Yesterday was the second EduBloggerCon which I have attended. Unlike the first one I attended at NECC-Atlanta, I was not anticipating this as much as I did last year. Part of it was wondering if this event was overly hyped and would not be able to meet the higher expectations. My experience this year was one which was mixed. I enjoyed being able to connect with friends, both old and new, and I did participate in a few sessions, such as the discussion of Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody, that captured the essense and excitement that I felt last year. But there was an undercurrent during the event which was unhealthy and threatens this event.
While processing why the experience was different, I began to think about what was different. First was the increased number of people who attended. Rather than being a smaller group of 80, it was a larger group of nearly 200 people. As you scale up a project, you have to wonder what the critical mass is before the conference becomes more unwieldy. Maybe the limit was crossed yesterday. There were fewer sessions in each during each block and there were more who wanted to present. The idea of voting using technology got in the way of just a simple raising of hands scheduling on the fly. As a result, Sylvia Martinez’s session on the reflective teacher researcher was got canceled in mid-day because of a the high demand of another session. It was unfortunate and a conversation that I will personally regret not happening.
A second factor was the venue itself. Like last years, the room was set up in industrial model rows. But what didn’t happen like last year is that the main room was not reconfigured into a larger circle where everyone could be included in the conversation. I don’t think that it was intentional to try to exclude individuals, but rather grew. Instead, their was a closed circle of insiders and a place for lurkers to sit outside the circle. It really felt like junior high all over again. In the second room, the tables remained in straight, industrial period model rows and the conversation seemed to be directed at us. At Web 2.0 smackdown, there was a desire to allow multiple voices to be heard, but the standing room only nature of the space lost the intamicy that we experienced last year. Only in the sessions held in the Second Life space did it resemble an open discussion forum where ideas were freely shared.
Thirdly, there seemed to be a desire to twit out the sessions, create streams (audio and video) of the conversation, and create back channels to facilitate the conversation. At Atlanta, the focus was on having conversations with people without the intrusion of these other methods of communication. For me, it prevented people from being fully engaged and authentic. It happened a few times, such as the Shirky discussion, where there was a stream, but it did interfere with the connections and conversations. The back channel, which took root three days after EBC Atlanta, got in the way.
Lastly, there seemed to be more individuals who came with a personal agenda of self-promotion. There seemed to be more commercial connections and individuals concerned with being there and making a name. As discussed many other places, the presence of Pearson’s film crew added to this feeling.
I do not blame anyone for this. It is part of the growing pains that can occur as more individuals become interested in participating. I hope that all of us who are participating will be inclusive and supportive of others. We have to expand the conversation beyond the echo chamber. There will always be missteps and lessons which care learned. Let’s continue the conversation to make EduBloggerCon DC an event woth attending.
I want to thank Steve Hargadon for all of his efforts to make the event happen. Without his leadership, we would not have something to complain about. But instead of just complaining, why don’t some of us offer to help make this better, become involved in the solution, rather than being part of the problem.