So a while ago Tina Cardone mentioned the idea of having an #MTBoS booth at the upcoming NCTM Annual Meeting in Boston.
Looking for a few people interested in helping to staff a #MTBoS booth at NCTM Boston. Talk up your fave aspects, sell the kool aid.
— Tina Cardone (@crstn85) September 21, 2014
Since then I’ve been thinking about how this whole thing could be good not just for the #MTBoS, but also for the NCTM as well, as it could proactively address 2 of the common criticisms when it comes to these events. People often complain that the conferences have a lack of internet, that talks don’t contain the most up-to-date information, and these could be addressed pretty simply with a little bit of organization and coordination.
1. Internet Access
From what I understand, internet access at a conference center like that is going to be mad expensive. As long as there is a cellular connection, a Wi-Fi hotspot could provide internet access to a presenter and perhaps a few particpants with computers, which could really transform some of the possibilities for a presentation. Three or four people with hotspots could possibly provide connections for everyone in the room with a device. Suddenly, the conference is taking a couple of strong steps towards the 20th century and with just a small bit of coordination from the #MTBoS booth.
The booth could help provide a place where the organization for this internet access could happen. Before the conference, presenters could go to some website and announce that they would welcome having people come with Wi-Fi hotpots. The participants with hotspots can go on the same website, and let the participants know that they will be coming. When the conference starts, those people can stop by the booth where someone may be ready with extension cords, surge protectors, and cardstock table tents. The participants can write the SSID and password information on the table tents, and the table tents can provide a little advertising to draw people back to the booth. The participant can then leave from the booth and head up to the presentation room, introduce themselves to the presenter, set up their WiFi spot near an open outlet, and enjoy the talk that they were planning on going to anyways.
Having participants and presenters work directly to have internet at this conference will be a good way to showcase the importance of having internet access at NCTM conferences. At the same time, NCTM would probably have to pay craploads of money for internet access because I’m assuming that is what conferences charge. The NCTM is, at the end of the day, just a bunch of teachers getting together, so there probably are not funds available in the near future to bankroll internet access for their conferences. A crowd-sourced solution like the one above may be the best way to provide access to conference-goers for the near future.
2. “Un-Conference”/Open Spaces Meeting
If you look at the conference program, most of the talks will be done by 4:30. They shut things down at this early afternoon time perhaps to give participants time to reflect on what they learned. Perhaps the booth could, with just a touch of organization, allow people to come together and do that reflection alongside many other like-minded teachers. The term “Un-Conference” may be a bit of overkill, but the concept seems to be what I’m describing. For an hour or so, at the end of each day, people can come together and hang out around the booth, or other locations, to talk to, and learn from, each other.
Anyone conference participant can decide that day to bring up a topic for conversation. Perhaps someone wants to show off a new idea that they learned. Maybe a number of people want to talk about current events that are on a lot of people’s minds. Or maybe a presenter, who had a lot of discussion going in her talk, could offer her participants a chance to come back and finish the conversation.
At the end of the day, the people could come to the booth, see which of the things they want to talk about, and then join the rest of the interested people to talk in the food court, or an empty room, or perhaps at a nearby bar. It would only require that the booth have a cork board and some post-it notes, but it could make for a valuable addition to the conference program.
So those are my ideas, what do you think?