Usually, keynotes are in the first category-- a lot of inspiration, but not a lot of Stuff You Can Actually Do. And that’s fine. Keynotes are a place where one or two people are addressing a massive audience, and there’s not a lot of time and space to try things out.
I do, however, take issue with sessions that promise to teach me things that really just turn into self-aggrandizement or attempts to be pithy and inspirational. These are the sessions we usually walk out of.
When I present at a conference, I like to strike a balance between “here is what’s possible” and “here are some concrete things you can actually do, in your class, tomorrow.” It doesn’t do any good to make a presentation that is a pure advertisement for your class. The point isn’t really to show off. It’s to show what is possible.
And the more we present, the more we drift towards the second. I don’t like holding my classes up as shining beacons, as much as I love them. There are imperfections and problems and conflicts, just like there are in every class. I want the audiences to come away with nuggets they can apply immediately.
Because here’s the thing: we’ve been doing this Flipped Project-Based Wonderland Thing for almost three full school years now. It’s taken thousands of hours of work, and while there are no shortcuts, I do want to give teachers the feeling that what we do is not unattainable, if they want to achieve it. They have ideas that work for them which are probably better than ours. What I want more than anything is for people to take our ideas, make them their own, remix them, and spin them back into the world even better. (s/o to @ls_karl and his TED Talk.)