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The Power of Collective Intelligence

Greetings Educator Friends!

It has been a while since my last post due to all of the exciting educational technology trainings, technology keynotes, thousands of miles of travel over the last few months. By the end of my training days, I am up at night designing, revamping and preparing for the next week’s presentation and trying to get at least 5 hours of sleep in there somewhere. I make sure to make the most of my down time- when there is in the evenings- connecting with husband and children and plan for meaningful family outings with a "mental break" from the technology.

I realize some of you have stated “Naomi, where are you? I have not seen an updated post from you since early summer and miss reading your new technology findings and current practices of implementation.” I am sorry for falling behind on my blog post to my followers, but needed to find a balance over this past summer to make the most of my downtime with family when possible when I was on the road so much- thanks for understanding! I tried my best to incorporate my micro-blogging with Twitter to throw out as many educational technology “golden nuggets” or “technology gems” as I could as I too learned from thousands of educators and administrators this past summer. Because of this I have now embedded a Twitter widget on my “refreshed” blog page to keep all of you up to speed so you will not miss a beat of where I am presenting at, what I am teaching and the new technology finds I come across during my new educational journeys around the nation.

As noted early, I presented at twenty-six educational technology academies this summer and eight technology keynotes. Many of my keynote presentations covered social networking and learning, and as many of you know- I do not present in a traditional way. I try to make the experience as social and collaborative as possible extending a meaningful learning experience for all audience members. This type of dynamic presentation allows everyone to have a “voice” during my presentations to build the collective intelligence of the audience members.

Planning my latest keynote
Just like most keynotes, it was to be delivered using a visual presentation format, so as I planned the WBEA WI Business Educators Associationslideology” PowerPoint presentation, I needed to consider how to make it as collaborative as possible. I decided to use Todays Meet , as I knew there was already a backchannel tag for the conference #WBEA and #WBEA10 - and that meant many of the participants would already be using that. I would have preferred to use Twitter as the main backchannel, but polled the WBEA members in earlier weeks and there was only a handful of individuals using Twitter, since it is blocked in a majority of K-12 schools in Wisconsin at this time.

However, I also needed to bear in mind that the audience would (probably) want to listen to as much of the presentation as possible, so I didn't want them to feel they were being distracted from it by backchannel chatting too much. I therefore wanted to build in some essential questions that (a) could be answered in one hundred and forty characters or less, and (b) give them time to reflect on their learning, as well as (c) time for me to review the backchannel chat stream .

Preparing for the keynote
As I was hoping for participation in the event from others outside of the WBEA convention, I needed to advertise the fact that it was taking place, and invite others to participate and contribute if they wished. As my presentation wasn't taking place until Friday, September 24th at 8:15AM (Central) I tweeted about it the day before- Thursday morning, mid-day and evening to build the excitement. “Backchannel chat of #WBEA10 keynotes and Virtual jumpdrive resources: come and join the virtual conversation with WI educational business leaders.”

Just before the presentation began, I posted the following message within the back channel chat: “Welcome WBEA members! Great to see all of you today! I'm inviting you to participate in the back channel chat. Please introduce yourself.”

Delivering the keynote
As I went through the presentation, the backchannel chats began to flow in, and there was a good amount of participation, and many tweets went into the #WBEA10 Twitter stream of the audience members with Twitter accounts, which we reviewed throughout the convention. I also supported the relevance of the back channel chat and virtual jumpdrive of Drop.i through the latest research and best practices articles published in ASCD: and In order to get any buy-in from educators, I always showcase the meaningful relationships of current research and how it supports classroom practice to enhance student achievement.

I also built in teacher energizers of “dynamic duos” and “one minute wonders.” This allowed participants time to reflect on their own learning from a posed essential question I prepared, and to process the information that was just presented. Teacher teams could then share their new findings of how they would apply this new knowledge back to their personal or professional learning environments with a teacher friend in a collaborative group setting through a “think-pair-share” activity. To get the hundreds of educators back on target after the team sharing, I built in a digital music timer called “Cool Timer” from Harmony Hollow- a free download, to almost seamlessly transition the crowd back from large audio conversation to the keynote presentation of a quiet room again, to segway onto the next topic in the presentation. The timer allowed for me to upload my own personal music selection or choose to use the built in bugle or foghorn to get my audience back on task quickly. Thanks to Shellee King George, my Microsoft Peer Coach trainer and personal friend who introduced me to this new tool which I have added to my “virtual digital toolbox” of tips and tricks.

After the keynote
I took a reflective look at all the back channel posts and tweets that had come in during the event and answered some of the questions I hadn't been able to address during the event itself. I wanted to make sure I had address all questions on Todays Meet and on Twitter, and then transcribed the chat and saved it as a PDF with the embedded links to share with the convention committee to share with its members for future references.

Reviewing the keynote
A number of people have asked me how I managed to co-ordinate so much at one time during my keynote address, since my presentation style and delivery is dynamic compared to “traditonal keynote presenters”. Well, I believe in very careful and purposeful planning, and rehearsal are vital to any presentation, but I also know that there may be “technology hiccups or bumps” that come with any presentation- and flexibility is key with a fundamental backup plan is always “packed and loaded” to plan for the inevitable.  However, I found these dynamic “audience immersed- collective intelligence” presentations an adrenaline-charged experience for me as a presenter - it kept me on my toes – and truly hope that others enjoyed the event as I much as I did presenting the interactive keynote.

What will I do differently next time?
• Blog about the event ahead of time while inviting educators to the micro-blogging platform of Twitter and use Twitter as the backchannel chat.
• Review more of the Todays Meet and Twitter stream during the session and answer any questions or comments arising - which means reducing the presentation down quite considerably if I think there will be a lot of participation.
• Model and introduce a few more digital transitional “teacher energizer” pieces to showcase how the classroom management piece is a best practice in any type of venue.

Thank you everyone!
I would just like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone that contributed to the presentation to make it a valuable and collaborative learning experience to demonstrate the power of a Back Channel Chat for a large keynote event. There was and may still be few back channel chat and Twitter-sceptics out there- but I believe now the “collective intelligence” of the group may have converted them into seeing the bigger picture- how the power of a collaborative group voice can empower a meaning and personal and/or professional learning experience to last a lifetime!

Special thank you to Jane Hart from the UK!
A special thank you to Jane Hart from the UK who empowered me to write this post to be a more "reflective thinker" on my own learning and delivery of my keynote presentations. It has provided me the opportunity to improve upon my instructional delivery and teaching style to make my presentations more learner focused with achieveable technology enhanced outcomes while meeting the diverse needs of all learners.

Thank you Jane!

Naomi Harm


dkapuler said…
Naomi, I love the new look to your blog and look forward to your updates as it is one of the most thought provoking ones around.

Also, it is great to follow up on your travels and where your journey through technology takes you.

Hopefully, we'll have a chance to work together again this year!!

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