Presenting in large groups to other teachers is always fraught with danger. You have those in the room who are already experts and attend just to show up the speaker. Others attend who have no idea what they are getting into. The last group is the target audience and they want good information or new techniques. Over the hundred or so presentations I have given at conferences or in-services, I have encountered them all. I have always tried to prepare for any problems from the audience to the technology. Now and then I have gotten a new surprise. This occurred at the Technology in Education conference in Colorado. I was presenting on Webquests which are internet scavenger hunts. Part of the session was to deal with teaching the reviewing and evaluation of websites for use in the WebQuests. I was very proud of my work and even created a handout that was bound and complete for people. And then this happened…..
On Tuesday before I left for the conference, I ran through the presentation and everything worked, the links were all active, and the handouts were ready. One of my examples for teachers on the difference between a real site and a parody site and to make sure they were prepared for that with kids. The key word I forgot for myself was the prepared part. I thought the Tuesday run-through was sufficient and we were ready to go. One of the parody sites I chose was the Whitehouse using the dot com extension. On Tuesday it was a parody site and on par with The Onion which is the most well known parody site. I left for the conference on Thursday and prepared to present on Saturday morning. During that 72 hour time frame, the site had been sold and a new site was online. The new site was pornographic. and there it is! As I went through my presentation I pulled up the site as I was talking about parody sites. It popped up on my screen before the main screen. I was not next to the laptop but I dove headlong to the projector and in one swipe I pulled all of the cords. I knocked down stuff from the table but luckily the projector and laptop remain. With the projector unplugged and everyone in the room seeing my yanking of the cords, I was able to save some embarrassment. I however lost the audience since they were all now trying to find the site. As a wave of laughter overtook the room I was apologizing profusely.
At the end of the session I had folks come and comfort me but there was still that group that thought I might have done it on purpose. I was mortified and hid for the rest of the weekend. I had friends who mentioned that it sounded like my session was much more fun than theirs. I still hear about it now and then even 25 years later. But if there is a lesson to be learned is to keep your dot com and dot gov separated. I also learned to check everything before I start the session. To this day I review everything just before I start to present. This morning I was doing a virtual session for an upcoming conference and was up at 5:30 checking everything yet again. By the way, I understand that it is still an inappropriate site so don’t go check.