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Every year in April is an OLC Conference that somehow regularly exceeds my expectations of how I can participate virtually at a conference. This year is no exception and it’s still day 1!
For background, in 2014 my et4online was amazing coz Jim Groom noticed me on Twitter when i said I was attending virtually from Egypt, and we struck a partnership whereby I worked on his workshop on reclaiming one’s domain ahead of the actual workshop and publicly on Twitter… Which brought me into his workshop right there and my activity on Twitter in general made me feel like i was there
In 2015, Rebecca J. Hogue and I piloted et4buddy which allowed me to do the first Virtually Connecting at a conference and talk to friends at hallways. This movement of ours has grown and is now exactly one year old (check out the VC schedule at Innovate and join the birthday party!).
We have presented about Virtually Connecting before (and will also tom inshallah in a Fishbowl ) but what we did earlier today was the most amazing Virtual participation I have ever had at a conference (and that’s saying a LOT coz I have done this a lot in the past year). The topic was conference hybridity, NOT Virtually Connecting, tho obviously it was a team of some of the most active/invested people from VC who ran it.
The format was awesome. Three virtuals (Alan Levine, AK, and me). 4 onsite buddies. Each of the virtuals gave a short intro to the full room, but then we broke out into 3 tables, with one virtual nad one onsite connecting to each table. We did two activities: an empathy experiment where we discussed how a virtual participant felt/thoght, etc., and an action plan portion where folks brainstormed how to design a good hybrid conf experience. Whitney was my partner and our table were lovely, as were the others. I truly felt I was there. There was even this time when each table was reporting on part 1 and our onsite partners carried us to the tables. A moment when they let us virtuals say hi to each other thru diff devices. It was magical. Rebecca captured itbeautifully.
This is a nocturnal blogpost so I can’t think straight but wanted to capture some of my thoughts n feelings about this:
I truly felt I was there in the ways that matter most
I trusted my onsite partner(s) and felt cared for. Did not feel like a burden on anyone. Felt listened to
Someone on my table mentioned accessibility in a wy i had not imagined. That it was like I was being carried around like a person who did not have mobility; I also think it’s a bit like having a hearing aid in that ppl sometime have to repeat what they say or lean closer. An aha moment where scaling this kind of experience might mean we need those bots after all, because not everyone in the world has an onsite buddy willing to carry them around
Another aha moment when someone at our table suggested this kind of expereince neded to be accessible in every conference room in every conference. Wouldn’t that be amazing? For interactive sessions at least!
Whitney and I got into really personal stuff (hard not to with Hoda appearing every few mins onscreen) and I was worried the onsite folks might have found it off topic…but she says they felt they knew us. If f2f would it have seemed as cool? Or was it cooler coz ppl got to see how close we were even tho we had never met? If we were onsite together I bet we would have still sooken the same way.
So it is strange but this is one of the best conference presentstions I have ever done. Not just the best virtual, but one of the best EVER. And I just had Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo, so this is saying a lot. The main thing with this one is that I felt I maanged to have a great convo w people I largely ddid not know. There were some ppl on tables that I knew but my table were complete strangers to me and I still had a wonderful time!
Ok I better stop. But the main thing is that I felt I was sitting at a table for real.. Last year for et4messy we ddi this but I was the only virtual at a table. Being there with other virtuals made a huge difference!
I can’t wait to start imagining how to scale this kind of experience!