Mar 30 2010
Not virtual but virtually there: an intimate but by no means inferior Istek experience!
Last weekend I participated in the ISTEK conference in Istanbul. It was one of the most enjoyable conferences in my life and I experienced it looking over the Danube in Budapest in the comfort of my own home. For the first time in my life, I spent the whole day watching an ELT conference online and…tweeting. In fact, I tweeted 171 times on Sunday during 3 talks by Jeremy Harmer, Herbert Puchta and Luke Prodromou. That’s about a third of all the tweets I’ve ever tweeted since I got onto twitter on October 10th last year.
Getting onto twitter in the first place
I’d written an article for our Hungarian IATEFL magazine, (see pages 29-32) about twitter, featuring the opinions of 10 different ELT people, Jeremy Harmer @Harmerj , Shonah Kennedy @MissShonah, Scott Thornbury @thornburyscott ,Gavin Dudeney@dudeneyge ,Burcu Akyol@burcuakyol, Ken Wilson @kenwilsonlondon, Lindsay Clandfield@lclandfield , Máté Elek @elekmathe, Dennis Newson and Németh Nóra @noranem . It was fun writing to them over the summer, I wasn’t actually on twitter then, but through writing the article I became curious. I followed a few people without signing up, puzzling Ken Wilson in the process, who finally persuaded me to try it out myself after our Hungarian IATEFL conference.
Tell me something – you clearly have access to twitter – if you visit, why don’t you put your six penn’orth in? What is clear from my dealings with the ELT gang on twitter is that most of them, including some quite big names, are keen to find out what is going on in every part of the English-teaching community. And sometimes, there are funny spats that you can REALLY put your six penn’orth in.
Just a thought.
My first four tweets
1) a very small step in the whole scheme of things, but a giant leap for me:) 12:10 PM Oct 10th, 2009
2) good discussion about using poetry in teaching, + specifically poets who gave birth to the mersey sound in 1967 12:52 PM Oct 10th, 2009
Preparing for Luke Prodromou’s plenary talk at Istek 2010, Istanbul Turkey
On Sunday afternoon, before Luke Prodromou’s plenary Laura Ponting @lauraponting in Vietnam sent this tweet:
I tweeted and Anna retweeted
Somehow it felt great to be watching this together in Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, Portugal, Vietnam Greece and England. Alice and Sharon in France, Anton in Scotland, Anna in Greece, Amanda in England and Sue from here, there and everywhere :) (according to her twitter bio) were also with us @ALiCe__M @aelloway @Britsmiles @Amandalanguage @esolcourses @annabooklover
I had watched talks on the internet before, particularly the great TED talks with people like J.K.Rowling, Ken Robinson and Csíkszentmihályi Mihály but these had always been on my own and without twitter. This time I was in the pleasant company of fellow tweeters in different parts of the world watching the same talk at the same time, along with a lecture hall full of people in Istanbul. How cool and interconnected is that? What is even more intriguing is that these are people who I have only got to know over the last two months since I started writing a blog, but they are people who I already feel an enormous amount of empathy with.
Sharing our thoughts from afar but sharing them with some of those in the conference hall too
I don’t smoke but at training sessions I always feel that the smokers who sneek off in between sessions are having a much better time than the rest of us, secretly sharing thoughts on the day’s proceedings. On Sunday I felt like one of the smokers and that those of us who were watching and tweeting from afar were actually having at least as good a time as the people attending the conference in Istanbul and by no means an inferior time! Maybe the fact that we probably weren’t hung over after a heavy night’s drinking and lack of sleep was something in our favour. I don’t know, but for me it was a completely new experience and one that I was very much motivated and excited by.
Luke Prodromou’s talk was great as always, he was introduced as being one of the three most engaging speakers in ELT. I made myself comfortable with a cup of coffee and bar of chocolate and prepared to tweet. Going through my mind was not only to tweet word for word what Luke said, Lindsay even had prepared tweets for us the day before on his slides! I also wanted to comment a bit and try to relate what Luke was saying to other ideas and people in the conference. As I was doing this I was thinking all the time about how this experience differed from taking notes for myself in a traditional lecture. The differences are enormous. Knowing that what I was writing was immediately being read by others made me much more focused in what I decided to tweet.
Some of my tweets during Luke’s talk
#istek great to focus on reflection in final plenary, guess it’s the function of a final plenary
#istek nice to see “believed in students” there, echoes what Herbert Puchta was saying
#istek Luke cleverly draws us into challenging our own perceptions of good teaching
#istek Luke encouraging us to always challenge our perceptions of how learning takes place
#istek my best teachers were hopeless at classroom management!
#istek and great to watch it with everyone online, first time in my life I’ve experienced this, can somebody tell people to keep sound on?
#istek we want to hear the end of the conference too and not just the talks, thanks!
#istek thanks ever so much Luke, great talk!
This was the first time I had ever tweeted during a talk and I found myself wanting to contribute to the whole experience as constructively as I could. As I mentioned, this meant not only tweeting what Luke was saying but trying to make sense of it at the same time and also adding bits of my own commentary. I found the whole thing an incredibly rich and creative experience. It transforms a talk into a dynamic shared experience between all those people who can read each others’ comments and follow the talk at the same time. The implications for lectures in my own university are huge and I know this is already being done in some of the richer parts of the world now. See this blogpost where twitter in lectures is discussed.
I tweeted this message at the end of Luke’s talk:
And Anton in Scotland retweeted Carol’s tweet:
It was also great to get encouragement from in the conference hall.
And had to smile at Nick Jaworski’s @TurklishTEFL comment
Nick continued to keep us updated about about both the content and the process of the conference proceedings. Thanks Nick! And thanks Ken for giving us a shout and a wave at the end, really nice of you!
Is there a place that is not face2face or online but somewhere else?
There were other tweets from people capturing the communal experience we had all been through but the evening tweets when Sara Hannam joined the discussion made me really think about the way in which we use the expressions “virtual” and “face2face” and that there was something missing particularly with the way we use the word virtual. The IATEFL magazine I had edited last September was called “Face to Face and Online: getting the balance right” but now I find myself more and more questioning that binary oversimplification. It certainly didn’t capture the experience of watching Luke’s talk with all those people who were online and not in Istanbul and also those online who were actually in Istanbul tweeting from the conference. This felt like something different. This was the evening exchange of tweets with Sara, myself, Vicky, Jeremy, Anna in Greece and Anna in Portugal:
Reflection on the day in the evening after the event
sjhannam Sounds like #ISTEK was a real success both F2F and virtual. Well done to all! Great to feel so much positive energy everyone!
(I tweeted “I shall be Released” by the Band from the film “The Last Waltz” at the end of a very long day! )
And that was the end of an incredible day, 171 tweets later. On Saturday morning Andy Hockley had tweeted:
“Think I’ll go off twitter for the weekend. It’s a bit like a live version of one of those “you missed the most amazing party” conversations” and then followed it up with, “It’s not exactly annoying, just sort of “wishing I was somewhere else”. Hope no-one stops tweeting because of my jealousy :-)”
Well I was very happy to be in Budapest, very happy that people didn’t stop tweeting and very happy to be part of the party that I certainly didn’t miss! And finally, in the words of the great Douglas Adams…
in his article “How to Stop worrying and Learn to Love the Internet” he ends up by saying:
We are natural villagers. For most of mankind’s history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.
Interactivity. Many-to-many communications. Pervasive networking. These are cumbersome new terms for elements in our lives so fundamental that, before we lost them, we didn’t even know to have names for them.
Thanks Burcu and all your team who got this whole thing together. Online coverage 10 out of 10, fabulous closing ceremony, hats off to you, the Istek foundation and the 100 other Istek members you mentioned in your closing address who were involved in the organisation of the conference. I would really welcome any comments on any aspect of the conference including those who experienced it online and those tweeting who contributed to the online experience of everybody else.
teşekkür ederim or is it sağ olun ?