[cross-posted at Dangerously Irrelevant as guest blogger for Dr Scott McLeod]
My life as an international educator is bursting with exciting opportunities and experiences. Being a guest blogger for Dr Scott McLeod is one challenge I have been looking forward to. As a leader in educational technology I blog about my own journey in the classroom as well as interactions and collaborations with colleagues around the world and try to make sense of the changing learning landscape.
Recently I have had the opportunity to attend in person conferences in Madrid, Prague and Mumbai. I have also been able to attend virtually a number of online events/conferences, in particular EduCon 2.0, where I was Skyped in by George Mayo to discuss global collaboration and the amazing CUE 2008 this past weekend where I was Skyped in by Steve Hargadon to a session discussing Web 2.0 in Education. I have been reflecting on what it means to be a 21st century conference attendee and presenter at, as it is being called, Conference 2.0. Gone are the days when information is only delivered via the conference presenter and only at the conference. Gone are the days where information is uni-directional and non-conversational. Gone are the days when information is delivered via hard-copy handout and boring bullet-points on a ubiquitous slideshow.
To be a leader in education today means to be a contributor, not a passive onlooker. A 'conference' opportunity is to be embraced for all of the dynamic cross-links and flowing ideas it brings. Let's use Web 2.0 tools and what ever else we can online to enhance and extend the experience and learning.
So what does a Conference 2.0 look like? On one level it has presenters who have set up learning experiences and objects ahead of time including posting resources online and organizing virtual input via Skype and chat etc. Let me tell a story here and then give credit to some great colleagues out there who are already writing about this in a more succinct way than I am.
My experience at the ASB Unplugged conference in Mumbai, India recently highlighted the need to be mobile, online and interacting at different levels. Connected to the WLAN and therefore with connectivity to the world (the only way to be at a conference!) I was able to 'moblog' to our school Ning (mobile blogging, or blogging on the run, a phrase coined by David Warlick I believe), Twitter, Google Chat and search for resource URLs as presenters mentioned them...all at the same time. In one session I remember Twittering with Kim Cofino, who was also attending a conference in Berlin, Germany, while at the same time chatting with Vicki Davis, who was also at a conference presenting on our Flat Classroom Project and more in Illinois ICE and wowing the crowd with her exemplary style and sharing her latest Zoho online material with me, while continuing to blog and interact with people back at Qatar Academy via the Ning and also with people around me re the current presentation in Mumbai.
What I really missed in Mumbai was what is called a 'backchannel' where the audience (real and virtual) can chat about the presentation. An effective way to do this is to have the backchannel (using a tool such as chatzy.com) projected onto the screen so the whole room can see what is being said (including the presenter) and react to it as needed. This method was also used by Karl Fisch, although using slightly different tools, for his fishbowl sessions with students and guests discussing Pink's 'A Whole New Mind' recently.
What I also miss at non-Conference 2.0 events is the use of RSS as the glue to bind us all together. Once again David Warlick leads the way with his hitchhikr.com conference aggregator. I need to know where I can find other blog posts, images, etc tagged for the events I am in. I need to know what the tagging standard is so I can use it. I feel this still has not caught on with educators around the world as it should have done.
I am in awe of the recent blog post by Steve Hargadon detailing his views and experiences with Conference 2.0 ideals and thoroughly recommend his new wiki Conference 2.0 where, in typical Steve style he has provided a valuable resource and service for everyone to use when attending/presenting at a conference. Describing this wiki he states:
"Web 2.0 has provided a number of opportunities for new collaborative events to take place at and around conferences. The events can enhance participants' connections, dialog, and engagement. Here are a number of these activities that can be planned specifically for educational technology." A recent blog post "The Ultimate Conference Attendee" by Will Richardson, although a little esoteric, has similar sentiments.
So, it is true, the global stage does await every real and virtual attendee at a conference. There are opportunities to foster and continue conversations, make connections, squeeze the essence out of each session and breath life into the topic. Is this information overload? Is this too geeky for the average conference goer....well yes, maybe it is however let's lead the way, let's set the standards internationally and move beyond the static, dry, hard-copy handout, non-Internet based session that does not deserve to exist in the Conference 2.0 mode.
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