Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Attending a Conference, without Attending a Conference

I adore conferences.  I live for them, but often, I can't find the time or the money to attend.  Sometimes, it's hard to leave my kids.  Sometimes it's hard to do the sub plans for two days.  (Face it, as teachers we know it's easier to come to work sick than to do the planning and followup-  the same thing goes with a planned day or two off.)   Still, conferences are my passion.  I love to attend, I love to learn, I love finding new things and bringing them back.  I may have solved some of my conference woes via twitter.

Last week, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) hosted their annual conference in Detroit.   I'll be honest, I didn't know about it, but, the timing wouldn't lend for me to attend, either.  I came across the hashtag on several PLN tweets on twitter and started following it.  I had a blast following the conference.  I learned so many things interactively.   I saved about twenty sites (I didn't know before) to my pocket site, I retweeted some, I favorited a little and I even joined in some of the conversation.  It was fabulous.

The best approach to following a conference on twitter is use an app such as tweetdeck or hootsuite.  I prefer tweetdeck, myself.   It can be downloaded directly to your device or you can use it in a browser.  Chrome even has an app.   Pop it open, add a column for the hashtag and voilà, you are in business.   I also suggest you create an account at pocket. This is the new and improved version of read it later which was an innovative way to save links to refer to at a later time.   I do just that, I follow along, read the tweets, add the links of interest to my pocket.  I go back later and read them over, learn the site, check out the tool.

One of the gentlemen I follow on twitter named Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) reminded me that one of the advantages of being a connected educator is virtual attendance at all the conferences.  Who said it has to be physical attendance?   I have attended conferences before the same way.  Sometimes I learn a lot, sometimes I learn very little.  It's defintely worth a shot, regardless.

What conferences are coming up that could be showing up on twitter?  There are a ton more if you visit the conference calendar website.


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