Recently (as in the past 6 months or so) I have become more aware of the power of Twitter in regards to back channeling at conferences. For those people who aren't aware of what back chaneling is, my basic definition is people who are 'live' at an event providing countless tweets to us poor souls who are unable to attend. These tweets provide non attenders with a feeling of actually being at the events and having an understanding of what is going on. When used in conjuction with tools such as UStream, non attenders can virtually be experiencing the same learning opportunities as the people at the conferences. But the key question is - Is it the same?
The reason that I thought that I would write this blog post is due to the fact that over the past couple of days, my Tweetdeck (which I love using and it is painful that it isn't running well at the moment) has been straining under the number of # tag columns that I have been putting in it. #Slide2Learn, #QSITE2010, #ISTE10 have joined my usual #eqelearn and #masterchef columns in providing me with so much content that it isn't fun. The #ISTE10 stream was actually out of control. So many links were passing by me at a rapid rate. I think that I added around 10 new blogs to my iGoogle (see my previous entry about my excitement) and activated my Diigo account and put it to work to bookmark some great content that I will use with my class this term. I also joined the Slide2Learn Ning, QSITE Ning and ISTE Ning. It really has been a busy couple of days!
But getting back to my key question - is it the same. By the sounds of it, some attendees at ISTE10 actually didn't go into key note addresses (and their has been a lot of thoughts about the opening key note and its lovely PowerPoint presentation) and sat outside and tweeted it up. I have to question this. If you could not get into the venue (eg it was sold out) that is one thing but I still would rather be there. I know last year that I missed out on the first day of eLearning Innovation Expo due to the fact that I had to attend 5 days of compulsory literacy training. I was only able to attend the second day. I loved the tweet stream from the first day, but nothing actually beat being there. I am really looking forward to this years eLearning Innovation Expo and am super excited that I am going to be actually meeting some of my PLN in person. I love how the tweet stream from these conferences 'adds value' to content being provided by discussing points of view and providing links but I think that I would prefer to actually be there.
In summary, back channeling has revolutionized the way that content is provided at conferences and feedback for presenters. If it is adding value, I think that it really is fantastic. But I think that it is an easy decision - if you can be there, nothing would be better.