Thursday, June 28, 2007

Conference 2.0

I've been attending the National Education Computer Conference for over 10 years, and each year I walk away revitalized, my head swarming with ideas and luggage filled with resources ranging from business cards, handouts, literature, and other conference goodies. This year I noticed educators walking away with one more exciting 'benefit' -- an incredible sense of community that resulted by combining their face to face conference experience with read/write web's community building tools.

Conference 1.0 looked like this: You're sitting next to someone at a workshop. You spend several minutes chatting, learning about each other, and just as you start to engage in a meaty discussion sharing resources, the workshop presenter brings your focus to their exciting content. Trying to squeeze in as much as you can in this day packed with valuable, but limited, opportunity to network, you run off to your next session, remembering that you forgot to get a business card from the person sitting next to you, but thankful that your presenter had not run out of handouts.

At recent NECC's we have been introduced to the tools of the read/write web and have started to use them to build community online. While at this year's NECC, I saw a new level of passion being ignited as educators who have been using these tools met on escalators, in workshop sessions, at the blogger's cafe, or by an exhibitor booth.

Conference 2.0 looks like this: You're sitting next to someone at a workshop. You politely introduce yourself, and recognize the name on their conference badge. You've seen it online along with the works of her students. Within seconds you are in a meaty discussion receiving timely tips about how to replicate the strategies you've already picked up from this teacher's online showcase. Your workshop presenter starts and skips all the “background” information that would build credibility and authority (because it's online at his/her blog) and gets right into the meat of the presentation, touching on the important points, leaving you to explore the minute details on their wiki or blog. Instead of fervently taking notes and hoping they don't run out of handouts, you click on online conference handouts and focus and reflect throughout the whole workshop.

For others, the online communities that lead up to face to face meetings at the conference were more formal. Member of Classroom 2.0, the open source community, second lifers, edubloggers, and even we (ITM bloggers) met face to face for the first time. The sense of community reached a new level by these face to face meetings, and I know that our online experience in the year to come will be richer because of this opportunity. Feeling like I already knew someone because of their contribution to the read/write web; and knowing that I would be able to continue to have insight into the development of their work, ideas, class projects through their read/write web contributions, made my NECC 2007 connections some of the most powerful ones I've ever made at a conference. How did the read/write web impact your conference experience?