First a confession..
I didn’t actually go to Learning Techologies 2011, I didn’t even go to the free Exhibition, or any of the seminars. So why am I bothering to write about it?
Despite this rather major handicap I still got an awful lot out of the event and to be honest I feel slightly guilty about it, because it didn’t cost me, or my company, a penny.
So why didn’t I go? (Let’s get the excuses out of the way)
Well, mainly because I don’t work a regular 9-5, I work the equivalent of four days in three and the two I don’t work happen to be on Wednesday and Thursday. I could be wrong but I’m not sure my two youngest would have enjoyed it all that much and frankly it would have been tricky getting back to Bristol in time to do the school run.
What did I get out of it if I didn’t go and how?
Once I realised there was no chance of swapping days with my wife (she’s a solicitor and therefore far more important than I) I thought I could at least monitor the Twitter steam while the kids were sleeping. This led me to revisit the online community site for Learning Technology. I’d been a member for a while, but not contributed as regularly as I probably should have. I casually clicked onto the IPTV link, which hosts video footage of previous conferences, without much expectation and all of a sudden I was watching Cathy Moore ‘s session on action mapping live with the accompanying slides – amazing. I also managed to catch snippets of Itiel Dror, Chris Atherton, Craig Taylor and Paul Simbeck-Hampson.
So what can you learn from this?
1. Learning Technologies is much more that a conference/exhibition. Throughout the year I’ve attended several excellent webinars, with Neil Lasher, Julie Wedgwood, Charles Jennings and more all of which have had a positive impact on my work and as a result I’ve taken valuable messages and practices back into my company. The resources on the community site are incredibly generous; all the previous conference sessions are available as MP3s and /or videos, you can access the slide sets from many of the presenters and webinar recordings are also available. On top of all that there’s a responsive community of experts willing to share advice and knowledge through the forum.
2. The power of Twitter, although I missed the obvious networking aspects of being at a conference, I was still able to participate through Twitter and I found some extremely interesting new people to follow, brought together by the #LT11uk. I’m a relatively new convert to Twitter, but I totally understand why it’s the number one learning professional’s tool on the c4lpt site. I’ve been reading blogs quite widely for a couple of years now, but the potential for learning through Twitter is so much greater because it creates so many more connections between people, opinion and resources and frankly I’m hooked.
One of the key themes of debate coming out of the conference itself seems to be the disconnect between the exhibition and the conference and how this can be bridged by creating more interaction and links between the two (check out the lively debate on the comments section of Steve Wheeler’s blog ).
Perhaps there is some scope to add a space within the exhibition to broadcast certain parts of the conference live or recorded. This raises obvious questions about why you would pay to attend the conference if you could access the “content”. But I think that the organisers must (rightly) believe that there is much more to a conference than listening to the good and the great. The discussions that follows in the breaks and the social events are surely of equal if not greater value? I presume this is why they were willing to stream the conference live in the first place. It would only be a small step further to make this explicitly available at the exhibition wouldn’t it?