When I looked at the programme for the IATEFL conference in Harrogate I was delighted to see just how many technology-related talks there were this year: over 50 out of a programme of around 400 talks. It seemed to me that technology had finally become manistream and that was a real pleasure for me. Apart from those talks there were signature events such as the Longman one run by my dear friend and colleague Nicky Hockly, the LTechs SIG pre-conference event which blended Twitter, Second Life and ‘real’ life perfectly and also the online conference, which featured live TV, recorded sessions, forums and the ever-present Twitter backchannel.
For those who see no purpose in – or need for – technology in learning, just try the recorded conference and have a think…
However, what was more surprising to me was the great joy and pleasure of meeting up with the PLN from all over the world. Speaking to Andy Hockley after the first evening, we both commented on how odd, yet how pleasant, it is to walk into a pub and see around twenty people, eighteen of whom you feel you know really well, but have never met. There were huge hugs and smiles, meet-ups arranged by Twitter, the photographs. Watching people rushing over to meet online friends with odd names, shouting out their delight. It was an amazing feeling.
But more amazing was watching what happened on Thursday in some of the tech-related sessions run by members of the PLN. Normally for a tech talk one might expect thirty or forty attendees (more, of course, depending on level of notoriety or particular content), but this year each session was a mob-scene with people sitting on the floor, standing up in corners and yes – being turned away (I was turned away from two because the rooms were bursting). The real joy, though, was watching what happened at the end of these sessions. Again, normally you’d expect three or four people to approach the presenter to ask a question. This year was different, however – I stood watching as lines of twenty people formed to kiss the presenters, hug them and express their joy at the session and the collective success of the PLN.
It was truly an amazing feeling, and I think the conference was pwned by the techies, no doubt about that. Techies who are human, loving and supporting. This was our first conference and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like next year, but I know I can’t wait.
As with every year, I had less time to go to things, and more time running around working on the online side of the conference, having meetings, etc. It does get harder every year, knowing more people and having more to do means that I don’t get to many sessions and don’t have time to really spend with everyone I would like to spend time with. Like many others, I spend most of each day running down corridors noddign at old friends and acquaintances and saying the ever-popular ‘we must catch up sometime’. But it rarely happens… and that’s a shame. I’m just glad I get to spend time with lots of them online, in Twitter, Second Life and elsewhere during the year.
I did manage some of the evening sessions, and the odd publisher party. It was good to see old friend and colleague Lindsay Clandfield launching his Global series, a little of Jeremy Harmer and Steve Bingham’s beautiful music extravaganza, the Pecha Kucha featuring the amazingly-beheeled poet Karenne, the sparkling Burcu and others. I loved Petra Pointer’s talk on Twitter – elegantly delivered and well thought-out. I loved booking in some of the PLN for interviews on IATEFL Online (so that if we didn’t speak too much at conference, I could at least catch up with them on video!), the plenaries were magic and so much more. And I enjoyed the time in the conference bar chatting, singing and (I suspect) making a nuisance of ourselves late into the night.
Wish I could have spent more time with people, with friends old and new, with the PLN, but it´s tricky when you’re combining a variety of jobs. Next time, if this conference is going to be like this in the future, I shall have to resolve to work less and play more, get to more sessions and just have more downtime. But until then, I think I shall simply smile at the thought that the geeks inherited the IATEFL earth this year, and all their base are belong to us . Hell, even Herbert Puchta was railroaded into signing up for Twitter. Result!