Are Conferences Changing?

Home from the NECC and doing more resting yesterday and today than anything else. I spent much of yesterday afternoon at the Apple Store in Durham getting the Ethernet port on my Mac fixed and having Brenda’s iBook serviced. My son and I scanned through NECC blog entries while waiting at the store and we picked out a digital video camera for him to spend his summer music-making money on.

NECC AnimI suppose this is the best moment for NECC reflections. A tiny bit of time is seperating me from the event (including a three-hour delay at the Philly airport and abismal baggage service here in Raleigh from a U.S. Airline). But there’s not so much distance that I’ve forgotten the ambiance of the conference, something that I hope I will richly remember for a long time.

It was a GREAT conference and the staff was flawless — always friendly and eager to help with hospitality that compared with that of my region of the country. No “Ya’lls”, but lots of very friendly help. The only problems that I had were with tech issues and tech support, but sometimes this can’t be helped.

On reflection, it appears to me that NECC 2004 (New Orleans) was “The Year of the Blog”. Last week’s NECC (Philadelphia) was “The Year of the Blogger.” With weblog articles going out almost hourly and podcasters riddling sessions and exhibitors, this conference became, as Weinberger said, “A conversation!”

The question on my mind is, “To what degree is this new conversation going to change the nature of conferences?” We attend, listen, and learn, move around, and listen, and learn some more. We network, we make contacts, communicate, and move along. Last week, however, our communications began to transcend the walls and halls of the conference center. Add to that the fact that these conversations are being automatically aggregated by services like Technorati (http://technorati.com) and by clever hacks from tech-savvy attendees and presenters — aggregated into logically organized digital libraries of insight. Does this change the nature of the conference experience?

My online handouts were all built with wikis. For my podcasting session, four other prominent podcasters (Jeff Moore, Bud Hunt, Steve Dembo, & Eric Jefcoat) contributed to the handouts just before the conference began from their widely varied geographic locations. Both the “Redefining Literacy…” and the podcasting session pages included built in aggregators that list subsequent blog articles that mention certain key words, tying the conversation into the context of the presentations.

My burning question now, “Have we reached a point where robust wireless Internet in the presenation halls has become just as essential as the LCD projector?” We’ve become accustomed to multimedia teaching and learning. For NECC 2006 (San Diego), will facilitating multicasting be just as essential?

My 2¢ Worth!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.