Yesterday I attended the TechForum Conference in New York. It was the second tech conference I have attended in two weeks. The first was a small conference on Long Island attended mostly by Long Island teachers just starting to use technology in their classrooms. So I was anticipating much the same for this second conference. I was happily proven wrong. This was a much larger conference with people from all around the tri-state area, as well as surrounding states. The presenters were not local teachers. They were big names in the ed. tech world. And I "knew" many of them. But more on that later.
As I was driving to the conference, I was listening to a podcast of a recent edtechtalk show. In this show, Jeff Lebow interviewed Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach & Darren Kuropatwa about the K12 Online Conference. They talked about how the conference was going, how it was created and organized, where the idea came from. One of the last things discussed, was whether or not having online conferences would hurt face to face conferences like NECC. Considering the cost (free for online, costly for NECC), the inconvenience (going to workshops on their time or your time), and the drawback of having to chose among presentations for f2f conferences, I came to the conclusion that, yes, online conferences would indeed begin to eliminate f2f ones. And then the day began.
Upon arriving, I grabbed my breakfast and headed for a table near the front in order to get a good view of Alan November, the keynote speaker. I fully intended to ask him if I could record his speech on UStream. (I did, he agreed, and it can be found at techforumNY.wikispaces.com.) When my colleague Christine Southard arrived, we chatted about the presentations and then were asked to leave the room for the sound check. While waiting outside, I spotted my first "celebrity". Ryan Bretag passed by. My heart started pounding. I began to get excited. Of course, I only recognized him because of his tiny little twitter picture.
We were allowed back into the room where I quickly spotted Steve Dembo. Yes, it was his new twitter picture that enabled me to recognize him, too. Thank you, twitter.
So before the keynote began, I make my way around the room. First to Steve Dembo. I introduce myself and he actually recognizes my name (at least he pretended to, which was so nice). Then on to Ryan sitting next to him. And, next to David Jakes, with whom I had spent some of the weekend, in a manner of speaking, thanks to John Pederson and his back channel room. My heart is racing. I can barely contain myself. I get introduced to Gwen Solomon, who I discover is a celebrity in her own right.
Back to my seat for the speech. I start my UStream, send out a twit, and 15 people show up from around the world to view Alan November. Christine sends out periodic twits about the conference and one twitter friend comes back saying he is sitting in the back of the room. We wait until the keynote is finished and head to the back to meet Patrick Higgins and his friend, David Gorecki. Now I am flying!
The rest of the day went well. David Jakes and Jon Orech gave a great presentation about digital storytelling that gave me some fantastic ideas for the classroom (see the wiki for the presentation). Later David led us through a presentation on Google Earth. Again, fascinating. Can't wait to start playing around. I introduced myself to Peggy Sheehy. I won a site license for my school from NetTrekker. I met with some DEN members afterwards for an IMAX movie and dinner. And I drove home listening to the rest of the edtechtalk conference.
But the best, absolute most fantastic part of the day was lunch. Christine and I ate lunch with all of them. David Jakes and Steve Dembo and Gwen Solomon. Ryan Bretag, Patrick Higgins and David Gorecki. Our twitter friends, our chat room friends, our webcast friends. And it was comfortable and fun and exciting all at once. Like chatting in a chat room, only right there, face to face.
So I take back what I said about online conferences making f2f conferences obsolete. I would gladly pay the money to connect with my friends. I think David's workshops were all the more powerful and enjoyable because I knew him. And, as Ryan said, (forgive me if I don't get this exactly right but I wasn't recording the conversation) "Now I will have more vested in the reading of your twits simply because I know you better." And Steve pointed out that, because we meet online, "I know you better than I know some of the people I work with."
So I am working hard to find the means to get to NECC next summer. And forgive me if, when I see you, I point and stammer and stare. I am so anxious to meet more of my twitter friends, my chatroom friends, my PD friends. I can't wait to meet you all face to face!