Education Under Sail Forum: The Unconference

Spirit of South Carolina TransomI don’t know about you, but I sure have sat through conferences and forums where I wish I had something to say about the program, the topics, and the speakers.  For this year’s ASTA Education Under Sail Forum, you do!  This year, we’re experimenting with an “Unconference.”  Wikipedia defines An unconference as one “. . . where the content of the sessions is driven and created by the participants, generally day-by-day during the course of the event, rather than by a single organizer, or small group of organizers, in advance.”

The draft agenda (See the link on this blog’s fron page) shows us hearing from the Education Director of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, Ms. Louisa Koch as our key note.  She’ll be addressing Ocean Literacy and ASTA members partnership with NOAA in its delivery.  After a short break, we’ll use the remainder of the morning to discuss in plenary session the topics we’d like to explore in the afternoon, centering on the them of Ocean Literacy. 

Kathleen Craig writes in Business 2.0 Magazine of one new unconference attendee’s experience,

“As a software industry analyst, Stephen O’Grady has attended nearly 200 technology conferences. But that doesn’t mean he’s enjoyed them.

His biggest complaint: The topics tend to be chosen by the sponsors rather than the ‘folks who drive my research’ – software developers. But that changed in February when O’Grady arrived at Mashup Camp, an exclusive two-day gathering of Silicon Valley geeks billed as an ‘unconference.’  . . . Though the event had sponsors like Sun Microsystems , its agenda was created on the fly by attendees. As chaotic as that sounds, it sparked a ton of ideas.

‘The ratio of signal to noise was outstanding,’ O’Grady says, ‘the best of any conference I’ve been to.'”

Craig continues with the expanse of the unconference idea beyond Silicon Valley: “Walt Disney Co. employees who attended Foo Camp, organized by publisher Tim O’Reilly, created an in-house version: Pooh Camp. The result so impressed Disney chiefs that a second Pooh Camp is expected this fall.”

It’s this ability to address directly the interests of ASTA educators that makes an unconference such an intriguing concept for this year’s forum.  Captain Tony Arrow , plank owning captain of SPIRIT OF SOUTH CAROLINA, starts our discussion on possible topics.  He writes asking forum participants to consider two potential topics: “Is it possible to address at the forum, Sail training compliance with state academic standards and quantitative measurement of sail training program success?”
Is it possible?  Absolutely.  What do you think?  What topics would you like to throw into the ring for consideration?  Use the “Leave a comment” box below to post your ideas and contribute to the discussion.   — Posted by Eric J. Shaw, Ph.D., ASTA Education Director


One thought on “Education Under Sail Forum: The Unconference

  1. Brian Larsen Stafki October 12, 2006 / 1:00 am

    How do sailing education vessels connect participants to the marine environments, educate toward ocean literacy, and inspire stewardship?

    How can we provide the most effective programs that can adress issues of marine stewardship in short sails (3-5 hours).

    How are we empowering our eduactors to create curriculum that addresses educational standards, yet connects to the minds, bodies and hearts of young audiences (4th-6th)?

    How are we marketing our programs to schools with a broad base of choices in experiential education?

    What sources of funding target their resources for ship-based watershed education?

    How are we quantifying and qualifying the value of this experience for our funders and school administrators?

    These are just a few of my questions that I would like to throw out there… Anybody volley? Brian L S (

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