After years attending to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting with the traveling band of Red Cedar Writing Project wiki-ers, bloggers, podcasters, and tweeters, I feel I have a good handle on how to hack a conference. In the past, we’ve been really cognizant of those of us at home, wishing we could be at the conference and wondering about all the wonderful things going on.
Part 1: hacking with internet access
When I attend a conference, it always seem that there is a lot of new information to process, new ideas to consider, and new people who I’ve met. It usually turns out that, for me, the synthesis of all that new stuff is where I end up implementing what I’ve learned into my work. Here are a few ways to approach that synthesis:
1. Take notes and POST them
I can’t tell you how often people have begged me for my email address or URL to get a copy of the notes I am taking. It’s not that I take excellent notes or anything, it’s usually that people really like to collaborate on notes. One excellent way to facilitate this if you are attending the conference in a large group, like we do at RCWP, is to utilize a wiki for notes. We actually make a page that re-creates the Annual Meeting schedule and then just link our notes off of that main hub.
Additionally, now that Google Docs doesn’t require a login to edit, linking to a public Google Doc is a nice way to share some notes from a session.
2. Reflect in blogs
I find that blog posts allow me expand and reflect on what I am learning and is where the real work comes in. This also allows more of a narrative of the conference to unfold, rather than long, sometimes disjointed, bulleted lists of notes. With internet access, it is quite easy to jump on a laptop and write-up a quick reflection between sessions, and usually I make time to blog before I go to bed to make sure to capture all of my thinking. Also, with smartphone apps that link to various services (WordPress and tumblr both have iphone apps, for example), I can even put my phone to work for a quick reflection.
Of course, for in the moment insights, tweeting is an excellent way to archive your learning and experiences. Twitter is the most famous of the microblogging services, and conference attendees are using hashtags (the # symbol with some type of signifier after it, for example, this year’s annual meeting hashtag is #nwpam10). Hashtags allow users to search twitter for all of the tweets related to the conference and is another great way to track what is going on. The great thing about twitter (and more on this in the next post) is that you can tweet via the web, via your smartphone app, or via SMS texts.
3. Talk to people about their experiences: Podcasting and Vodcasting
Another great way to capture the experience of a conference is to interview other attendees, presenters, and speakers about their experiences. I’ve interviewed authors like Jim Burke, Kelly Sassi, and Ron Clark about their views on education and been able to share those conversations with the folks back home. Other people at Red Cedar have interviewed authors like Jerry Spinelli and Chris Crutcher and taken those interviews home to their classrooms to share with their students. You’d be surprised how willing most people are to be interviewed. I always post these in a blog post along with some brief explanation: a great way to share the excitement of a conference.
4. Find out how other people are sharing their information
The NWP Annual Meeting has a whole page devoted to ways one can connect to the meeting. One can post pictures to flickr, tweet, blog, post presentations to Slideshare and more. NWP is able to grab all these different posts only if each person tags in the way indicated. So for tweets, tag with #nwpam10 and on flickr, Slideshare, all blog posts, youtube videos and the like should all be tagged with nwpam10. That way a quick search on the tag will yield all of the relevant photos, blog posts, vodcasts, podcasts, presentations, etc.
5. Respond on designated spaces
NWP has a facebook page and a Ning designated for conversations and reflections on the Annual Meeting. At the very least, post a comment or two in one of those spaces about your experiences.
6. Enjoy yourself!
Only do as much as you can and take each of these suggestions as an invitation to share your learning in different media. I do it because I love learning new things and sharing them with others. I like going back and remembering, years later, different experiences I’ve had (last year, I met Billy Collins! Wow!). I only do as much as is still enjoyable for me and no more. I know that with so many invited to share, we do a really nice job capturing the conversation.
For more information:
- How to Hack a Conference (AKA Attend One Productively) by Brian Croxall
- National Writing Project Annual Meeting 2010: How to Connect Online–> Let us know where you will be sharing your learning by registering your blog or other web spaces.
- 7 Tips–How to tweet during a live conference