Another dot in the blogosphere?


Posted on: March 30, 2016

Whether I was professor then or a consultant now, I am invited to conduct lectures, keynotes, talks, and seminars. It is almost as if there is a event organiser collective trying to use nouns from a thesaurus.

The latest term to blip on my radar is masterclass. I am told I am conducting one in April.

Here is my beef with the term.

When I look at the context of the masterclass and its still evolving design, it looks like a seminar.

I write this not to badmouth the organisers — who are extremely nice and adaptable — but to question the assumptions behind such a term.

Talks, by whatever name, are not the best methods of learning and pushing change. Take, for example, Steve Wheeler’s excellent critique of TED talks.

Talks seem to be necessary evils because people assume that meeting face to face is best. Then once there in person, some look at their phones, close their eyes, or fold their arms.

This is why I am grateful to the organisers for some flexible design:

  • I will be interacting with participants before, during, and after the session
  • The talk is followed by a panel (that I hope is more Q&A than fish bowl)

Speakers at talks might inspire, but does the audience actually learn anything? The audience will only learn when challenged, presented with critical questions instead of generic answers, and given the opportunity to participate in feedback.

Perhaps this is how a masterclass is different. Perhaps I can shape what a masterclass is.

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