Along with some of my coworkers, I attended a Technology UnConference at Michigan State University Main Library on May 15.
What is an unconference?
You know how people say that the best part of going to a conference is the networking? Not that prepared workshops aren’t informative, but it is always valuable to make contact with a colleague from a different workplace who is dealing with a similar situation as you are.
Well, imagine an entire conference of networking. No prepared presentations. No main sessions with limited discussion. Just 50 or so librarians coming together and sharing ideas, in greater or lesser detail, depending on each one’s particular interest.
That was the Technology UnConference. And it worked surprisingly well.
At the UnConference, as is said, "there is no agenda, until we make one up." We spent a few minutes brainstorming technology topics of interest. Nine ideas were put forward, including using content management software for websites, teaching technology to the public, and integrating social network sites into our work. Then, for the rest of the day, we divided and redivided into different small groups at different times, to discuss these ideas. The main sessions – save one – consisted not of a panel of experts, but report backs from the groups and further discussion.
This structure – or unstructure? – allowed for a maximum number of voices, experiences, and lessons to be heard.
One of the most interesting things to me was that several of us posted our thoughts about the UnConference on Twitter, the microblog site, tagging our tweets with #techuncamp.
For me, this meant two things. First, by reading other attendees’ tweets in real time, I felt like I was in several side conversations. This meant that I didn’t have only my own reaction to what I was hearing, but I could read others’ reactions. Oftentimes, these were insightful, informative, or just plain funny. This enhanced my experience as I felt like I was constantly engaged at different levels of discussion.
Second, by using the tag #techuncamp – which is searchable in Twitter – we made sure that our tweets were kept together. I can now search #techuncamp and find a record of all the side discussions, packed with tips, websites, and good people to follow. Or you can search #techuncamp and do the same, almost as if you were there.
The Technology UnConference was time well spent.
If you use Twitter, follow The Tech Desk @tpltechnology or me @pjkwik.