All week I have been buzzing about the TEDx Ontario Ed event that I attended last Friday. Only, I wasn’t there.
I was sitting in a School Board Office in School District 69, Nanaimo, BC with a group of other interested teachers watching the event live via Livestream. We were also connected to the live events happening in London Ontario via an Adobe Connect link with other live viewing parties in Guelph, Windsor, Richmond Hill, Peterborough, Hamilton, Bowmanville, Brampton, Winnipeg, Lloydminister and Peace River. I was also following the #TEDxOntarioEd hashtag on Twitter and taking notes in my blog. And somehow the confluence of all these technologies made me feel connected enough to the events going on across the country that I can honestly say that occasionally I forget that I wasn’t there. In this blog post I am going to try and unpack the different ways these technologies helped to create this illusion.
To begin with there was the Livestream. Without the visual and audio to watch this experience would have obviously been entirely different. It certainly wasn’t without it’s hiccups. My understanding was that the hotel broadband was partially responsible for some of the time delays we experienced. Still, glitches and all, the Livestream did a very effective job of conveying the feel of the venue. The connection with other viewing parties across the country via Adobe Connect I think also added to the atmosphere. While we didn’t really interact much there was a feeling of being part of something larger. This played out most often when there was a glitch with the stream and we were trying to figure out what the problem was; a quick glance at the Adobe Connect screen and we could see comments from across Canada from viewers in the same boat. In a weird way I felt connected to these other viewers because we were all experiencing the same technical issues.
The other way I felt connected was via Twitter. The hashtag has got to be the simplest, yet most effective way to instantly form an online community around a particular topic, ever! By following the #TEDxOntarioEd hashtag on Twitter I was able to get some insight into what the organisers were doing and thinking, I was able to see the backchannel comments about technical glitches and I was able to contribute to a real time conversation happening right across the country. Some of the people contributing to this part of the conversation I had been following for a while on Twitter and the rest were very quickly added to my Twitter network. I was able to see someone’s tweet about getting ready to go on stage and then watch them go on stage a few minutes later. It was like being backstage and in the audience, while actually being in Nanaimo.
For me the final piece was being able to publish my notes to my blog as soon as the event was over and let everyone know they were there via Twitter. I’m not sure how helpful they were to anyone, but I felt so connected to this event that I wanted to contribute in some way.
So I just want to take a minute and reflect on just how AMAZING it is that we now have the technology to make someone in Nanaimo feel so connected to an event in London, Ontario. When the final presenter Tim Ludwig stumbled to find the right words during his presentation I’m sure he had no idea that right across the country on the Pacific coast, a tense room full of Nanaimo teachers were all silently cheering him on.
I haven’t even mentioned that some of the presentations were being streamed into the event in London and THEN out to us in Nanaimo. Part of me finds this mind boggling and part of me is so used to the wonders of modern technology that I take it for granted that we can do this stuff. I know that my students do. It makes me think of this hilarious video.
So thank you to the organisers and presenters of this wonderful event. And thank you to @sbeleznay for organising the Nanaimo viewing party. It was the next best thing to being there.