but “employees”). To be sure, I certainly was only a lapse of the tongue. However, I strongly believe that, deep down, it was what the person who said it believed and felt.


Economy is now learning that motivation will only work intrinsically . At school, they practice 100% extrinsic  patterns. That cannot end well.


Today, everybody, be it Allianz or Siemens, wants to change work-life. #newwork is fashionable, promoting a more innovative and creative approach. One of the protagonists of this movement is Thomas Sattelberger, the “Saul/Paul” of the #newwork-movement. He promotes himself like no other and runs through the country with his message of salvation. After his concern career, the thing that made him most famous was “Augenhöhe, der Film“.

Now he visits everybody and criticizes what he witnesses in local enterprises. Justly so. He would like to crown his life’s work with a seat in the German parliament – for the FDP (is that a fitting combination? FDP and #newwork?). It will make me happy if Mr. Sattelberger, as soon as he sits in parliament, promotes agile and humane schools. But that is another thing I do not really believe in.

For instance, most of the enterprises would like to become more agile, slim and transparent. At least that is what the colleagues of HR (Human Resource – another one of those ugly terms used in the modern working environment) preach. They look for innovative employees who are creative in order to enable their enterprises to manage the transition caused – among other things – by digitalization. At HR, they talk about eye-level, #newwork, intrinsify.me, democratic enterprise, common-good economy, “shared mobility“ & “shared economy“ and many similar issues. They dream of a network of self-organized teams, of a new entrepreneurial culture and communities of shared values. The latter are also quite popular in politics. There are many more catch-words of this type in the new world of old enterprises.
Except how do you expect that to work out if our offspring is trained to do quite the opposite as soon as they start school?


Enterprises want agile, critical and creative people. Yet that is exactly what schools beat out of the young students?


But nobody talks about #newschool, about self-organisation at school, about democratic classrooms, about teaching at eye-level and similar things. At least in Germany, this is not desired. It is taboo!

Terms such as #home-schooling, #un-schooling #no-schooling gain popularity in Europe. They find more and more supporters. More and more people “school” their own children (see also the video of a presentation by Bruno Gantenbein for me).

In Switzerland and some other EU countries, home-schooling is a process that is well established and supported by the administration. Germany is the only EU country where home-schooling is prohibited! Because in this country, they fear alternative schools and alternative thinking as much as the devil fears holy water.


Perhaps there will soon be a disproportionally high number of self-owned and free schools in our country.


But perhaps that is a good thing. Because it creates huge pressure. If there is no chance to escape, then there might possibly be more willingness to change something than in other countries.

Roland without the bag of sweets.

But back to the enterprises. How are we supposed to find these new agile, creative, open, … employees if agility, creativity and openness are the very characteristics that our schools kill most efficiently?

Because in our schools, children are treated as raw material that needs to be formatted. The input is curious and free creatures. The output is small professionals. They function as an obedient and easily controllable society supposedly needs them to function. Consequently, the first thing they will be is: diligent labourers, brave consumers and law-abiding citizens – whose first priority it is to always accept what the upper echelons decree.


We demand elites who solve our massive problems, but at the same time we are content with mediocrity and foul-mouth populism. And we promote mediocrity in schools.


Why is it that children must realize very early that life is no pony-farm and that they are part of the achievement system if they wish to make something out of their lives? That they must follow practical constraints, just like their parents and all the other grown-ups?

They are measured and graded. It is always about being better than the others. Success is everything. It is all about managing to reach the next step in the ladder of an irrational career. No matter what it costs and how it is done.

Emotions, erotic, life, love, the competence to solve conflicts, being able to listen … all those things play no role in the curriculum. You have to become a professional resource for the fight on the business front. And you learn that it is better for your wealth, growth and safety not to say what you think and perhaps not even to think.
And as soon as they understand this, they visit the tattoo factory just to protest, because there they will finally get something permanent. As a last substitute activity before they give up their own lives. …


Good entrepreneurs (leaders, managers, … ) will want to make their employees look bigger on a daily basis, rather than smaller.


I rather love the principle of “acting in a biophile way”. That means (in my own words):
Always behave in such a way that what you do will contribute more towards the lives of other people becoming more, rather than less, in many dimensions.

Perhaps the Golden Rule (Goldene Regel ) is even easier to live than the biophile maxim:
“Treat others the same way you yourself would like to be treated“
Or in the negative form:
“If you do not want it to happen to you, don’t do it to others!“


“Biophile Maxime of Behaviour” and the “Golden Rule”? Why don’t we use it for our children? Why don’t we make them big, instead of small?


From early on, children are made to look smaller, rather than bigger. Not just by the teachers, but also by their parents. I witness all the time how children are massively instructed by their parents about what is right and what is wrong. Ranting mothers scold their children for totally normal behaviour. There is stupid moralizing and indoctrination. What is appropriate and what is not! What you do and what you do not do! What is possible and what is impossible. What you can see/hear and what you cannot see/hear under any circumstances. What is evil and what is good.

For what behaviour you will end up in hell and for what in heaven. And as soon as a child is six and enters school, matters continue in the same way, only more professionally.


Nobody is interested in hearing what small people want and do not want.


At school, you undergo formatting in that they form you according to the current image of a good grown-up. Children have to fit into our world. They learn to survive traffic. They become young consumers who define themselves by what they own and how they look. They have to function, but they are not allowed to be and do what they themselves want to do and be.

At school, ratio and your IQ dominate, they are always in the foreground. It is all about developing an understanding of all the absurdities our life offers. You have to accept the absurd as a matter of course and thus become part of the absurdity.
Social life and the common good only play a minor role. Emotions and eros, love and friendship are not practiced, the same is true for the competence to solve conflicts. Because our systems are based on adaptation. They survive by interchangeability, uniformity, (financial) metrics and the fact that the citizens follow social patterns blindly like lemmings. The ability to criticize things and be autonomous in all you think and do will only be a hindrance.


We will only reduce the latent enmity inside us if we socialize our children differently.


School is one of many places where the old role-plays prevail. Boys still have to be small heroes and cannot cry. Girls are expected to be humble and tolerant. Today, you can show emotions, but it is better not to do so.


If you want to be a success, you have to become Mr. or Mrs. Poker-Face!


Emotions are something you should not allow to get too near, it is seen as a detrimental and annoying weakness. You have to be strong and may never show your weakness. This is how the heart is surrounded by iron rings. If you like someone, it is better not to show it, the universal love for creation is considered a crazy idea. Standing upright as your outer shell is part of the education, but unfortunately not taught as a higher inner value.

This stupid socializing of our offspring will never minimize the wide-spread sickness Alexithymia. A short time ago, a man my own age cried next to me when he told me how his grandchild had died during her birth. I am not sure if that is something I would still be capable of. However, if I watch a sappy film, I start to cry. Isn’t that terrible?

As many others, I fear that I am dependent on “second-hand emotions”. That is doubtless a result of my early and long upbringing. Consequently, I now practice consciously opening myself to real emotions. At the age of 67, that is not easy.


Humans are the crown of creation. But they have to fit into the world.


I am glad that the world changes – at least in the developed and privileged societies I know. It seems to me that more and more persons have a yearning for new “social success patterns”. Well, they are something we badly need, because the old patterns are exactly what brought great misery to this planet.

Schools are the only places where this news has not yet found its way into. And the situation also gets worse and worse at the universities. There are numerous #newwork but no relevant movement #newschool. Many people who work in the educational industry (active teachers and administrators of the educational bureaucracy) told me that the situation has been getting worse for many years.


Schools must serve the children, not vice versa!


Curricula and rules given by the educational ministries make it harder by the year to do justice to the small persons. Additionally, you have an ever increasing administration that eats up the time that should have been spent with the students. This is how the system also becomes more and more expensive and more and more inefficient.


This was the bad news. Here is the good news.


In my next article, I will write how the citizens fight back and create totally new things. Because they actually exist: the Christophine.

But you will read more about this in my article Christophine 2, which I will hopefully  publish here soon. I will describe a school that, as far as its motto and its practical work is concerned, has absolutely convinced me. A school that proves that things can work differently – and work quite well, too.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday February 26th, 2017

Please Treat Humans as Befits Them.

EXPERIENCING rather than LEARNING!

Carnival time will soon be over and “Mariechen” will disappear back in the attic. The Carnival Guard’s Gala Uniforms, too, which should be a thing of the past in real life (just like marching along the Honorary Guards with their bayonets if you are a Visitor of State, which I consider a pitiful tradition) will end under the roof. After all, in today’s digital world, the bodies will no longer be cut with bayonets but with drones. I do not mean this cynically – it is simply the reality in our high-tech world.

In our schools, and by now even at our universities, the evil carnival continues after Ash Wednesday.

This is why I repeat my Credo.

Above all, I want to “experience” and “live through” many things. I want to try new things and “work towards” acquiring knowledge that I need with the necessary depth. Learning in the classic diction without a goal is not my thing.

I know that I am always “part of something” and that I consciously want to belong to a “we”. It is my pleasure to take responsibility, both for myself and the shared social life. To do this, I need no motivation from outside, neither ideological nor financial.

For me, it is important to get feedback that appreciates my value and to find undistorted mirroring. However, I do not want to be graded, because I oppose for my “essence” to be metricized. Because I want to remain a human being, instead of becoming a machine. That is why I also never evaluate other persons or give them grades. In my opinion, being proud of good grades is just as absurd as being proud to be a German.

I would like to live in a society where “coaching” (in the sense of support and help) replaces reigning over others. A world where communication and networks are free and where nobody has power over others and where self-organized networks replace hierarchical structures.

Consequently, we should kiss terms such as “life-long learning” good-bye. Learning is “not nice” and getting graded for what you have learned is “even worse”. I was myself a master of “knowledge bulimia” (a better term would be: “knowledge fraud”) and know what I am talking about – also because I am a father of seven.

So it is only a logical consequence that we must liberate our children from the learning and grading stress. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to hear that even Marlies Tepe, the director of the Union GEW, wants to  abolish all grades at school – from primary school through grammar school. Unfortunately, I also had to read that there is considerable opposition against the proposal.

I am in favour of it!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Wednesday August 17th, 2016

Gratitude

Currently, you do not get to read much in the IF Blog. That is because I am taking a time out at the world’s best location. Along with Barbara and accompanied by Anna (daughter #2), Sophie (daughter #3), Caroline (granddaughter #1) Nicolas (grandson #2) and Patrick (son-in-law #1).
🙂 What is written in brackets tells you the sequence in which they all arrived in my life.

Blick vom Zelt nach Norden in Richtung Gythio.

Looking south from the tent.

Four nights and days ago, we arrived at Porto Ageranos on the Peloponnese, around ten kilometres south of the old harbour of Sparta at Gythio. We sleep in our tent, directly on the beach of the Aegean ocean, less than 25 metres away from the water. We live in the wilderness. The ocean whooshes, singing us its song. At night, the full moon allows the stars to celebrate her. The campsite is not very crowded, and getting less so each day.

I have now found my personal rhythm. In the morning, I first and foremost swim to the other end of the bay, sometimes half an hour, sometimes an hour, just as I desire. I hike the way back along the beach. Then I get a wonderful breakfast: fresh white bread with homemade marmalade, Greek cheese and eggs prepared in various ways. I particularly like scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and paprika.

The morning is soon over as we are just enjoying our leisure time. Our two small ones keep us busy.- We are going on some short trips along the beach with our kayak and on some bike tours through the mountains of Mani that are sometimes a little longer and sometimes very long. Once in a while, we go to Gythio, where the local life takes possession of us. There is hardly a trip to Ghythio during which we do not take a break in the Touristik – the biggest coffee shop with a view of the harbour.

For lunch, we have tomato salad and fruit. Once in a while, this gets supplemented by fresh egg fruits, fried with plenty of garlic and olive oil, or else with roasted garlic bread. And in the evening, there are so many taverns to choose from that it is really hard to decide where to have dinner.

The world is far removed from me. To be sure, I regularly load the Süddeutsche onto my cell-phone and follow the Haching live ticker. I also connect with all my chats. But that is about it. In other words: I am currently a little out of touch and focused on myself.

On the way from Ancona to Patria, I read the small book “Gratitude” by Oliver Sacks. It was handed over to me by Rolf after I had given the presentation at the “Lion’s Club Opera” in Munich. Rolf Hüttmann does many great things and, among other things, he holds the presidency of the club. He gave the year of his presidency the motto “consideration” and invited me to give a presentation on digital transformation.

I have only known Rolf for a few weeks. He is a very prudent and wise person, which means that, even given the few meetings we had so far, I could learn an awful lot from him. First he introduced the work of Oliver Sacks to me and then he wrote a wonderful dedication, telling me how much lies behind us to be grateful for and how much lies before us to potentially make that feeling even more profound.

It is only due to Rolf that I understand what a high degree of gratitude I feel and how happy this makes me.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Blick vom Zelt nach Norden in Richtung Gythio.

Looking north from the tent in direction of Gythio.

Roland Dürre
Friday December 11th, 2015

For (even) Better Barcamps!

pmcamp-logo-dornbirnThere is still potential for improvement for Barcamps such as #AktMobCmp or #pmcamp. After all, also anti-conferences – like everything in life – can be worked on.

The first rule might well be:
A small barcamp is better than a big one!
Following the motto “small but powerful”.

Because:
The most important thing is not that as many persons as possible come!
Even though we rather like it if many people come. After all, we have all been brought up to appreciate more and more growth, which means everything has to be as big as possible. But that is not what is best.
Note: Big barcamps will probably not be a problem. You would have to organize them as an n-tuple of many small ones.

Instead:
What we really want is that people as a social unit have a lot of fun together during two days!
And additionally, we want them to understand, comprehend and discover many things that were new to them.
And those are things you will accomplish more easily in a small group.

Except – how to go about it?

I am sure that those who organize the event will have to come up with ideas in their invitation letters. You will want to precisely describe what the barcamp is about – i.e. you will clearly define the topic. Yet you must not restrict it, but instead keep it as open as possible. And you will want to choose a clear motto. That is exactly what we tried to do with AktMobCmp.

This is not about the right or wrong persons attending. It is about female and male, young and old. It is about sharing experiences, opinions and knowledge during the barcamp while accepting that you are part of a social unit and prepared to communicate at eye-level, respecting and appreciating each other. You should bring heart, competence, interest, enthusiasm, criticism, technological competence, tolerance … in a provocative and constructive way, considerately and openly, tentatively and courageously, optimistically and pessimistically, curiously and boldly, transparently and in a simple way.

The organizers are also in a particularly challenging position. Because the barcamp is the host and “only” provides the frame that makes it possible for many ME-s to become one WE. The two days commonly set aside for a barcamp are a short time and you want to use them optimally. The environment and atmosphere must be just right and the initial phase must be a success.

However, the organizers are not responsible for the selection of topics. The topics will be provided by the participants. That is why we also call them “part-givers”. This is how what really matters is the shared work during the “sessions“. It has to be done individually for each day. Within a day, something may also change dynamically. But you have to be careful not to violate the interests of individual participants.

The better a session is (pre)qualified, the better it will turn out. Especially the format of the sessions is something you should definitely discus and decide in advance.

So the most important session is the one where all the sessions of the entire day are discussed and decided upon. This includes determining what actually is the problem, how we want to work on it together and what you want to harvest at the end of the day.

The potential session formats are:

  • Debate
    Also known as “battle”. It is a dialogue between two groups – totally in the sense of the classical dialectics – where both parties always try to respond to exactly the arguments of the other party in their replies. This means there are two opposing parties and a “referee” who takes the time. There is also the audience voting on who won which step. The specialty is that the dice are thrown in advance to decide what side you have to be on – this is how you also have to practice negative thinking.
  • Honest discourse
    There is a simple rule by Habermas: Everybody gives his opinion, it is all exclusively about arguments, regardless of what a reputation or position a person has.
  • Fishbowl
    You will also find the term in Wikipedia. If you asked me, then I would say the “fishbowl” is the normal discussion, moderating itself in a creative way.
  • Modern consensus finding
    There are numerous methods. If I wanted to name them all, the available space would not be enough. Let the example of the “Art of Hosting Method” as we used it rather successfully at the 2015 Dornbirn PM Camp suffice.PMCampDOR Intro 2015
  • Creative Space
    It is always nice to see something being created that actually lasts. It might be a workshop of the design session where, for example, you create a cartoon or a video film. With a good team, this is often done at surprising speed and quite well.
  • Story-Telling
    A few nice questions, a quiet room and then the stories will pour out. The important thing is that you do not discuss or debate anything. Instead, someone tells a story and the others listen. Here is a report  of one event of this kind I was part of.
  • Games and prototyping
    As we all know, there are all varieties of approaches, starting from the famous SeriousPlay with Lego bricks.

There are probably others – one of them, of course, is the normal presentation.

Naturally, the topics are provided by the participants. If they already come with topics, then they can choose in which form they wish to present or interactively process said topics. Of course, it is best if matters develop during the event.

Using such methods consciously is meant to increase the value for the participants, because they can experience new things, but there will also be new results and insights.

All I can say is: I promise that you will find quite a few things to talk about during the ActMobCmp or AktMobCmp (both spellings are correct).

Zum Vergrößern aufs Bild klicken.

To enlarge the image, please press on it.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday September 20th, 2015

I almost forgot: Karlsruhe PM Camp on September, 25th and 26th!

pmcamp-logo_karlsruhe_153x70I am angry with myself. I almost forgot the Karlsruhe PM Camp. And it would not have been advertised. This is not tolerable!

Dear organizational team in Karlsruhe: please accept my apologies. I feel truly contrite. And I promise to do better in the future.

In Karlsruhe, the motto will be:

Projects with enthusiasm – where does the magic come from?

Unfortunately, I cannot attend next Friday and Saturday. Which I find a true pity. Because the Karlsruhe organizational team did a fabulous job. And they would certainly have deserved a few more participants.

So here is my appeal to you: if you live near Karlsruhe and are at leisure this Friday and Saturday – and if you are at all interested in project management, management in general, leadership, entrepreneurship and such, you should definitely attend the PM camp at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Technik.

As always, the program is exciting. It will be well worth the trip and, as always, all PM Camp participants will return home content, wiser and happier.

And, in absentia, I will follow the timeline of the tag #PMCampKA and be happy about many, many twitters from the camp by the participants!

And here is a special request by me:

If, to give Karlsruhe extra advertisement, you twitter this article more often than usual, you would also make me very happy!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Why I no longer like conferences, yet love barcamps?
OR:
All the things that can happen during a barcamp!

Gute Laune in Dornbirn auf einem PM-Camp.

Enjoying ourselves at the Dornbirn PM Campp

I no longer like to attend conferences. Consequently, I only agree to be a speaker on such events in exceptional cases. For instance in the near future at the NurembergDOAG-Konferenz.
🙂 Or else if they pay me really well.

Because how do they choose speakers on conferences? Potential speakers must submit their articles at least six months before the conference, more often even earlier than that. Including a topic, a summary and an abstract. Mostly with a pre-defined number of words and following some stupid kind of word template.

But how am I supposed to know in January what will move me late in the year? How to know the development of affairs during the months until the actual presentation takes place?

After the deadline, the conference committee will meet. They are supposed to select the suitable articles. The jurors in the committee have to consider the event sponsors, countless representatives of interests and industry, diverse amigos, political influence and much more. They will not personally be acquainted with most of the persons who sent articles, which is why they cannot know about the competence of them as speakers. More often than not, they do not even have technological competence.

Young speakers who actually might have something important to contribute have no chance – and this is apparent if you look at the conference program.

Those who were lucky enough to have been selected must submit a manuscript. Again, it has to have a certain length, the word-template is usually even worse than before. The manuscript, too, has to be submitted quite a long time before the actual conference takes place. After all, the proceedings have to be printed.

Well, this is when I think: Why should I present something all the persons in the room have before them in writing? I always talk freely, without power-point or the like. Whenever I speak in a big lecture hall, I ask my graphics expert to design a few slides to emotionally underline what I am going to say. That is it. After all, the exact content of what I am going to say will only be determined on the day of the event – and it will even change during the presentations, because I follow the feedback I receive from my audience.

And then the great day will come. Mostly, a conference will start with a huge introductory affair, including welcoming all and sundry. The ability to remain awake and sitting on your bottom is put to a severe test among the audience. And then, the intense “one-way” noise machines will be turned on.

The speakers will dutifully read their manuscripts as typed in the proceedings. Some will do better, others worse. Interruptions are mostly not encouraged, so there is never a discourse. Someone up front will say something that has been previously prepared and the audience down below are supposed to consume it.

A short time ago, I attended an academic meeting with a dear friend of mine (no less than a rather highly respected professor). It was more or less the same as always. When I told her that the contributions had been surprisingly low-standard, she consoled me with the information that the presentations were actually just of minor importance. The important thing, so she said, is that you meet and exchange ideas with people. And that the evening event, in particular, is the true value of the meeting.

And it is basically true – if we wish to advance ourselves, we have to share our knowledge and communicate amongst each other. But then, why should I listen to presentations all day long if nobody is interested in those? Perhaps it is only so we can tell the tax office something official took place and that we had a legitimate reason to travel and talk over food and wine in the evening…

PM-Camp Berlin 2015, Thema Komplexität by VisualBrainDump

Berlin PMCamp 2015 about: Complexity by VisualBrainDump.

At a barcamp, it is totally different. And as I see it, it is better!

So, what is a barcamp? Of course, you will find an excellent description in Wikipedia. Let me try and approach the definition under a totally different light.

Imagine between fifty and a hundred persons meeting. For instance bloggers, entrepreneurs or experts. Or persons who are prepared to take a special social responsibility, or simply persons who share an interest in something.

Ideally, we are talking persons who enjoy sharing their experience, their competence and also their problems. Persons who communicate at eye-level and who want to participate when it comes to discussing important topics. Persons who want autonomous enlightenment, who dream of honest discourse as professor Habermas used to define it (perhaps persons who are not even aware of him having defined it), all of them thou-ing and thee-ing each other and never interrupting others while they speak. Even if all these factors are true, you still – so is the current state of the art – have to organize this kind of event.

With barcamps, it is very simple. You provide enough lecture halls for the sessions to be held in. A lecture hall has to be big enough for all participants. Inside those lecture halls, you develop the sessions together. Consequently, you have a big board in the middle of the lecture hall. It contains a matrix with the lines marking the time scheduled for the sessions (for instance one line for each hour). The columns mark the lecture halls A, B, C …

Beispiel für eine Sessionplanung bei einem PM-Camp

Example for a session planning at a PM Camp.

And whoever has a problem he feels desperate about will march to the board, pin a card with his topic to the board and makes a room and time reservation for his or her session. Then he introduces himself and gives a short description of what and in which form he wishes to propose the session. And as soon as there are enough cards on the board or when the board is full, you start.

If, on top of this, you also have a nice coffee lounge where food and drinks are always available, success is almost a foregone conclusion. Because there is another rule:

Everybody is free during a barcamp.

Like a bee gathering honey, you can attend as many sessions as possible. On the other hand, you can also float through the rooms like a butterfly (bees and butterflies are the classic metaphors for barcamp behaviour) and remain wherever you feel most comfortable.

As soon as a participant realizes that he is in the wrong session, he should leave it. In a barcamp, this is not impolite. On the contrary, it is your duty if you want the system to work. Consequently, the doors to all lecture halls should be open at all times.

The rule also says: whatever happens is exactly what we wanted to happen. If only a few people attend a session then this is just as good as if all participants attend one session. In the end, there will be a balance.

A new development is that the barcamp organizers try to offer a frame where the sessions can be documented. There is a special barcamp variant, the OpenSpace, where documentation is obligatory and supported, collected and summarized by a so-called OpenSpace-Office.

Party beim PM-Camp in Dornbirn

Party time at the Dornbirn PM-Camp.

Barcamp is this easy. As a general rule, it will be two days. The party at the end of the first day is always a very good thing. During the second day, there are often extremely good spontaneous sessions.

A barcamp is considered a success if all the participants – we also call them share-holders – start their return journey home happy and withe a full heart and spirit.

Even though you should never expect results from a barcamp, surprising things often happen. I know movements and enterprises that grew from an idea during a session. Surprisingly many friendships and beautiful networks are generated. There are always lots of incitements. Barcamps have such a huge impact: they help people to start thinking, judge things differently and become more successful both in private and “professional” or “entrepreneurial” life.

I attended camps such as OpenStartUp or WorkLifeBalance. On those, as well as during five years of PM Camps, I experienced what I described above. PM Camps were about project management, leadership and entrepreneurship. By now, I know that there are more important things. For instance the way how we shape our mobility will be profoundly important for our future. That is why I gladly founded the new barcamp for “Active Motility in Everyday Life” #AktMobCmp .

We will start on January, 4th and 5th, 2016 in Unterhaching.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Werner Lorbeer
Wednesday September 16th, 2015

OECD Survey Disproves District Administrator

geometrie““96 per cent of the students we asked have a computer at home, 72 per cent use this technology at school. In Germany, pupils from upper-class households use the internet more for information gathering than socially disadvantaged young persons. In those social classes, computers are used for watching videos, playing online games or chatting.“

Well, it is not like this comes as a surprise, is it? But it underlines some pedagogic hypotheses, at the same time destroying others. On the picture, you see children in a bi-lingual situation solving a geometry problem. The result is true gain in competence: in mental concentration, problem solving, emphatic listening and once in a while by testing the characteristics of a geometrical object or of a geometric operation. They did not talk very much while they were working. But: it was all in the category “communication” if you love competence-oriented formulation.

Here are the pedagogic hypotheses:

  • – Buying computers for schools will neither improve learning for the pupils, nor bring better success. That is a pity if you were the district administrator from the more prosperous district. It has been disproved.
  • Working with the computer and the networks will not give students the desired competence in the scientific-technological area. This is sour wine for all those who want to sell life in the social networks as a goal of teaching. And for those who want to raise searching processes into the heaven of pedagogics, rather than understanding what you found.
  • The educational standard of children with equal talent will not change through using a computer or software (tendency towards improvement). Instead, the two things that give this chance are industriousness and frustration tolerance.

It would be wise to use the end of technological illusions for truly experience-based learning. You could actually teach the children and adolescents with the actual objects, for instance beekeeping, cooking, gardening, robotics,… ,

I think this would give many people joy..

wl
(Translated by EG)