VConnecting is Like a Box of Chocolates…

This post was written by Susan Adams after she participated in Virtual Connecting sessions at OLC Innovate16. It was originally posted on her Blog at

Like a moth to a flame (as my new virtual friend Alan Levine said) I find myself connecting to the home grown in everything that interests me and VConnecting is no exception.  When I first moved to Portland I was more interested in the renegade “Last Thursday Alberta Street Fair” where anyone can haphazardly adorned the sidewalks with their crafts or performance art that was generated as a counter response to the “First Thursday” Art Studio tours in the Pearl district downtown.

There is no need to engage in official channels when you can climb in through the back door or find like minded revolutionaries who believe access is paramount to education and change.

Vconnecting is hosting a series of google hangouts this week at the OLC Innovate Conference in New Orleans. So it is no surprise to find myself smack in the middle of it all. The hangouts are mostly spontaneous which suits me fine and is often where all the magic happens.

What’s emerging are vastly different experiences and beautiful “A-Ha” moments. Typically, VConnecting hangouts consist of casual conversations with conference participants and presenters who engage with virtual participants who could not make it to the conference.  It attempts to replicate what happens in between sessions in the hallways – but beautifully adapts to whatever occurs. Both the VConnecting team members and the participants dance with each other in conversation that is unplanned.  Sometimes it seems that they literally dance with each other if the onsite buddy decides to move the broadcasting laptop around the room to capture activities.

Such was the case when VConnecting was invited to an actual conference session led by Matt Crosslin on Dual Layer MOOC course Design. Virtual participants in the hangout got to form their own breakout group through a laptop placed on the table with onsite participants. And just like being onsite, the group got to share their insights.  Virtual participant Helen Dewaard answered the question:

How do you grade assignments that come from a MOOC that is designed simultaneously as a connectivist MOOC & an Instructivist MOOC?

Helen shared that she invites her students to design their own assessment by having them co-create the rubric for the assignment which gives students their own vice within the grade (if in fact a grade is needed).

Using the same google chat hangout format, Vconnecting yesterday
virtually toured the interactive installation of the conference that deconstructed the word INNOVATION by exploring its current and historical uses of the term. Onsite buddy, Autumm Caines used her laptop to follow its creator and curator Rolin Moe through a virtual tour. Rolin collaborated with a team to design and develop a space that invites participants to critique how they use the word “Innovation”. A genius idea where Rolin recognized that often conferences rarely provide opportunities for deep conversations and interaction around emergent ideas. The installation is like a museum exhibition showcasing the historical understandings of the term, how it is used in education, and asking us to consider how & why we use it now? I appreciated Rolin’s observations that Innovation does not have a conceptual space, we all know what it means to us, but its history was a “non-concept”.

A post-modernist at heart, Rolin framed the installation through historical understandings of the political, social, religious & technological uses of the word innovation. He explained that during the British reformation, innovation was what you called your enemies. King Charles I was the first to be called an innovator by parliament and he insulted parliament back by calling them innovators – and in the end he got his head chopped off!  And Edward VI had a proclamation against those who “doth innovate”. Point being, there was no constructive meaning except that it meant change for all the wrong reasons. Today we often use it to mean change for all the right reasons but how does that play out? He asserts that it’s important to critique why we have fallen in love with the word Innovation as we experience the current wave of the “.com” of educational technology.  And as Alan Levine interjects, “I think we can bring back Innovate as an insult and they will never know!”  And here lies the magic of VConnecting:

“It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!”

Credit: Paramount Pictures / Via

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