Twitter, ICT and Professional Respect at Conferences


This post is in response to some of the  negativity and complaints about the use of laptops, lack of professional respect and twitter at the recent ACEC08 conference, which has appeared as a thread on one of my mailing lists.

 When attending the ACEC08 conference, I was guilty both of using my laptop and sending tweets over twitter.

 My reasons

  •  I can type a lot faster than I can write
  • my notes are not lost in the bag, the ‘wash’, neglect etc
  • quick to retrieve
  • Some excellent quotes were made by keynote speakers, and I added them to twitter for the globe to share.
  • interesting urls were also shared

Having attended the Learn 2.008 conference in Shanghai, in September, I have now participated in  a true ICT or technological conference. It featured

  • a ning for all interactivity including conference program, alterations, uploads of speaker notes etc
  • absence of any paper. All attendees were given a usb drive with timetable, sessions, activities etc and plasma screens in the lobby alerted attendees to timetables, alterations to timetables and unconference sessions.
  • attendees of the conference were encouraged to register for twitter (a micro blogging platform) This allowed sharing, interactivity and suggestions for unconference sessions that were held at various times during the day.
  • all particpants had latptops, took notes and then were encouraged to reply to the speaker page of the ning, so these notes could be shared with those who did not attend.
  • many speakers shared a twitter tag that could be added to any tweets made during their sessions, so that they could upload them live to personal blogs or wikis. So the use of  twitter was actively encouraged.
  • Julie Lindsay of flatclassroom projects, asked us to use an online backchat tool, chatzy, and at certain intervals, stopped and asked whether any questions, shared urls, other interactivity had arisen for her to add to in her presentation.

The problem of the glare of my laptop distracting other participants will be looked into, to see whether the screen might be lowered etc.

The absolute power of interactivity and the use of web2.0 tools should not be blocked.  Conference participants do need to be mindful of digital citizenship and potential outcomes of online negativity. The nature of our world, our classroom and professional development is changing.

This has been added as a note from a tweet by @gkat on an article from “Business Week” on “Twitter Distracts and Annoys”  Perhaps I am wrong after all?!!


12 responses to “Twitter, ICT and Professional Respect at Conferences

  1. Can only agree with you Anne after attending Learning 2.008. A great example of how you run a conference in the 21st century. People are going to ahve to get used to the collaborative environment we function in and see it as a help rather than a hindrance. It’s what they are touting after all!

  2. I agree with you completely Anne. The use of a laptop computer during conference sessions, for me, is a far more efficient way to work. I find I get much more from a session because I can take notes more quickly than handwriting, tweet items that others may find helpful, look at URLs on the spot and bookmark them in delicious.
    I recently attended the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference where all sessions were setup for laptop use, access to power, etc… I don’t recall seeing anyone without their laptop! I think it enhances the whole conference experience.

  3. I agree with your thoughts and reflections Anne, and have benefited greatly from the backchannel thoughts of live attendees at conferences through Twitter.

    Just a devil’s advocate comment, though, are we still expecting students’ undivided attention in our classes? Does our pedagogy need to change? Are we eliminating the backchannel in our classrooms by banning them from visiting ‘off task’ websites or emailing each other when they are meant to be ‘working’ (or should that be ‘learning’)? Just some thoughts, and I’m being critical of my own practice here too.

  4. I agree times are changing. Using a laptop or using Twitter isn’t disrespectful but I can see how some people might feel that it is. I think it is a matter of the presenters taking advantage of the way it is used in the ways you have described above. I know it has been a long time since I have taken notes using anything but my laptop.
    Listening is easier if the presentation can be followed with your connected laptop and who has time these days to go back and retype notes or collect links if you can do it while you are there at the presentation?
    I consider it a compliment if teachers follow my presentation on their laptops, particularly if they achieve some of the goals in the presentation. Equally I consider it quite rude if they are checking their email or finishing some unrelated work but is that my responsibility? Will not having their laptops make them more attentive? Probably not; in fact it will just penalize those who think better with a keyboard under their finger tips.

  5. I found that the use of my laptop and Twitter expanded my experience of ACEC08. Others tweeting from their sessions enabled me to get a flavour of the presenter and their topic, and influenced my choices for following sessions.

    I also experienced the response of a presenter who was upset about the use of mobile phones in their session, but then found out later that key points of the presentation had been tweeted. That changed the response, and led to the comment that presenters now need to handle the use of technology by their audience.

    Having also experienced a Ustreamed presentation, I fully support the appropriate use of technology at conferences.

  6. @jennylu and @lucy I think it will become a trend for more and more people to bring their laptops along to conferences as the advantages of using them for note taking and files transfer is great. Conferences will need to plan for powerboards and outlets. I love my notes being on tap, as all too often my handwritten notes stay in the conference bag and satchel, never to be looked at again. Note taking keeps me on task.
    @soulcradler When I first got involved in online PLN’s, I probably thought all the back channel chat was rather distracting too. However, once used to it, I find it would be rather tedious just listening. I wonder too about students. They are so used to multitasking, texting on their phones, chatting using IM etc that tuning on one activity only, must be almost an unreal atmosphere to them. I like the idea of chat, questions, reflection, sharing of ideas, websites etc going on in the background.
    @lois smethhurst I would hope that the only time that most people would check their emails, is when there is a lull in the presentation, or the presentation is not of any great relevance or impact to the audience.
    The new use of technology encourages a new list of cyber participants and manners.

  7. I saw the ACEC08 posts on the mailing list in question come flowing through and I couldn’t help but be bemused at some of the underlying attitudes towards connected delegates. So I pulled out a quote from someone who I sit across the table from here in Adelaide at CEGSA meetings and diplomatically started the new thread. What bothered me was a feeling that “if you are at a conference, you need to shut up and listen to the very important person at the front of the room without question.” The days of teachers treating anyone who is a keynoter or even a presenter as a gospel dispensing expert are over – we can all expect some pushback in the pursuit of openness in education. Sounds like learning2cn was the real deal and every Australian professional association should send a rep over in 2009 even if just to see how a 21st Century technology enabled conference can and should be run. Twitter is just a symptom of how educators need to change in their own learning – otherwise what chance do we have of understanding our own students if we insist on imposing age-old paradigms on them? Great post, Anne.

  8. @grahamwegner What a great comment, Graham. You have summed up the issues succinctly.

  9. @angelac This is one area where I feel really bad and where I was disrespectful (but not deliberately so)- I simply forgot to switch my phone to silent and it went off during one of the sessions. Presenters could be justified in complaining about that.

  10. As someone who hasn’t attended any interstate or overseas conferences, I have to say that the links and reflections posted on twitter and plurk are very much appreciated by me and I’m sure, many others.

  11. Great post, that encapsulates the essence of people’s angst in changing times. Funny/sad that people at a computing conference would complain about a colleague’s use of what is considered cutting edge interactive, collaborative technology.
    You at least were there in person to also interact F2F.
    I am thinking with all the tools and willing people like you and many others to share in situ, the time for actually attending a conference in the flesh may be quickly coming to an end.
    Although a real time lunch may still do the trick for me.

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