When Throwback Learning (#tbl) Works

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We sat in red-topped, wooden chairs, placed in rows of six on each side of an aisle, facing a hardwood stage. From Friday through Sunday, on the white screen behind him, Seth Godin stood on that stage and projected ideas and images that challenged us.

Seth shared his experiences and responded to our many questions. From time to time, we broke into small groups to work, share, and discuss. During lunches and breaks, he mingled among us as jazz played, thought-provoking images were projected, and informal conversations took place.

It was what I’d like to call, a throwback learning experience.

We didn’t live blog. We didn’t text. We didn’t tweet. Our personal screens were nowhere in sight. Why? Out of respect for the experience Seth believed in and wanted to create. From our first minutes together, it was clear that he wanted to connect with us, in person, as often as we would allow him to, and that he wanted us to do the same with each other.

And for this particular event, with this particular host and thought leader, it worked.

It was over two days with Seth and an incredible group of people, so I have a lot to share from the experience. I’ll take the time to do that over the next few blog posts.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share that there’s still a place for throwback learning. If the thought leader is intentional about the experience she wants to create, and she establishes the environment to make that happen, then it can be an amazing experience for everyone. To be clear, to maintain this kind of experience for an entire weekend requires someone who’s wise, thoughtful, and authentic enough to leave you feeling energized from the time spent together.

For us, that someone was Seth Godin.

He is one of the wisest, kindest, thoughtful, analytical, intentional, and loving human beings I have ever met. I am in awe.

Has anyone had a similarly successful experience – a #tbl experience – with a thought leader or speaker? I’d love to hear about it.


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  1. Brittany Jordan on March 10, 2015 at 6:54 am

    I haven’t been to an intensive workshop in my current career, but classical musicians (and I assume other working artists) constantly go on working retreats without ‘screens’ and it is not something to even comment on. I’ve always thought that other fields could learn from the way that artists work and this is no exception. Even in ed tech, I learn the most from thoughtfully-led hands-on experiences or discussions that are uninterrupted by other media. I’m loathe to bring social media into anything that I care about while I’m involved, or else how can I really be involved? It’s cognitively very challenging (some scientists would say impossible). Would love to hear more about this experience you had!

  2. Gayle on March 10, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Brittany, thanks for sharing your experience. I’ll be writing more about the time we spent with Seth in upcoming blog posts. Was a great change of pace interacting this way. I think it’s all about the experience and how it’s designed. Seth deliberately designed his experience this way. Others build the use of tech into the experience and those who do that well make it worthwhile. I think it’s all about the goals and how the design works in tandem with them. Great hearing about what you’ve experienced and what you enjoy!