Sunday 31 January 2016

The four dimensional conference #HEASTEM16

This post captures a collection of activities leading up to the Higher Education Academy (HEA) STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Conference that took place in Nottingham. One of the key organisers was Dr Kay Hack who also tweets from @HEASTEM


One of the invited keynotes Professor Simon Lancaster who is an esteemed colleague of mine, was asked by Kay Hack from the HEA to write a blog post to precede the conference. He wanted to promote the use of social media (focusing on Twitter) in a way that would help other educators understand the value it can bring to the way we engage with conferences before, during and after an event. I was delighted when he contacted me to see if I was interested in co-writing this post. The result is 'The four dimensional conference' where we explored how Twitter can add additional dimensions to the conference experience. Both advocates of Twitter as a means of connecting and communicating with peers, it was interesting to explore our own use in relation to educational conferences. 

  1. Presenter and audience interactions Twitter can render any presentation a communal event where the presenter encourages participants to tweet answers, comments, corrections and to engage in discussion. The participants themselves are able to use Twitter to crowd-source a rich and lasting record of the session.
  2. Interconnected audience interactions Twitter can thoroughly intertwine the threads of parallel sessions creating interconnected collections of stories across the conference. Analogous information between different sessions can be picked up and synergies formed to take the discussions forward online and arrange face to face meetings. Imagine a set of threads constantly colliding in a ball of twine.
  3. In person and virtual interactions
    The use of an event hashtag means that Twitter can facilitate the participation of people who could not attend the physical venue. By following the aggregated tweets, anyone can respond, raise questions, and provide links to associated information. Even the passive observer has an opportunity to develop their network by following interesting contributors to the conference Twitter stream.
  4. Multiplicity of pre and post event interactions
    The conference does not need to end after the closing remarks. Twitter can keep the discussion going and through tools like Storify keep it accessible and alive for years to come. Presenters can tweet links to their presentations uploaded to Slideshare and indeed openly share via other social networks. Participants may choose to blog about the event and embed key Tweets to emphasise points made. Within this space readers can be encouraged to interact with the blog post by ending with a question or call for feedback/opinion using the comments. 
You can read the complete post here:

#HEAchat / #LTHEchat

Wednesday 27th January saw the inaugural pairing of #LTHEchat with the monthly #HEAchat. This new partnership I am certain will help to bring together even more educators to share their experience, practice and ideas; as well as provide a forum for discussion and debate. The theme chosen for this chat was 'the four dimensional conference'. During the hour the conversation was stimulated by the following six questions:

  • Do you use social media at conferences? Tell us why & how or why not!
  • What benefits have you experienced from using social media as a delegate or a presenter?
  • What benefits have you experienced from using social media after events?
  • How could organisers maximise the value of the 'social' at conferences? 
  • What's your experience of attending conferences ‘virtually’ via hashtags/live-streams?
  • How will you prepare for your next conference? 

Simon and I both interacted with the participants, and I hope added value to the dialogues as the questions were addressed. As a facilitator of this chat I sought to answer the questions myself but also to probe deeper the answers of those taking part. Keeping an eye open for new participants finding their feet in the conversation is also key. When you first start to take part in chats you can feel is if your tweets are simple disappearing into the noise. Having someone respond to your posts can make you feel welcomed and provide a sense of belonging. 

Aiding conversation

The chat was busy as participants replied to the questions and engaged in side conversations. For anyone joining part way through it was quite difficult to find the questions. I would always recommend during a chat that the Twitter account posting the questions does 'just' that and is not also used to retweet or respond to questions. That way participants can easily find the latest tweets which contain the questions.


The entire collection of tweets is captured in the Storify curated by Kandy Woodfield.


Leading on from the tweetchat was the #HEASTEM16 conference itself. Below is Professor Simon Lancaster's keynote which did not disappoint. It's just a shame it wasn't live-streamed.

Simon also went on to capture the tweets containing the conference hashtag using a tool called SocioViz. It was exciting to see new people tweeting and the network developing during the duration of the conference. I hope the blog post, the tweetchat and the encouragement during the HEA STEM Conference has given people both the confidence and enthusiasm to continue using Twitter beyond the activities this week.  

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know about this Annual Conference. I had attended a similar conference two years ago at an event space in Boston and it was truly very informational. Now, shifted to Miami and not many conferences are held here.