While 35 of us attended a regional conference in Washington state, EduBloggerCon became one of the big stories at NECC. The two events had something in common — participants in online networks found added value in face-to-face meetings. PNAIS TechShare participants mostly communicate through a listserv. This week’s conference allowed us to put names to faces, meet old acquaintances, and intensively explore ideas that we had kicked around via email for months. EduBloggerCon participants expressed the same ideas. Bloggers who had spent the previous year reading and commenting on each others’ posts found great value in sitting down with each other for an entire day.
Ad-hoc organization is an essential ingredient in such meet-ups. Participants show up having only loosely framed some essential questions or lined up a couple of internal speakers. Conversations twist and turn among different topics, keeping a high level of vitality and facilitating participation by many. Any participant can take the conversation in a new direction by asking a question, throwing a curveball into the discussion, or driving the data projector for a while.
I and many other members of such affinity networks profess that they have greater value for one’s professional practice than traditional, highly organized conferences. Everyone seems to be doing it. BAISNet is a fine example of a group of education professionals who chat daily by email and then spontaneously organize informal meetings at one member’s school when one topic appears particularly hot. Paul Nelson recently organized a Moodle meet-up at the NWRESD. And those are just the networks that I have found out about first-hand! I look forward to more of this high-value professional networking.