Conferences: Where Good Ideas Come

Where do ideas comef from?
Remember, today’s ideas may be tomorrow’s solutions.

Remember, today’s ideas may solve tomorrow’s problems.

Where do good ideas come from? Ideas come from paying attention to both spoken and written words. I love reading, so books are my first choice. Face-to-face and online conferences are my second. Conferences provide opportunities for learning and innovations.

I have been organizing online and attending face-to-face conferences for the past 10 years.  Organizing online conferences take time and a great deal of team work and collaboration, but they are free. Face-to-face conferences are not free. In fact, they are can be quite expensive. They require time to write a winning proposal and funding for registration, membership, travel, and room and board. However,  face-to-face an online conferences provide many ideas.

Ideas from Conferences

Conferences are places of learning. Presenters not only share ideas, they generate them. Listening to a presentation offers opportunities to engage in ideas and act upon them. Participants can gain a great deal if they listen, watch, and allow the free flow of ideas and learning. Remember, today’s ideas may solve tomorrow’s problems.

Online Conferences

I organize two online conferences a year. Connecting online for instruction and learning and Moodle MOOT Virtual Conference.

Connecting Online for 2014

Connecting Online 3-day webathon started in 2009 as an answer to connectivism and the first Connectivism MOOC of 2008 with George Siemens and Stephen Downes. CO09 – CO14 took place on the the first weekend of February. The upcoming CO15 is scheduled for February 6-8, 2015. You may join right now.

Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning

Connecting Online conferences bring diversity into the online world. The conference is of interest to educators, administrators, students, and community members who value the importance of integrating technology into the curriculum to improve instruction, learning, and business. Online learning involves various skills on the part of the instructor and learner. These include social and communication skills, social networking, independent learning strategies, critical and higher order thinking skills, creativity, and effective online and face-to-face facilitation.

Educators, administrators, students, businesses, and community members face many challenges. The aim of the conference is to share and discuss some of the challenges. The theme of the conference is, connecting online for instruction and learning that goes beyond the classroom. Educators, innovators and the general public is invited to share their knowledge and experiences of online learning with others from around the globe.

Moodle MOOT Virtual Conference

Moodle MOOT Virtual Conference (MMVC11-MMVC14) started in August 2011. It takes place on a weekend in August.  The upcoming MMVC15 will take place on August 7-9, 2015. You’re invited to join right now. Moodle MOOC for 2014 included educators and Moodle developers. The participants and presenters got many ideas on how to engage instructors and students both in blended and fully online programs.

Diverse Backgrounds

The presenters and attendees of the online conferences came from diverse backgrounds. CO14 and MMVC14 included people from over 70 countries. Engaging with people from diverse backgrounds generates new ideas that can be implemented in the face-to-face and online classes. The chat boxes and course discussion forums or coursefeed helped people connect for learning.  A sense of community formed as people discussed and reflected on the presentations.

Face-to-face Conferences

  • EdMedia in Finland – presented a paper on best practices in organizing MOOCs for educators worldwide using Moodle and WizIQ at the EdMedia conference June 2014 and a workshop on how to use Moodle 2.7.
  • Dublin, Ireland: invited keynote presentation and workshop on Partners of their Own Learning on November 22/23 in Ireland at the Digital ELT conference at the IATEFL LTSIG.

This year I only attended two 2 face-to-face conferences. I was at the EdMedia conference in Finland, where I presented a best practice paper with Dr. Ludmila Smirnova and a Moodle workshop. The experience was amazing as I got great ideas on how to apply relationship-based learning in both the online and face-to-face courses.

Technology Failed

I was also an invited keynote speaker in Dublin at the IATEFL LTSIG. The special interest group focuses on learning technology in the English as a foreign language class. I spoke about partners of learning and gave a workshop on teaching as a way to learn. I had many challenges during the workshop. The projector and smart board stopped working and the Internet was not stable. Many may claim that technology is unpredictable in an online environment. In my case, technology failed in the physical classroom.

Where Good Ideas Come From?

Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (October 5, 2010) tackles the question. 

Ideas are not instant. They take time to develop. Once developed, awareness can connect ideas to problems and the rest is history.

Great ideas develop as a result of embracing the challenges in our daily lives. Ideas develop when we step out of our comfort zones in search of different paths. As John Maynard Keynes said “The difficulty lies,  not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones”. Old ideas imprison and blind us from seeing the new. Peter McLeod, a neuroscientist, studies how new ideas are generated by an old system through what is now called the Einstellung effect. According to McLeod and other researchers, our instincts highjack us from going beyond our first ideas.

We solve problems using old ideas because problems often look the same (Bilalić, McLeod, Gobet, 2008).  Because problems look familiar, we tackle them in the same way. Using the same paths to solve problems prevents us from developing new ideas.

The familiar prevents us from seeing new solutions. We are stuck in our ways even when we claim we are not. Studies have shown that what people say they do and their actual behaviour does not coincide. In fact, people who claim to be open and innovative still follow old patterns. The old patterns may result in new ideas, but they stunt better ones.

Leaving Our Comfort Zones

The Einstellung (set) effect occurs when the first idea that comes to mind, triggered by familiar features of a problem, prevents a better solution being found.

Embrace Technology

Technology takes many people out of their comfort zones. This happens whether technology works well or when it fails. At the Dublin conference, the participants of my workshop were completely out of their comfort zone when technology failed to work. So let’s be open and ready when things don’t work because that’s where good ideas come from.


Bilalić, M., McLeod, P., & Gobet, F. (2008, September). Why good thoughts block better ones: The mechanism of the pernicious Einstellung (set) effect. Cognition, 108(3), 652-661). Retrieved

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