Sunday, October 23, 2011

Retro Conference

Flickr CC photo by ville-arles
I attended a very good conference last week, and I do not want the following remarks to suggest otherwise.  It's just that this one was missing a major element that I've become used to by only attending ed tech conferences.  The missing element was any interaction.  Other than an open mic standing in the middle of some 200+ of us, the conversation was one-way.

The speaker was very interesting as a lecturer and he invited questions throughout his four two-hourish sessions.  There was also a short period of time for table discussions.  He had a power point with text of his main points.  There were also paper hand outs each day.  I'm guessing that he has been a successful presenter using this format for a few years now.  So I don't blame him for feeling that my role was to listen and learn from him (as well I did).  But I still really missed reacting with others to his points (and the questions raised at the mic).  What I really missed was a Twitter hash tag for discussing the many points that were made through his program.  If not Twitter, then we would have benefited from some kind of of online forum (not to mention electronic documents rather than the paper ones).

In retrospect, I thought it was interesting that nothing like this had been planned for.  Manybe it was because the conference planners were not into this stuff.  Maybe they supposed the audience wouldn't be into this stuff.  More likely, those who haven't broadened the conversation simply don't know the benefits and might even presume that it would be distracting.

I was surrounded by intelligent educators.  Many were using iPads, laptops, and (peeking) at their smart phones.  I'll make no apology for having my all my gear out.  And no one needs to apologize for not meeting my social media needs-- especially since the program was solid.

But it did make me a little sorry that the interactive features that can add so much to an experience -- before, during, and after -- were not part of an educational conference because it implies that this kind of collaboration is a long way from being a staple in our schools.  Connecting learners with other learners is   a great way to embed knowledge, and these days we have the capacity to do it just about anytime and anywhere.

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