Sunday, May 1, 2011

Professional development in your jammies

    Recently I’ve “attended” conferences without ever leaving my LaZBoy.  Many of us have taken online classes this way, but online conferences are a bit different.  And online conferences frequently offer ways to participate in real-time (synchronous) or at a time more convenient for you (asynchronous).

    Last month, I went to TCC (Technology, Colleges, and Community),, a great annual conference for college/university online teachers, but it also includes K12 online teachers.  While presentations spanned the day and well into the night, I couldn’t possibly attend them all (time zones I saw included Japan). 

    Some I was able to attend in real time, via Elluminate. Similar to GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect, Elluminate offers a whiteboard/slide space, sound, written chat for backchannel conversations or questions for presenter, ability for presenters to show their desktop, and many features for attendees (polls, hand-raise, asking question via microphone).  I really enjoy taking part in the backchannel and being able to ask the speaker questions.

    Right now, I’m participating in  iMoot,, an international Moodle conference based in Australia.  There are attendees from throughout the world Moodle community, including K12 teachers, college instructors, and developers.

    These conferences seem to cover about 18 hours in the day.  But if I can’t attend a particular session because either I’m teaching or I’m asleep, no problem.  Sessions are recorded as they occur, and can then be watched later.  The conferences makes the recordings available shortly after the conference ends, or even within 24 hours of the session.  And often these are available for months afterwards. 

    TCC provides the slides afterwards as well, so it’s possible to look at the slides to both refer to later, or to see if this is a session that I want to watch.  The slides usually include contact information for the speaker, so if I want to get in touch, it’s not hard. 

    Besides savings on travel costs and time, I can attend all the sessions, even those that are scheduled simultaneously.  And when my brain has fried, I can stop for awhile without missing out

    What do you need to attend?  A computer with a decent Internet connection.  Dial up simply will not do.  Elluminate and similar also need software to be installed on your computer, so if you’re going to participate in a conference from work, you might need to get this installed ahead of time (if, like me, your employer limits who can install software on your computer).  Also, all the capabilities use a lot of computer resources, so it’s worthwhile to close other programs and reboot so your memory isn’t tied up. 

    These conferences not only provide food for thought in their content, but provide ideas about presenting material, too. And each costs less than $100.  

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