Many of the readers of this blog will be familiar with Twitter, the online microblogging service that allows you to send short messages (called tweets) to people who are following you (your followers). On twitter, I am @lclandfield for example.
Over the past year I’ve met a lot of people through twitter. And when two people from twitter meet up in person for the first time this is called a tweet-up (I guess it’s like meet-up). I had read other people’s tweets in the past when they had a tweet-up and I often thought the enthusiasm was a little exaggerated. Until this past week in Turkey, at the ISTEK conference.
ISTEK is the name of a large private school based in Istanbul. In Turkey there has been an explosion of private education in the past twenty years, especially in the tertiary sector. This year was the first time they had organised a specific ELT conference for Turkey, and boy oh boy was it a big one. There were more than 1000 people in attendance, from all over Europe and the Middle East. The lineup of speakers was very impressive too: Jeremy Harmer, Andrew Wright, Luke Prodromou, Nicky Hockley, Gavin Dudeney, Ken Wilson, Herbert Puchta… the list went on and on. But how did this event happen, at a school that not many people outside of Turkey knew, especially as a first conference? The answer lies in twitter.
Burcu Akyol, the conference organiser, is a very active blogger and twitterer. When she asked her bosses at ISTEK permission to organise an international conference they said yes, and Burcu started using her online network to get speakers and interest from around the world. It worked, amazingly well.
So, precisely because of the way a big part of this conference had been organised, there was a huge amount of excitement and expectation for the tweet-up. I knew, as I was coming to Turkey, that several people who I had been in contact with over the past year only online were going to be there. And I wasn’t disappointed. We had a great time, at a truly well-organised and memorable conference.
This kind of online engagement by teachers around the world can be very positive, and really supportive of development. It’s also, as Jeremy Harmer remarked, quite democratic. All of the people who met up at conference were from very different backgrounds, they weren’t all authors or publishers or “big names”. It was a really good community feeling. It’s why I’m still tweeting.
The next big tweet-up is looking to be the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, UK. I’ll tweet you there!