By Tom Whitby

I am on a flight returning home after a successful Presentation at the New York State Association of Computers and Technologies in Education Annual Conference, NYSCATE. I was pleased with the outcome, but I did make a few observations about how presenting at these conferences is beginning to change and may never be the same.

Presentations for any educational conference are the backbone of the conference. They are usually the main reason why educators attend conferences, wild parties notwithstanding. It is a great accomplishment for an educator to have a proposal for a conference presentation accepted and placed on the Program. Being judged and accepted by one’s colleagues is both an accomplishment and a thrill and for some, the process could also be terrifying. Presenting is considered by many to be one of those thresholds in an educator’s career. I have done several presentations at various conferences over the years and I have been moved by the positive experience with each event. Because it requires putting one’s self out there for all to see, most presenters do a great job of preparing and presenting to the best of their ability.

There has recently come a change for presenters that I just became aware of with my recent experience. I was at a keynote speech by David Jakes. He made a huge impression with his introduction to Augmented Reality. It was very cool. Jakes was engaging and informative, everything we have come to expect from a keynote speaker. He could have smiled more, but otherwise he was great. During his speech my Blackberry gonged. This was not a notification that an angel got her wings, but an alert that a message arrived. As I took out the Blackberry to turn off the sound, I thought I would sneak a peek at Ubertwitter.  Twitterers understand the call of the stream.

I was amazed to find ten tweets about the very keynote speech I was watching. I could not believe how rude these audience members could be tweeting during a speech. I immediately tweeted out to these people. If they could be rude, I should be allowed to be rude too. I sent out about five tweets. Jakes received rave reviews from all the tweeters present. He deserved it, because he was excellent. I came away inspired by Jakes and terrified by Twitter.

The terror came in the fact that the next day I had to present my PLN Presentation and I knew many of those same tweeters would be in my room. I attended a panel discussion the next morning and there were over a hundred people in attendance. The Panel was again excellent and again several tweets went out saying so. In addition Tweeters were quoting the pearls of wisdom from the panelists, word for word. I had two hours to go and no pearls of wisdom from me were even on the horizon.

The idea of a Twitter test entered my mind and now I had another standard to meet. Not only did the presentation have to be accepted by educators in general, but it needed to be accepted by Tweeters specifically. In my mind’s eye I envisioned my three thousand followers opening their Twitterstream and seeing a tweet “Whitby sucks in Real time” or worse “RT: Whitby sucks in Real time” GLOBAL sounded in my brain. Even Europe, Asia, and Australia will know I suck in real time.

I showed up in my room early and of course, the technology that we tweet about all the time, let me down. The computer screen appeared sideways and it was the same on the projection screen as well. A frantic call to the tech folks scrambled three techs to the room. Any more than one is a problem, since there is not one opinion but three to resolve the problem of the sideways screen. I am a dead man in the eyes of the world. It was time to start, and I could not wait for the fix, so I began the presentation. Shortly after my introduction, the techies came through and the projector and computer were up and running with a picture in the correct orientation.

Somehow I managed to conceal my fears until this public outing in this Blog. The point that I think needs to be made, however, is that twitter, or whatever app is to follow, will forever change the way we receive Presentations. Hopefully, Twitter will force us all to do better or be exposed globally. A real concern is what about those twitterers who don’t get it and tweet out bad stuff about the speaker with little regard for reason or feelings. Twitter will have a significant effect on presenters and presentations. Maybe we should ban it?

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Tom Whitby

Tom Whitby is a Professor of Education in Secondary English, Linkedin group founder and owner of Technology-Using Professors, TWITTER-Using Educators, as well as NING-Using Educators.>

Read Tom Whitby’s PLN Blueprint series to learn how to develop an effective PLN.