Monday, March 03, 2008

If it's Torquay, it must mean Naace

Thanks to a nice little service called Time Capsule, last week I was reminded of a picture I took roughly this time last year from my hotel window at the 2007 Naace conference in Torquay. Naace appears to have set up a permanent camp in Torquay, making the trek for someone from, say, CLEO about 367 miles each way. Is it worth making that journey each year? I guess that depends. I've been a member of Naace since about 2001 when I started working in Hertfordshire and have, by proxy, spent a considerable amount of my local authorities' money in attending the conference. In some respects it's been money well spent - I've met numerous useful contacts from local authorities, suppliers and other agencies through Naace, but there have been many, many (too many) presentations and sessions when I've had that "I wish I'd gone to the other session in the programme" about five minutes in. Last year, after the bits of barrel had been picked out from under the Naace fingernails, I was asked to present a parallel session on our use of Moodle in Bucks -this year, I'm back to constructive heckling (or something).
As you'd expect, this year the programme has a greater emphasis on Learning Platforms / VLEs / etc. - here it is:


Last year my main complaint was the inflexibility of the programme - the fact that if you wanted to see one thing of interest in a particular theme it precluded you seeing much else. This year, one hour-long discussion session in particular has ten different parallel presentations - none of which are repeated and the main parallel sessions are again run once only. That's quite frustrating for delegates (many of whom will pick the "wrong" one) but just as frustrating for presenters - imagining travelling all that way to get just one hour. The more and more I spend time in conferences, with all of the acculmulated expertise, experience and potential wisdom in a room (not to mention the expensive time which could potentially be wasted), the more I'm drawn again and again to the unconference format at demonstrated by something like a TeachMeet. It's always interesting to look at the Naace conference in the light of Dave Winer's Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences:
The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.
I've been asked to do some live blogging from conference sessions using CoverItLive (does that mean I get a guaranteed power supply in each room? In that case I'll do it...) so as well as a few posts on here they should be on the Naace web site as appropriate. It'll be interesting to read what Ewan McIntosh thinks, he has the first night's keynote and could be seen as some sort of disruptive technology on the established Naace landscape. Let's hope so.

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