[VIDEO: James Surowiecki discusses the notion of trusting eyewitnesses via social media, crosschecked by the topic they’re posting under.  Not essential viewing, but a great primer.]

The more I connect with lively, innovative educators outside of my hometown the more I find my feet getting itchy to go and visit them to see firsthand how learning and professional development happens in their schools.  Certainly when I have taken the plunge to organise some of those visits they’ve been incredibly valuable and some of the “stickiest” PD I’ve ever given myself in terms of having a clear enough understanding of it to really implement something concrete when I get home.

But that’s all the little everyday stuff.  Nothing gets my feet itching harder than when a handful of my friends & colleagues start tweeting about their collective excitement surrounding an upcoming conference.  Having attended a number of large events of this kind, I can completely understand their excitement.  They tend to attract large numbers of big-thinking, innovative educators who also happen to be really nice people over a period of a few exhausting days that leave you thinking differently about what your profession means.  Huge stuff.  But also an expensive exercise.

This is where my favourite little blue bird comes in.  Every time my friends have boarded planes to go to these exciting conferences in far-flung locations, there’s been a hashtag to tie them all together and introduce me to the same people they’re meeting and greeting.  For a primer on all things Twitter, check out Michael’s post from a little while ago.  The fact that Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters means that if I follow an event, the participants are forced to be concise & resourceful.  By following remotely you lose some of the face-to-face impact, but you reap the benefits of only seeing a broadly sampled layer of cream – the things people are tweeting are the things worth repeating.

This week, the buzz will be around the Learning 2.012 Conference in Beijing.  I’ve also listed a few others with their relevant hashtags, linked where I know it’s still well-populated or active.