From registration it was clear that BbWorld is unlike any conference I have been to before - it is massive! There are 2500 delegates, with lots of different backgrounds. There may be 14 sessions happening in parallel at any time. The logistics involved in moving people between rooms, up and down escalators, and organising them in the large auditorium for keynotes, is an exercise in complexity.
With all this happening, trying to find people is impossible without using electronic communication of some kind. Luckily, the conference wifi has been fairly reliable during the day.
The twitter stream (#BbWorld14) has been constant - with some contributions from myself - and during the keynote was more like a firehose. I found it difficult to keep up - though that might have also have something to do with my jet lag.
With such a full programme, it's inevitable that you sometimes feel you should have gone to a different session, especially if the tweets from another room appear much more interesting. In almost all time slots, I can identify at least two presentations I would like to be at. But I haven't mastered bilocation yet.
I was at 3 quite different parallel sessions this afternoon. The first, Social Media: It's not just what you had for breakfast was given by Steven Anderson, @web20classroom. Aimed at schools, Steven gave some good reasons for using social media and some great advice about how to establish a social media presence. His main message is that it's all about storytelling, and social media gives schools the opportunity to be in control of their message, to tell their own story. I have followed @web20classroom on twitter for a number of years, so it was great for me to finally hear him present.
My second session today was the Overview of Product Innovations for International Clients, a Blackboard led session, involving Matthew Small and Jim Hermans. In this, we were told how International clients have helped shape product development, and also how Blackboard wants to work with us as a local partner in the future. Most of the innovations I already knew about, from the Blackboard TLC in Dublin earlier this year. But I was interested to hear about the development of an app for instructors, which will include grading - I imagine a little bit like the GradeMark app. Also of interest is that Blackboard is looking at offline capabilities for mobile. Initially this will allow learners to "consume static eLearning content", but will be extended to other types of content.
My third session was a panel session on Rethinking Student Services to meet the changing learner. This involved a distinguished panel of leaders in higher education: Scott Jaschik, founder and editor of Inside Higher Education; Joan Zanders from Northern Virginia Community College; Gloria McCall from Kentucky Community and Technical College System; and Kent Hopkins from Arizona State University. This was a tough one for me to understand without knowing the context of the US higher education system. What is clear is that we have in common: increasing student numbers; a more diverse student population; and limited resources.
Finally it was time for the big keynote of the conference, Joi Ito of the MIT Media Lab. We were ushered into the Venetian Ballroom with loud throbbing music. I took my place at the bloggers area, next to @skyvking, where we have our own power sockets! After a short intro from Jay Bhatt, who will speak tomorrow, we were treated to a very nicely crafted, very visual, presentation from Joi. His message wasn't particularly unique: we need to change education. But he delivered it in such an interesting way, really drawing us in. I particularly enjoyed the section on synthetic biology, which illustrated nicely his point about the need for Anti Disciplinary spaces. (Although, now it has been named, is synthetic biology a new discipline?) He finished with a point about the role of serendipity, or just good luck, in innovation. If you keep meeting the same people all the time, with the same agenda, how can you hope to be creative?
With that in mind, I will conclude day 1 with the observation that my own attendance at BbWorld is serendipitous, and I am certainly not with the same group of people. In particular I had a lovely lunch with a completely new person, who was put in touch with me via a twitter connection.
If you are in the area tomorrow morning, do join me and my student co-presenters at 8:15 in Murano 3205 to hear about student involvement in developing a campus app. I know there are 13 other sessions you could attend - but you won't regret it!