We’re living in a conversation

How do you feel about online conversations – in public, during conferences, in the classroom. The recent 2008 The Australian Computers in Education Conference generated quite a bit of discussion about the etiquette of blogging and microblogging (twittering) during conference sessions, which was further fueled by Grahams reflection on Redefining Conference Professional Respect. We talked about it on Twitter, and in other online and virtual spaces.

My fellow traveller on the ACEC study tour to NECC 2008 , Jason Zugami, has jumped in with a Google survey to get a better understanding of what it is that drives educators views on this matter – and interestingly, a comparison to what it is that they believe about the immersive use of online tools in classrooms.

By the way, there is a huge lesson in all of this for the way people run conferences these days. Wifi should be accessible and free. Collaboration and distribution of information and ideas should be considered the norm.

Conference Blogging and Microblogging Ettiquette

Please visit Jason’s online survey, and add your voice to the discussion.

I can’t wait to see the analysis on this! Thanks Jason.

I filled out the survey, and kept a copy of my responses for myself to push me to generate further ideas. Here are my quickly written responses – amazing how different my thinking is compared to a couple of years ago.

Buckle in and read the following if you dare!

How do you feel about the undirected use of laptops during conference presentations?

It is essential to have the freedom to search links, explore ideas and interact with concepts being presented at a conference. I choose my options as to when to listen and stare at a conference presenter, or when to listen and connect with my laptop to check out idea, share ideas with others, or discuss issues being raise. If I am bored I certainly don’t want to be captured with no escape as well..I would rather check my email than waste the time sitting in a presentation that doesn’t demand my attention.

How do you feel about the undirected use of mobile phones for texting/microblogging during conference presentations?

When it comes to professional learning this is absolutely essential for being engaged with the content, expressing opinions and reflections about the presentations, and just plain having fun through interaction. Remove the ‘industrial model’ from conference presentations, and allow them to be interactive and collaborative. Use the tool, don’t abuse the tool.

How do you feel about participants undirected sharing their thoughts on a presentation on a public blog?

If a presentation is worth listening too, it is worth sharing. End of story.

How do you feel about participants undirected sharing their thoughts on a presentation via micro blogging services such as Twitter during the presentation?

If a presentation is worth listening to, it is worth tweeting about. If a presentation is not worth listening to, it is worth tweeting about that too. Twitter is about conversation and reflection too. I particularly like it when questions come in via twitter that can be presented to the speaker for response. I like it even better if there is a twitter stream of the conference on display, so everyone attending the conference can see what is being said and what is being reflected upon.

How do you feel about participants undirected sharing the content of presentations with those not at the presentation?

Share with the world – the more we share the more we grow in our understanding of what is possible. Refusing to share is like writing a book, publishing it and refusing to allow anyone to borrow it from the local library. If you only want us to buy a book, or buy our attendance at a conference presentation then you are not a 21st century learner. Sure, getting the information via shared feed at a conference is not as good as being there – we know that, because we love the F2F interactions. But sharing content is the next best thing! Go for it.

How do you feel about participants taking undirected photographs during a presentation and publishing these?

Fantastic. Just keep the flash off please!

How do you feel about participants taking undirected audio recordings during a presentation and publishing these?

Fantastic! So long as it doesn’t disrupt the streaming bandwidth for the main presentations (assuming the conference organisers are savvy enough to realise the value of streaming!). Standalone audio recordings on the other hand are fine but not as good as a presentation that incorporates image or video. Either way, publish and share at all times.

How do you feel about participants taking undirected video recordings during a presentation and publishing these?

Great! so long as it is not being streamed and using up the bandwidth of the main streaming organised by the conference team. Imagine 20 people streaming!! It’s great to have access to go back to sessions in this format, as good presentations lend themselves to review for further reflection. It’s about deepening our learning and understanding – not limiting it!

How do you feel about participants making undirected live broadcasts (audio or video) of a presentation?

This is a great idea, but the reality is that most venues don’t have the bandwidth to have more than one stream working effectively. Hence it is really smart of conference organisers to incorporate streaming into their program, instead of impacting the audiences opportunity to focus on blogging, microblogging, or using online tools to collect conference notes etc. If we believe in cloud computing and Web 2.0 then we don’t build in restrictions into our conference structures – we capitalize on Web 2.0 to promote and disseminate the ideas and information being generated by the collaborative crowd.

How do you feel about participants making undirected ratings on the quality of presentations via blogs and microblogs?

Frankly, it adds a bit of spice, and keeps presenters and conference organisers honest! The time is over for tolerating boring presentations. However, this should not be seen as a way of attacking the presenter, nor undertaken in such a manner that is offensive. I see this as a golden opportunity if undertaken with a positive aim in mind. After all, we expect students to stand up in class and be assessed as part of their learning!! It’s time for educators to be accountable for their work too!

How do you feel about the undirected use of laptops during your lessons?

Awesome! Now here is a true challenge to teachers. The truth is that unless pedagogy has shifted in the classroom to create authentic and project-based learning, the undirected use of laptops doesn’t work. Teachers who are in control mode can’t cope with this. Teachers who are mentors know that it is essential.

How do you feel about the undirected use of mobile phones for texting / microblogging during your lessons?

Mobiles are just communication tools, organisational tools, and collaboration tools. What are we afraid of? Oh I know! We have to change our classrooms into 21st century learning places :-)

How do you feel about students undirected sharing their thoughts on your lessons on a public Blog?

A real-life skill to be learned, and one that is essential to 21st century learning. Sure students will waiver at times, but isn’t the idea that we should be supporting students to think and learn in multimodal ways? That is their natural domain – let’s work with it.

How do you feel about students undirected sharing their thoughts on your lessons via micro blogging services such as Twitter during the lesson?

Use the tools to shape thinking – twitter is just one of many ways for teachers to create effective blended learning environments. Microblogging is an ideal way for communicating and reflecting in that immediate MSN style of thinking that comes naturally to kids. Capture the world of opportunities and be amazed at the outcomes.

How do you feel about your students undirected sharing the content of your lessons with those not in your class?

Anyone students can share with works for me. That makes it a 21st century global class, and those that share back become members of my class.

How do you feel about your students taking undirected photographs during your lessons and publishing these?

Of course students should share. The bottom line is the nature of the digital citizenship and digital literacy skills of the students that we need to nurture. The truth is that unless we nurture them, then students will undertake activities that are counter-productive to quality learning. But simply saying ‘don’t do it’ is an abrogation of our role as guides and mentors in this 21st century world that we have stumbled upon. Let’s sort out our thinking and get one with learning.

How do you feel about your students taking undirected audio, video recordings or live broadcasts during your lessons and publishing these?

Please do! As long as it is focused on improving knowledge and understanding and incorporates safe digital citizenship in the production.

How do you feel about your students making undirected ratings on the quality of your lessons via blogs and microblogs?

Students need to learn how to be be authentic in their collaboration and engagement in the learning process. Whether it is reflecting on other students or commenting on the nature of the teacher’s engagement with the multimodal learning of their students, it is an area that is evolving. It is also an area that is highly sensitive for most teachers, but needs to be unpacked and incorporated into the formative processes of learning.

Overall comments.

The world has changed! I am thrilled to be part of the 21st century learning that is now possible at a conference, in my classroom, at home, in fact absolutely anywhere. I want my students to have the best opportunities. I want them to be thrilled too!

UPDATE: These same topics are currently being discussed at ISTE in relation to NECC conferences and more. Read about it or join in the conversation at Fair Use & Digital Citizenship 2009

Photo: Speedmonster 5

11 thoughts on “We’re living in a conversation

  1. I think the issue is whether or not we are actually engaged with the presentation. Numerous experiments have shown that we do not really multitask; we switch back and forth between subjects. If the presentation is such that we are able to keep track of it in smatterings, then that’s one thing. If it is an issue about which we know little and need to be — or are being paid to be — informed, that is an entirely different matter.

    It is up to participants how they spend their time in a conference or presentation. But let’s not lend credibility to the myth of multitasking. You’re either paying attention, or you’re not.

  2. Carol, it was so refreshing to hear this feedback! I think the problem is that some organisations simply haven’t caught up with the Web 2.0 way of interacting at conferences. In fact, I have been to many where I am one of only a handful who are blogging or twittering etc. Certainly I have never been informed beforehand of what to expect, and being asked to say ‘Hi’ amongst microbloggers – well that’s sensational. On the other hand, various organisations with a technology focus, have welcomed me and supported denizens of the online world to engage in what some people see as disruptive behaviours.

    Some associations unfortunately do not operate in this way. Last term I attended a Teacher Librarian conference, to find no wireless, and only a couple of people with a laptop to take notes. I had to resort to my mobile to twitter or be connected.

    Clearly I need to get up to one of your conferences! Please keep me informed of any great things you folks are doing. Let’s promote your efforts.

  3. We absolutely expect people to blog, twitter & plurk during our Learning Technologies conference (http://www.learningtechnologies.com.au) and give them the means & encouragement to do so. We let delegates know beforehand what to expect & open the conference asking all the microbloggers present & distant to say ‘Hi’.

    I was really stunned by this post as I thought this was commonplace – and especially at a technology conference.

  4. Greg, you are keen for people not to talk or chat and disrupt a presentation – and I am also old-fashioned enough to agree with you on that. But I also know that I do like to share a few words with my colleagues at times, so I often choose to sit at the back of the hall or auditorium quite often, because as you point out, rudeness has no place in the world!!

    But like Dean, I also believe in reading-up on who the presenter will be. Catch a good presenter and you will see me in the front row, off to one side, where I can catch video, or take pictures of the presenter. Mark Pesce and Will Richardson are two whose words I would always hang on and be close up for.

    Graham, you are so right about disruptive technologies and the hackles of teachers. It’s a wobbly world alright – spinning faster as we speak and thus the urgency to understand how to use communicative Web 2.0 technologies is all the more urgent.

  5. Pingback: Greg's Blog - principal (le?) learning » Conference etiquette and levels of ‘newness’

  6. Judy, your answers are so well phrased and in tune with my own viewpoint. I’m of the view that if someone says what you mean, it is pointless trying to replicate the same thing. I reckon I’ll put in my survey with “same as Judy” in each comment box! And if educators are getting their hackles up over fellow educators subtly using disruptive technologies in an adult learning environment, they will be very resistant and controlling when their students get access to that same disruptive technology. The rumblings are only going to get louder…

  7. See this: http://blog.core-ed.net/derek/2008/10/digital-lemmings.html#comment-1357 post on the same issue. As I commented on Derek’s entry I believe the issue is a moral and ethical one and not of the technologies per se’. People who have a tendency to be rude in real life will ‘go for gold’ when hiding in the relative anonymity of the cyber world.
    Being able to engage with others via Web2.0 tools and with my own thinking on my blog is an essential part of my learning at a conference now. I expect good internet access and speakers to ‘work’ in a way that allows me to do this.
    I really don’t ‘get’ Twitter but like chat …. but thats me :-)
    Greg.

  8. I think. That these people are now your colleagues and you need to remember that the system is ‘bigger’ than us right now. Reflection is key to creative thinking. If you are bored, think you know better etc., then sure have a discussion with the people around you, however, petty comments, in-jokes and ‘yeah but’ judgments are the ones that the system and media will beat you around the head with later. Maybe it’s a teacher thing – we like to keep score.

    What you think – largely depends on where you sit on a range of social, cultural and systemic spectrum. Personally, I like to hear about things that are ‘new’ ideas. Conferences – in their ‘event’ style approach have by nature to suit a wide audience.

    What would be the point in my insisting that virtual conferences in Second Life are only way I want to learn .. despite the low cost, convenience and lack of travel. There is on one ‘best’ way – but I have to day – that I don’t like people speaking to an audience with presos that have been around for a year or so – I’ve seen that at NECC and I’ve seen it online.

    Pre-reading up on people leads to a better conf experience – go by name rather than topic – and do spend time with break out bloggers – cause thats where the best conversations are IMO.

    How many at NECC did we walk out on Jude? Lots. Twitter is a fantastic tool, I think we’re all smart enough to work out who’s being critical for a good reason and who’s just posting uninformed crap (maybe).

  9. I couldn’t agree more! There is a difference between participating or disrupting! In a sense adults are still learning how to function in this multimodal way, and seem to (at times) demonstrate the type of behaviour that we know students will engage in when they are not putting their best digital citizen selves forward :-) The solution is not to ban it but for teachers as learners to develop appropriate professional behaviours to facilitate collaborative conference experiences. NECC was also 21st century – not only during sessions but around sessions as well. The bloggers cafe is a must, the second life cafe is a must, and the edubbloggercon – informal conferencing prior to the main conference – is also a must. We have to keep pushing the boundaries if we are to be effective teachers for our kids.

  10. I was a participant at the ACEC 2008 conference where a lot of discussion on this topic has also arisen. On one of my mailing lists, several particpants were horrified that people were using laptops, twittering, using mobile phones and not ‘sitting’ up and paying attention. I was one who was guilty of the former behaviour (although I did not use my mobile phone). As I had just returned from Shanghai Learn 2.008 conference, I had experience a truly web2.0 type conference where the emphasis was on sharing and collaborating.
    The next issue is that of online conferences. One participant at an online session this week, was horrified with the behaviour of some participants in an earlier session. (They had drawn all over the whiteboard and the presenter’s artwork). Some expressed dismay at the chat that went on. Maybe there needs to be a code of conduct set up at the beginning of the session so that all participants can agree to that. If so, what should the code of conduct be. Were these particpants using grafitti or were they just playing with elluminate? As to the chat, I agree with your points above that is part of the sharing and interacting, adding depth to the presentation and giving all a richer experience.

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