I guess it was about three years now when Cyndie Jacobs and I took on the challenge of moving the ECOO Conference to Niagara Falls where it teamed with OASBO and renamed itself “Bring IT, Together”. The conference had been at a location in Markham and the conference had suffered from room availability and internet capacity. These are two challenges that all venues have to deal with and both can be solved with money – add rooms, add connection capacity. Obviously, the second option is a bit more affordable.
Our discovery took us to Niagara Falls and the new Scotiabank Convention Centre. We previewed the site with the meeting planner and we both insisted upon talking with the Manager of IT. We needed to ensure that we had the connection capacity to be a success. Our meeting was pleasant enough and we got the customary IT assurance that “oh yes, we have the capacity”. Ever fretful, we did purchase additional capacity and ensured that all of the presenters and keynote speakers had a wired connection to their presentation space to avoid being bogged down by the online activity.
Why? Today’s educators expect that connectivity for their learning is just like air. It should be there and it should be free.
Why 2? Because today’s educators enhance the learning experience by sharing with others – both in the same room and on the internet. And, this sharing allows you to create documents, post conference, to memorialise the learning.
One of my favourite memories from that first conference was talking to the IT Manager after the opening keynote. He had watched the opening keynote address from the control booth and noted that everyone in the audience had at least one device open and on. The theatre seats 1023 people so you do the math. I had to break the news that there would be people also watching from the doorways and seated on the floor. And, those were only the devices that he could see from his perch. It’s a rare conference goer that only has one connected device. To his credit, he and his staff immediately upped the capacity with additional access points.
This isn’t a one-off situation. Educators are like this at most learning events. By composing and recording their learning, they make it more meaningful for themselves and we have the added advantage of extending the learning beyond the four walls of the venue to all educators across the province who care to look in. Not everyone can attend in person but they can be part of the learning when they’re connected. Chris Wejr has a terrific post on the Canadian Education Association blog “Moving Beyond “Sit’ n’ Git” Pro-D” that expands on the concept nicely.
So, it was great head shaking that I read Sue Dunlop’s post “Don’t Tweet During My Keynote“. She makes reference to a keynote presentation at the OPSOA annual conference where the keynote speaker asked the audience to not record or send Twitter messages during the keynote address.
Now, this is not a condemnation of the speaker. I mean, who hasn’t been to a concert where recording of the music is forbidden. Artists make their living from selling their abilities and recording and sharing cuts into their earnings. I recall a recent concert where the artist asked that people not record or take pictures during the concert because the flash was distracting. The artist promised, and delivered, a photo session later on. I get that.
It’s the second part of the message that disturbs me the most. How dare a presenter at an education conference presume to limit the learning or, in fact, the preferred learning style of the audience? So, an opportunity to share and extend a message (whatever it was; those of us who weren’t there may never know…) was lost. An opportunity for further speaking opportunities is lost. Often a speaker is chosen by reputation and the amount of audience engagement that’s generated.
Live messaging is the rule these days, not the exception. For the Bring IT, Together Conference, we broadcast loudly the conference hashtags #BIT13 #BIT14 long before the conference started, during the conference for shared learning, and after the conference to extend the conversation. There was just a memory picture posted the other day. This summer, another conference I’m involved with, the Computer Science Teachers’ Association is already broadcasting its hashtag #CSTA15 and it appeared on the registration site when it opened. This isn’t new or a novelty. It’s how we learn and share our learning.
I think a speaker and an organization that doesn’t do their best to connect participants and encourage the sharing of learning, conversation, brainstorming, ideas, and visuals has missed the mark.