Following from afar

Glasgow 2012 News Image

click on the image to go to IATEFL online

This week the annual IATEFL UK conference is being held in Glasgow. I’m guessing I probably didn’t need to tell a lot of the visitors to this blog. For the first time I’m following from afar.  It isn’t the first time I haven’t attended – obviously –  but it is the first time I’ve been able to follow the conference online, on the livestream, on blogs, on twitter.  And it’s an interesting experience so far.

OK, it’s only day one, and I didn’t manage to catch the plenary streaming live, but I did manage to catch a couple of sessions – in fact three or four at the same time at one point – and there was one session in particular that really came alive through the tweets and the comments of my twitter contacts and friends.  (Big thanks to @CeciELT @vbenevolofranca and @jemjemgardner.  It almost – well kinda – felt like I was sitting in there with you!)

It was Jim Scrivener‘s session on Demand-High Teaching.    I was aware of the new blog Jim and Adrian Underhill had recently set up, I had read the first posts introducing the concept and the underlying issues, so when the tweets started appearing in the top right hand corner of my screen, I already had a context for them.   I was sitting at the kitchen table (as I am now in fact) helping – or maybe better – accompanying my daughter as she did her homework.  I was open to distraction and found my attention called back time and time again to the nuggets being tweeted from Jim’s talk. ( Golden nuggets by the way, not McNuggets).

There has been a lot of discussion in blogs about the value (or not) of tweeting from conference sessions.  It obviously doesn’t replace the experience of being there, but the responses and reactions of the people who are there – people whose opinions and viewpoints you know and value  – are interesting in themselves.  They open up windows of curiosity.

Part of the distance conferencing experience of course is that you can let day to day life flow on around you. You dip in and out, as and when.  This can be frustrating, but it can also be liberating.  Part of me wishes I was there, but quite honestly, another part of me is happy that I’m at home. Travelling to conferences always entails quite a lot of  underlying guilt – guilt about not being around to fulfil family duties, guilt about workloads and looming deadlines.  So I turned off tweetdeck, shut down my computer, we got out our bikes and cycled into town for my daughter’s flamenco class.   That easy. From online professional development to day-to-day life.

When I got back those windows of curiosity were still open.  I checked back into twitter, touched base with the conference, answered a couple of tweets and then remembered that I’d noticed an interview by Jim Scrivener on the iateflonline livestream.  The interview had been recorded shortly before Jim gave his session.  The timing was all a bit upsidedown. But that didn’t matter at all.  This was not a linear experience – it was kind of conference hypertexting. (On a total tangent, I loved Jim’s comment in the interview on hypertext and readers as hunter-gatherers).

I listened to the interview as I washed up and laid the table for dinner.  I went back to the blog again, re-read the first few posts, read through the comments and the discussion, found the slides from the session I’d “attended” earlier.  It was fascinating piecing it all together.  There’s a disclaimer saying that the slides probaby don’t make sense it you weren’t actually at the session.  But I’m not so sure. Or maybe it’s that I was there.  Just following from afar.

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4 Responses to Following from afar

  1. Oh Ceri, now I’m jealous! How do you do it?
    I cannot make the transitions easily. I’m working full time with lots of exams to check and household duties and can’t follow in the manner you described.
    I did listen to some of the great interviews while doing the laundry but nothing live.
    However, I’m still learning from afar from reading some great blog posts and following those tweeters!
    I identify very strongly with the disadvantages of physically going that you but can only allocate it a small space in my life this week.
    But things posted online will wait for me till I go on vacation soon, hurrah!
    Great post!

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Naomi,
      I guess the answer to how lies in the fact that I do spend huge chunks of my day sat in front of my computer screen, writing or editing or etutoring. It’s easier for me to pop in and out, but sometimes the sheer quantity of information is really daunting. Mind you, having said that, it’s just as daunting in real life 🙂 – and exhausting! And as you say, one of the beauties of being a “distance delegate” is that you don’t have to follow in real time. The blogs, the interviews, the streamed sessions, even the twitter conversations will all be there to go back to. To dip into and explore with all their “hypertext” links whenever we want to indulge – and in the meantime, contributing with a tweet or two helps me feel less like I’ve beem left behind, stuck at home with the washing up 😉
      Thanks for your comment Naomi, and thanks for sharing the distance conferencing thing!

  2. Nice Post Ceri – I think you demonstrate the extent to which ‘events’ are becoming more and more based around multimedia. When I listen to football on the radio, it’s the same with tweets, text messages, and phone-ins based around the match commentary. As you point out, that all this leads to a richer experience for those who can’t be there for one reason or another. Objections raised to tweeting during conferences seem to me to be based very much on that old orthodoxy of teachers and students in a formal classroom situation, relations of power and all that, and learning seen as ‘delivery’ of knowledge as opposed to the participative learning we see in Internet spaces. You highlight in this post very succinctly the way digital media can align with our everyday lives. And you are clearly a great multi-tasker 🙂

    Thanks for the insights
    All the best

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for calling by 🙂
      I think what interests me is the possibilities that are now available to people who can’t, or don’t want to, travel(for whatever reason – for me it’s a question of time management and shared family duties) to still be part of the buzz and the thinking and learning and networking that conferences – and especially IATEFL UK – are all about.

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