This is crossed posted at chadlehman.com, my personal blog.
Today marked the first time I was presenting at a conference. My friend and colleague, Rachel Yurk, and I were scheduled to present a session on Personal Learning Networks at the WEAC Convention. This is the state convention in Wisconsin, put on by our state Teachers’ Union. I have attended this conference in past years, but have never presented. This year, I thought it might be fun to present. Well, what happened today, was not fun.
We arrived about 30 minutes before we were to start, took care of registration, wandered around a little, and heading to our room about ten minutes early. I thought there was a presentation before us, but when we arrived, the room was empty. This conference is not a technology conference. Now that I think about it, shouldn’t ANY conference about education include technology? I honestly had no idea what to expect as far as an audience. I was hoping for ten people. I pulled out my laptop, connected it to the projector, and started getting ready. At this time, we had two people trickle in and take a seat – wow, a real audience. I tried to pull up the wiki we put together on PLN’s, but couldn’t find a wireless signal. I tried the “Free Public Wifi” that popped up, but couldn’t connect. I saw a signal for the conference center, but that was not free. About this time, I sort of panicked. We were about to talk about networks and connecting to other educators, demonstrating Twitter and other PLN related ideas, but couldn’t get online. Luckily, someone from the conference came in and asked how things were going. I told him we couldn’t get online. He said there is no wireless in the presentation rooms. I asked about the paid option and he said it worked great in the common areas, but might be pretty weak in the room. We decided against paying for something that probably wouldn’t work. He did say there was a hard wire option and he would send someone from the conference center IT department in to help us. Okay, this might work. In the meantime, one of the people in the room left. We were down to one.
As we shared our frustration with the only attendee in our session, a first year teacher, the IT guy came in. We asked about an internet connection and he calmy stated that a hard wire connection would cost us $400. I honestly thought he was joking, but he was not. Trying to present on PLN’s without an internet connection is pretty challenging. She clearly understood our frustration and was very cool about it. I was pleased she wanted to stick around and still hear from us. I’m not sure I would have done the same. We ended up sitting around and talking to the one person who stayed. Rachel did most of the talking while I went into the hallway to see if I could pick up some kind of signal – no luck. We continued to discuss the advantages of having a PLN, shared the wiki address with her and encouraged her to contact us in the near future, for any help. I do think she picked up a few things from our discussion, but it was not clearly the same as if she could have seen everything live. Oh well.
After we were done, we headed back to the presenter checkin area to find out about internet connection in the building. I was pretty upset that things didn’t work out, not to mention feeling pretty much like an idiot. The woman at the counter asked us if we checked that we needed internet access on our presentation form. I told her that option didn’t exist and she pulled up our form and confirmed I was right – there was nothing on the form that asked whether we needed access or not. She mentioned that WEAC had to pay about $400 dollars for internet access in the rooms. Apparently, assuming there was internet access at a large, statewide education conference, was a mistake. She did page the man in charge of the entire conference and we continued to discuss with him the fact that not having internet access is pretty ridiculous. He did bring up the incredibly high costs of certain things the convention center was charging them for – $500 for an LCD projector rental, for example. We did discuss the idea of considering access at this type of event when looking at venues for the future. He was nice, apologized, understood where we were coming from, but at this point, probably could not have done anything that would have satisfied us.
It really was a shame. We had great information to share, much of which has come from our own PLN’s. Needless to say, my first time presenting will most likely not be forgotten. Unfortunately, it’ll be remembered for what it wasn’t, not for what is was.