I am still recovering from a wonderful conference held in Sacramento. This conference was the National Extension Conference. There are so many good things to say, I am not sure where to begin. I walked away with a notebook of ideas and inspiration to raise the level of Extension in my part of the world. Over the next few blog posts, I will report out on specific sessions but I wanted to use this post to report out on the conference itself. Details of my trip can be read in my trip report.
My overall impression of this conference was that the theme was about how we (Extension) can better engage with the community. There were countless ideas for how to leverage technology for better engagement. There also seemed to be a realization that we need to become better sharers of information and use social media more effectively, or we will no longer remain relevant. Over the past three or four years, I have been reading a lot about connected networks and social learning, and I believe we need to do a lot better job of sharing both internally and externally. This conference seemed to provide the motivation for this to happen.
While the conference had an official Website, Lanyrd was really the place of action. I have written about Lanyrd before, but it was nice to see it in action. Throughout the conference, I referred to Lanyrd to see where and when my sessions were. Primarily, I used my mobile devices. I also used Lanyrd after the conference to flesh out my trip report and to find resources used in the session. Lanyrd was also the place where you could find contact information for participants and speakers. I used this to find Twitter accounts that I used during the conference. Having a schedule and resources at my fingertips is greatly appreciated.
I thought the conference made great use of the hashtag #nexconf. Everything and anything was posted to this hashtag. This hashtag was used for Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ as well as other sites like Pinterest. I was able to capture the Twitter feed for the conference, feel free to pull resources from it. The Twitter feed was well advertised, and they had a projector showing a live feed throughout the conference, often in more than one place.
In total, there were 111 presentations given across 3 days. I managed to attend 20 presentations and gave two. The presentations covered a number of disciplines; I focused on better spreading the word about Extension, building learning networks, creating online courses, Extension educator technology trainers, and increasing engagement. Here are the two that I gave:
- By automating social media processes, you can curate more efficiently, share more resources, and reach a larger audience
- Learn how the organization affects learning and strategies for creating a positive learning environment
The presentations were all well done. As I mentioned, I filled up my Evernote notebook will lots of great ideas. Many of the sessions were recorded; you can see the recordings at Learn.extension.org by searching for nexconf and looking for the green recording marker. There were a number of presentations that I did not get to see but wanted to, I will be checking out those recordings.
While at the conference, I was able to play with three new technologies. Kevin Gamble demoed Google Glass, and he let me play with it. I am very interested in getting one in my hands. The University or Wyoming Outreach School has just purchased a set. I am curious what the possibilities are for this technology. Stephen Judd showed off his Pebble watch. I thought it was interesting how it was tethered to his phone and that he could see status messages without interrupting his routine. A simple glance at his wrist. I am due for a phone upgrade; I think this will be part of the upgrade 😉 Finally, I got another look at Occulus Rift. LuAnn Phillips let people try it on. Her demonstration was an indoor roller coaster. I certainly was convinced I was on one. Here is an example:
I personally enjoyed the keynote speakers Dave Gray, Jane Hart, and Harold Jarche. I am familiar with and a fan of Jane Hart and Harold Jarche’s work; however, I was not as familiar with Dave Gray. Gray spoke about the elements of a connected organization and the benefits. He pointed out that Extension was already a connected organization. He offered suggestions for improving the connectedness of our organization thus making our organization a learning organization. He notes that we need to experiment more. Here are my notes for that session.
Hart focused on learning in the workplace. She noted that the Web has significantly changed how we do business. In part of her presentation, she shared the top 100 learning tools. While I regularly visit this list, Hart stressed that none of the top 10 learning tools were in fact learning tools, rather they are general tools. Essentially, people are taking control of their own learning. In addition, she noted that for Extension to remain relevant, we need to make our information available. We need to engage people where they are communicating. Hart also stressed the importance of personal learning networks. If you do not have one, you need to start working on one. Social media is an important component part of learning. A PLN allows you to keeping up with what is new in the world. New thinking. Keeping up to date. Hart stressed the importance of Seek, Sense, and Share. We need to build a PLN to find new information, we then need to make sense of it, and finally, we need to share it back. Perhaps most importantly, we need to work out loud. Finally, Hart shared with us a new site called The Learning Flow. Here are my notes for that session.
In a joint session with Hart and Jarche, the focus was on personal knowledge mastery (PKM). Jarche broke down his Seek, Sense, and Share model. In this session, the presenters walked us through a number of exercises. The first one had us identify people in our networks. We had to identify five people in the following groups:
- Who are the people with whom you have most frequently discussed matters important to you?
- Who are the people with whom you have most frequently communicated with in order your job done?
- Consider a new project that you are promoting, Who are the people whom you would need to get approval, resources, and support for this project?
- Who are the main people with whom you socialize informally?
It was interesting that the results for the last question was very different from the first three, at least for me. We also did an exercise where we had to self-organize. It was interesting that it took only 90 seconds to self-organize, whereas with a leader it would have taken much longer. When Jarche talked about sharing information back out to the world, he cautioned that we had a responsibility to add value to what we shared. Don’t simply robotically share what we find. Make sense of it and add value. Check out Jarche’s Friday Finds to understand more about what he means by sense making. Here are my notes for that session.
At least for me, the most important activity that I participated in while at the conference was one of networking. I had a chance to reconnect with cool people around the nation such as Stephen Judd, Jerry Thomas, Beth Raney, Anne Adrian, Kevin Gamble, Jeff Hino, Rhonda Conlon, Larry Lippke, and Bob Bertsch. I also had a chance to meet up with virtual connections like Jerri Hammonds, Sarah Baughman, Stephen Hadcock, Jerry Buchko, Amy Hays, and Karen Jeannette. I also had a chance to meet some new cool people like Jamie Seger. In addition to some great opportunities to network during sessions, over meals, and on tours of the city, I also had an opportunity to share thoughts with our director, Glen Whipple and David Keto. We discussed opportunities to move Wyoming Extension to the next level. We shall see where all this leads.
All in all, this was a very successful conference. I am glad that I attended, I am now ready to tackle the upcoming year. Over the next few posts, I will share what I gleaned from the different sessions I attended. In the meantime, I will leave you with this:
For others who attended the conference, what did you walk away with?