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.