I’ve spent the majority of the week sat in the library watching people come and go and working on my CMALT and PhD (more to come about the latter soon since I am recording my journey). No matter what I am doing, I usually have my twitter feed up somewhere, keeping up to date with events in the TwitterSphere. It was while doing this that I started to think about whether we should be tweeting throughout a keynote speech or just listening to the information. Of course, the distraction was immediately added as a draft idea and now you get to read it…
I few weeks ago I wrote a waffle about the use of mobile devices within sessions relating to learners. While I was considering this waffle, I started to think about the similarities between the points I made within that waffle and this one. I’m not going to spend today preaching to you about responsibility and choices since that is first not the focus of this waffle and secondly I think you are all old enough to make up your own minds what to do and why you want to do it. What I want to focus on are the benefits why I consider tweeting at conferences is useful and should remind as a element of good conference practice.
Alerting your PLN – If you are like me, then you probably have a range of people from different disciplines on your Twitter. When I am about to engage with a TweetChat, I like to notify my followers that this is going to happen. This will allow them to mute me or maybe even participate – if the choose the former I hope they un-mute me at the end! Often I see my twitter colleagues involved in other chats or reading certain webpages and sharing the content and I favourite their points in order to engage fully with them later. This also happens when my twitter colleagues attend conferences. Usually I will be sitting working and keeping one eye on the timeline when a hashtag will start to appear which grabs my attention. Often I have to look up what it actually means, or even better, just ask someone – but usually it is a conference that relates to my practice or interests. This leads to a column being added to my TweetDeck and involvement with the rest of the conference where possible. Without this ‘sharing’ I would probably not be aware of half the conferences that people I follow on Twitter attend. Twitter is all about sharing and collaborating and these initial tweets about a conference certainly allows this to happen. These tweets might be of a slide or a image, accompanied about what is happening, or who is talking or even the key points of the presenters’ keynote. All these examples of sharing, promotes the engagement with the conference. But what about when you have arrived and you are settled down for the first keynote – should the tweeting stop then?
Sharing of information/links– I often make a fool of myself – it is part of my personality that I often ask that question that everyone knows the answer to already or I ask something without actually thinking about it. One such moment of this happened while tweeting during the recent Open Education Conference 2015. In my support I have to say that my understanding and knowledge of OER is limited. However, a term came up that I really didn’t know what the conference crowd were talking about – what I thought was ‘gorilla research’. Now, I know what you are thinking, but remember I am new to HE and research and really did think this is what they were talking about. Not thinking – or even checking on Google – I tweeted – “what is gorilla research?’ I’m sure that there is probably cause much hilarity at the conference or for the person following the twitter feed and, just to make matters slightly worse, after people had corrected me on Twitter one of the panelists on the conference said, with a smile on his face – ‘by the way thats Guerrilla rather than Gorilla’. I’m not using this point to say that tweeting at a conference can lead to public or twitter embarrassment – more that it allows for the clarification and sharing of information. In the response to tweets such as – when the keynote presenter mentions a book or a person or a piece of documentation, a quick question/enquiry on Twitter is responded to by replies providing the link, comments and also additional recommendations.
Backchannel of discussion – As well as the sharing of information, tweeting at conferences is accompanied by an often active and involved back channel of discussion. This can sometimes be slightly off topic – but most of the time, it is focused on the events and consists of questions and answers which develop the points being discussed. Although sometimes this is just via the favourite button – something which I see as synonymous with the ‘like’ button on Facebook – to just show support and say ‘yes I agree’ often it is via further questions or explanations to further and deepen the discussion. This almost replaces the ‘turn and talk to your partner’ parts of a session, allowing the discussion to focus on points which interest certain individuals and to happen across all attendees, physical or virtual, of the conference. It also allows for several discussions to happen at the same time. This is not saying that people are now not involved within the keynote, it could be said that they are even more engaged with the points now via the twitter feed. Often it is from these ‘back channel discussions’ that my understanding of points deepen and that I find new colleagues to follow and hopefully engage with. I am sure that the use of the back channel will often form a starting point for discussions during subsequent coffee and meals at the conference.
One thing that I think we are developing more and more, is the skill of multitasking. There are, of course, a range of advantages and disadvantages with this, but I know that some people at conferences have the ability to engage with both the presenter and the twitter feed with a good degree of success. I would be one of those people who are working towards this although others might prefer to engage fully in the keynote in the physical world. Although people might not like it or voice their opinions against it, I am in favour of tweeting from conferences and, as a virtual attendee for most conferences, I thank you for your tweets and interaction.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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Have fun and I’ll catch you later