ACEC 2008 Obs Continued

Well here we are, the last Keynote, (and at least it is far more relevant than another corresponding presentation on another day). Here goes some more random thoughts;

  • Big Question??? Who does the vetting for keynotes and how much does sponsorship influence the choice of presenters? It is a truism that you will very rarely find a Keynote that inspires and transfixes a whole theatre full of delegates. It is also relatively rare to find keynoters who leave you wondering what there message was really about and how it was that they can have gained sponsorship for their appearance. Unfortunately amongst many delegates that I spoke to we had the latter rather than the former happen for one presentation. When taken with what appeared to be a significant disconnect between the presenter’s espoused level of technical capability and what she was exhibiting I and many others I spoke to were quite disappointed.
  • Mea culpa I need to add here that having given a down mark to said keynoter, my first presentation would also have to be rated as very disappointing. I too had technical issues, (see previous post). Coming at the start of my session these threw me a little even though I am usually seasoned enough to know that they are more than likely to occur. From then on the flow of the session was not there at all so I do have sympathy for the previously mentioned keynoter. It should be noted however that I paid my own way for the conference and not being sponsored. (As an aside, I know that I have presented the same session before in a much more engaging, relevant and empowering manner so this heightens my personal disappointment in my presentation. I still think the content is okay but will stand corrected on that too.)
  • Do we sometimes downplay local for the visiting expert? Two locally based keynoters were deserving of addressing the whole group but were put in parallel keynotes whilst a number of others concurrent presenters, Greg, Martin, deserved at least parallel Keynote status.
  • As always there were also a number of other concurrent presenters who were deserving of better program placement or other recognition. In the age of user generated content maybe it is time to suggest that prospective presenters should provide audio or video based abstracts that contain some of the session content, (often text based abstracts can be significantly misleading both in a positive and negative way).
  • How important is it and for what purpose should politicians address conferences? Being read a speech on government policy, being told how much projected funding is in the pipeline, (given the financial meltdown how much will we see?), being given what could be construed as platitudes about how important teachers and professional organisations are, all of this without the aid of visual presentation, (yeah I know Julia is a busy person but hey, even the Hollowmen can work up a PowerPoint I’m sure). It has been suggested by others who have heard the Deputy PM speak, (not read a speech) at conferences before that she is much more engaging, perhaps she might have been better advised to have been a little more “off the cuff” in this presentation. (Maybe the organisers might also have said that said Julia was busy and needed to attend to matters of state and was therefore unable to answer questions rather than telling the delegates to remain seated whilst the minister left the theatre.
  • Oh having the program thrown out because the Deputy PM was unable to meet her appointed time was a problem later in the day. Presenters in the last session suffered the most when many delegates left the conference to go back to get frocked up for the Dinner later that night.
  • Interesting to track the use of Twitter tags #acec08. There are some 8-12 delegates, (it fluctuates daily), using Twitter to microblog about the conference. Generally there are some interesting reflections happening and from other tweets there are a number of followers of the stream out there. I do wonder about the transitory nature of the conversation though and if folks are favoriting tweets. It’s also interesting to benchmark 2 Twitter tag aggregators, Twitscoop and Tweme. Neither pick up all the tweets together but are both interesting ideas that help serve as a filter.
  • Interesting to see how different Twitterers use the interface. @ackygirl aka Amanda using her mobile, has been a standout in the way she has been able to distill the essence of a range of presentations at all times maintaining the flow. The challenge is to aggregate this traffic in a meaningful way so that a deeper reflection can be made as first impressions can be only part of the construction.
  • Whoever was in charge of catering has done a fabulous job as there is always sufficient at all times. It is also great to have lots of top ups. Maybe it would help to have a few more tables around for folks to stand and eat at.
  • It is important to check out your slides on the big screen and the focus of the projector. At times I thought my eyes were failing me in some sessions.
  • Make sure that the computer supplied has the capability to run the movie. Having lip synch problems is a little diverting but when males speak with female voice it is really unnerving. Not sure how many were actually listening to the message. At least we were given a link to a YouTube version.
  • The venue for this conference is eminently suitable with a range of rooms all well signposted and within easy distance of each other.
  • Maybe the Poster Sessions could have been more centrally situated and promoted a little more. It’s not often that you can get a one on one with one of the developers of Quest Atlantis, Bronwyn Stuckey as one lucky poster session attendee did. Maybe most delegates don’t really know what a poster session is and how it works, perhaps a note in the program defining a poster session might be useful.
  • The organizing committee and other helpers were quite prominent in their caps, (as were the members of the next ACEC committee with their scarves). Having said that the Canberra folk whilst always being helpful in the extreme were never intrusive or sought to impose on the delegates.
  • Whilst I have been rather nitpicking in some of these observations most have been written live in session or as soon thereafter without a lot of considered thought. As like many, I tend to notice the things that you don’t expect to see, (usually read glitches), the dot points should be read with this in mind.
  • Overall, from this correspondent’s standpoint, the conference was worth attending for, (not necessarily in any order);
    • the conversations held outside of the presentations
    • extending and further nurturing networks, (online is fine but f2f still brings with it nuances that even a Skype video call fails to enable)
    • becoming re-acquainted with the breadth of the continuum regarding the place of ICT’s in education
    • being challenged by seeking to make relevance of presentations that you disagreed with
    • exploring new and emerging tools and toys, (as an aside I think many of these are questionable in their market focus so it is going to be increasingly important to help teachers become critical consumers of these and even better, develop ways to use them other than those of the sales staff)
    • seeing new presenters come forward with fresh and alternate points of view, (even if some of the content is not totally “cutting edge” it is vital for the overall health of the community that new faces are given an opportunity to explore their work in a public forum)
    • at the same time it is important for regular presenters to re-evaluate what they are saying
    • being able to have an extended period of time, free from family, work and other constraints to immerse in a single focus environment

PS please excuse the tense changes thoughout this post as it has been written across the course of a day and beyond. Your thoughts would be appreciated, especially but not necessarily, if you were at ACEC 2008.

Image Attribution Matthew Lesko at Ad:tech from Steve Rhodes

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4 Responses to ACEC 2008 Obs Continued

  1. So my decision to go on a family holiday to Mount Gambier wasn’t a bad one compared to trying my luck in the ACEC08 arena. I guess I’m finding that traditional conferences are less and less engaging to me – but it is interesting that it isn’t easy to dig up social media references to the event. Compare that to Learning 2.0 where most of the conference can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Your posts come up first when searching for “acec08” – love to hear more from you personally regarding the out-of-touch keynoters. Maybe ACEC’10 in Melbourne might be a possibility for me – do you think the ICT community in Australia might be utilising social media effectively by then?

  2. Well, John I am still to write my reflective post on the conference, but I could not agree more with what you have said. Some of the keynotes and other sessions were disappointing and I wonder whether the uni lecturers present their papers, in order to maintain their positions. I would rather listen to a classroom teacher anytime.
    I also was ignorant of the poster sessions running, especially those upstairs, as I would have loved to have sat down with Bron and looked at Quest Atlantis. Even though Jess and I have done the PD it was sometime ago and I had many questions to ask her. I did like the fact that the food etc was where the trade exhibitors were though as their sponsorship is an integral part of a conference. At Shanghai, the exhibitors were put in the basement, where there was little traffic and complaints justifiably, came from them.
    However, a conference on that scale is a huge achievement, but hopefully experience, hindsight and reflection, can help our Melbourne conference be a big success.

  3. Interesting if lengthy post.
    1. I did not go to this conference. I heard about it from a colleague. I plan to speak to this person about the conference. Especially if there was employer sponsorship. It is considered a “techy type conference”, my words. Pity!
    2. All organisers of all conferences of all types should be initiating online, backchannel, unconference and edubloggercon elements.
    3. I followed the conference though twemes, #acec08. I appreciated that very much. Says me, very much liking 140 character reports now.
    4. I would say “well done” to Julia Gillard for attending the conference. Has it ever happened before?
    5. I like the Pecha Kucha model.
    6. Poster sessions + brief commentary should be promoted.
    Thanks for your reflection.

  4. Mick says:

    I’m interested that twoof the above comments are from people who didn’t attend – this endorses the need for some extension beyond the f2f as discussed earlier.

    I was there and while “happy enough” really felt that lots more could have been achieved. It is easy to “nit pick” but the keynotes were not all that great. A number of the Uni papers reflect a bygone model although a couple were real gold.

    A small suggestion:

    formalise the opportunity for people to actually meet up f2f rather than relying on the “bumping into” policy. I discovered John Pearce from someone’s blog post the day after the conference. As I didn’t know anything about him before I went and had no archive to check out (how about a 20sec YouTube taggged post by every attendee as part of signing up?) I feel as though I missed an opportunity. I haven’t been to NECC (in f2f mode) but sensed that the “Cybercafe” had a real impact.

    I was at a small conference which had a Matthew Room – from Mt: 7: 7-8 “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be openend to you”, for the nongospelized – People met, advertised and taught it was a raging success, we are going to put in in the morning tea room next time! A bit like blogging f2f.

    By no means a waste of time bit if we want the big audiences and crowds – added buzz, others said it was much smaller than Cairns – we need to connect people more easily.

    See you in Melbourne??

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