Saturday, March 13, 2010

How About a Twittference?


I've been using Twitter as a professional tool for about three months now. Many of my colleagues don't understand when I tell them that using Twitter has been the most beneficial professional development experience I have had in sixteen years of teaching, and I am being totally sincere when I say that.

The connections I have made to intelligent and thoughtful people, the resources they use, the ideas they have and the stimulating dialog they offer have been unbelievable- all for free and in the simplest form of distributed learning I have experienced by far. So in the context of professional development, I've been wondering lately how this wonderful medium can be spread to include more teachers that have their own intellect, resources, ideas and conversations to share. I've been wondering too if there is a way to combine Twitter for educators with the the more traditional elements of teacher professional development conferences that people seem to remain comfortable with in our profession (face to face, keynote speakers, the social factor of networking, trade displays, etc.)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy conferences and have spoken at many, but lately I'm concerned that big ideas and good messages that should stick, don't as a result of the drive through PD format that is so prevalent these days. One shot two or three hour mini-seminars leave many feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to go next with a concept before they trudge off to the next two or three hour mini-seminar. Many conferences have become so huge, with so many topics and conversations going on, that I fear that participants fail to see the trees for the forest. They get lost in the magnitude of the process at the expense of zoning in on a key bit of information that could lead to a long-term, sustainable change in the way they operate.

So here's my idea... what if the sharpness and 'get to the point' qualities of Twitter could be applied to a large scale conference? I see delegates being offered 'sessions' that would be, say fifteen minutes long (leaving lots of opportunity for in-between time to meet new people, build networks, reflect) on any number of topics, but that were organized like hashtags into broader sections (for example- assessment, technology, literature, behavior, etc.) for organizational purposes. Each fifteen minute session would include a condensed and specific introduction to the idea, topic, pedagogical idea or whatever, and once introduced, each topic could be extended and discussed via Twitter under the hashtag that corresponds to it.  Handouts would be limited to one page including a list of web links that the presenter wanted to include that correspond to the topic and could serve to extend the concept. It would be kind of like speed dating; quick and dirty, no frills and hopefully leading to a longer term connection via the extension of each topic on Twitter and through the web links each presenter would provide.

I'm thinking a cool way to introduce Twitter to delegates at this conference who aren't familiar with it would be to offer a keynote tutorial showing people the basics. For those who are familiar with Twitter, any number of extra keynotes could also be offered addressing other big picture education reform topics or inspirational messages (and I've met many via Twitter that could provide these messages.) In addition to the whole thing being planned on Twitter and marketed through the education tweeters network, I think restricting speaker proposals from those who already access Twitter would keep the project grounded in Twittilosophy. They would propose their session presentations via #Twittference2010. A small group of organizers and logistics specialists would take care of the schedule and location, and we're off!

What do you think?
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