Going Medieval….still

November 9, 2009
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I just returned home from another AASL National Conference.  Like those before, it was stimulating, provocative, and it turned my life in several new directions.   That, in reality, was from the people I met in the halls, over drinks, and from those attending my sessions. The conference itself, although at its usual high standards, reflected our profession in theory, but not in practice. 

I am been presenting at conferences for over twenty years now.   In the early days, I made transparencies, and thought myself very futuristic when I could make those transparencies on my printer.   Then I migrated to Power Point.  Although now in disrepute, I like using Power Point to keep presentations on track and on schedule.  I tend to ramble, so I need the next slide to put me back on track.   

My presentations at this conference went well, seemed to be received with a moderate amount of enthusiasm, and were relatively well-attended.   I am bothered, though.   I realized that I am still presenting in the same manner as I did 20-some years before.  As I type this post, I am in my home office, with my usual two computers side-by-side, and a third across the room.  I have Facebook up on one computer and email on the other, because I find that I work better when my mind has an occasional distraction.   With Facebook, I can have interactions in my daily life constantly updating, making me think, and changing my daily plan.

When I present, I am in a closed room with a small group of people while I am sharing the results of my investigations and interactions.  After an hour or so, the door opens and the crowd streams out, and my presentation becomes past tense….i.e…she was good, the presentation was informative.  The presentation becomes dead, gone, over.  In my very last presented session, our panel presented the Learning Standards and supporting documents, Guidelines, Reading initiatives, and the L4L umbrella which supports all of them.  As one by one, the panel explained this guidelines and standards,  several in the audience commented….NOW I finally understand this.   That was wonderful to hear….until one realizes that the understanding is limited to the 20 people or so in the room.

I am wondering now why that has to be.   Why couldn’t my presentation be shared live with any virtual attendee who cared to be there?  Would not the audience benefit from a CoverItLive type of screen challenging, correcting, and commenting as presenters go through their screens.  Why can’t this presentation, once developed, be set free until I decide that it is no longer valid or appropriate.   

So what do I want my next presentation to be?  I want to have comments from the world scrolling before me as I present, so that I can tag onto thoughts that illustrate my presentation.  I want that community to continue discussing after I finish presenting, so that days later I can review and implement suggestions and new  ways of thinking.  I want to do video previews of what I am going to talk about, so that attendees, virtual or not, could have an idea of whether they should go.  I want the program to be interactive and real-time…so that my audience could be multi-tasking into several others at the same time. 

There are those, and I am one, who will always attend conferences in person.  My learning comes from the talks over drinks, and the serendipitous meetings during laptop charging.  I don’t want to change that.  But what I do want is to hold the conference in my hand, even while I am there, scrolling through sessions to tap into and out of learning.   I want to virtually visit the exhibits, so that I can hear the promos and listen to experts explain their resources and services.  I want to instantly send  commercials regarding the vendor products I fall in love with to administrators saying..LOOK AT THIS. 

In other words, I want the conference to reflect what school libraries are and do.  I want the way that we attend and interact to be what our profession says that school libraries look like, sound like, and are like.   Enough of dead presentations.   Let’s allow vendors, presentors, and attendees to come alive in a virtual learning commons.

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