Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Conference 2.0

If the good old lecture format is under fire (see previous entry) then maybe it's also time to examine what we do at conferences. I enjoy attending conferences I must admit and most of the time I learn a lot and meet lots of interesting people some of whom I end up doing work with later on.

However, even if these conferences deal with new technology and new teaching methods we seldom stop and look at how we present it all. Let's face it most of the conferences I've attended (and some I've been involved in arranging!) are extremely conservative and generally involve a cavalcade of traditional lectures to a mass audience with virtually no participation. Keynote speakers are followed by parrallel sessions with coffee breaks and lunch now and then during which time we have to visit the exhibition area. Sometimes you don't really get much chance to meet so many people!

George Siemens excellent blog, elearnspace, tipped me off about a fascinating initiative from the AACE (Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education). They're arranging a virtual conference called Spaces of Interaction: An Online Conversation on Improving Traditional Conferences 18-20 February. The aim of this conference is to discuss how to improve the conference as an event and enable participants to get more out of them using the potential of Web 2.0 etc. The conference will involve both live on-line sessions as well as discussion groups on Moodle and a social network on Ning.

I've often wondered if it would be possible to have a do-it-yourself conference. Participants are usually so enthusiastic that you could probably just put them into groups and let free discussion flowaround a chosen topic or two. I once went to a conference where we actually did this for one session per day. Each group went to a room with coffee and buns with the task of just reflecting and discussing for 90 minutes. No questions afterwards, no presentation to the others, just our own discussion. It was great and not a moment was wasted. I learnt a lot!

1 comment:

  1. Alastair,

    Great thoughts and post.
    There's lots of talk about conferences and social media. With conference 2.0/Conference 2.0(tm), Building community is a primary goal. This is done by developing and fostering social capital. Social Capital has many broad definitions but for the purposes of social networking, conferences and associations, social capital can be fefined as the actual and potential perceived aggregate netorking value of a person and his her connections (and their resources).

    So Conference 2.0 is nothing new in terms of networking, but the concept is to allow people to meet before the conference, engage during and after the conference, even with the speakers themselves!

    *Is the person sitting next to you a potential research partner, employee or mentor?
    *Encouraged Engagement by the conference organizer will break the ice and be a catalyst for better networking and conversation at the conference. Conference 2.0 will ultimately be an "economy" for conference participants to earn and spend social capital.