International Professional Development in your Basement: #teachmeet
Back in 1994, as a student in the Education Technology Leadership program at the George Washington University, I tried a video conference with a fellow student in Virginia. After 7 minutes we had accumulated enough pixels to see each other, but between my 14.4kbps modem and his ISDN line, there just wasn't enough bandwidth to do anything useful with it, though the promise of something amazing was there.
Today is a different story; this morning almost 50 people from around the world logged in to http://teachmeetinternational.wikispaces.com to hear 33 speakers from 20 different countries with streaming audio, video and slides. Coordinated out of Croatia, moderated from Belgium, speakers from diverse nations like Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Australia, United States, and more, queued up to present 3 minute talks on Web 2.0 innovations in their own classrooms.
Participants can send text messages and share ideas as the presentations are given. An active twitter hashtag #teachmeet reflects these ideas to the larger professional learning network. Presenters share their slides and websites online for later access, and the conversation extends beyond the event itself in blogs and tweets.
As much as "on-demand" resources are useful and convenient, there is a different feel and level of engagement with a live online event. Communicating with presenters and participants brings insights, and allows for connections that might not even happen at an in-person presentation where participants sit in chairs and simply listen (though live Tweeting at conferences brings timely engagement among participants at the event).
This was my first #teachmeet, and I will certainly be setting an alarm to participate in the next one!