Hi Paul and Others,
First a disclosure, I don’t have access to the book, so I may be talking out of turn here…
I have been involved in the support end of a few online conferences (http://k12onlineconference.org/
& the http://www.globaleducationconference.com/
- which heralded over 400 sessions, over 60 keynote speakers, and over 15,000 participant logins) and have just booked myself into the Moodle Moot in May as a Virtual Moderator! I was also successful in convincing the organizers of an annual, f2f conference for Pre-Service Teachers to allow me to present virtually for the last 5 years since I am usually ‘on-contract’ somewhere internationally during the conference dates.
It’s this second set up that I feel intertwines with much of Paul’s posting. The PRe-Service Teacher conference sessions are promoted as hands-on and interactive. I have always found it a challenge to meet the criteria in a virtual setting and admittedly, some years I have been more successful than others. Still, I have found it important to show new teachers that these virtual environments (1) Exist and (2) Can provide an effective learning place. We have also had the best dynamics in the workshops when other teachers participate in the online environment (I always promote the virtual workshop I am doing to anyone who may be interested in the topic through email, social media sites, and now twitter, etc.)
We have refined the set up over the years….to clarify things: I am off-site, a room is booked for me at the conference and I now use two support people (usually Pre-Service Teachers in a Tech-Support role with the faculty of Education). One is assigned to the Virtual Environment and the second to the F2F environment (but they have served both areas as needed). The F2F Tech Support person is responsible for making sure there is a computer hooked up to a Projector and the room’s speaker system. It is also highly suggested that this person have a second computer available for personal communications – in the event something goes wrong and communication is necessary with me or others (i.e. we’re not panicking on the publicly viewed screen!). The ‘Virtual’ support person, handles any questions/problems from online and is basically the online moderator. We could probably use just 1 person but since I’m working within a ‘training’ environment, I think it’s better to have the two Pre-Service Teachers involved.
Prior to the Conference day, I ask for the emails from all those signed up for the workshop and I send out an explanation about what to expect, the software required and even an invitation NOT to go to the booked room and just participate through the online interface (I think over the 5 years 3 students may have taken me up on that…one student took one session in the room and then participated in a second one, online, while he was in another workshop!). I also have a few virtual training sessions about the online environment with the two support people.
As I said earlier, the most powerful things happen when ‘seasoned’ teachers drop into the workshop through the online environment. Not only do the participants get ‘more bang for their buck’ as in while I’m presenting, the seasoned teachers supply additional, supportive material and they also provide potential PLN partners for the Pre-Service Teachers’ future careers..
During the event, both the Presenter and the F2F moderator is key to generating interaction between the live audience and the virtual one. Therefore, by virtue of the set up, with me off-site and the f2f moderators in attendance, I don’t think either group feels like ‘second-class’ citizens….but that certainly is a research point for investigation!
Some final thoughts:
-My dream is not to be the one ‘pushing the envelope’ and rather, that someday, the conference will be an ‘official’ dual mode one. There is so much to be gained by the Pre-Service Teachers in attendance as well as the potential for other Pre-Service Teacher programs to get involved – more connections, cross pollination, etc.
-Since I can’t see the audience in the current set up, I’ve suggested a camera on the audience but it’s difficult to arrange such a set up from afar and it would be one more layer of technology to fail on us.
-Being the presenter as well as the one responsible for the technology set up, I tend not to get too creative with ‘hands-on’ interactive portion of my workshop. I’d like to work on this aspect of the presentation more. In the future, I’m thinking of having the f2f get into ‘online groups’ for smaller group discussions and employing more activities while I pause and provide support.
-Right now, it’s basically only me “tweeting” about the workshop and inviting outsiders to participate. The university told me that their surveys have shown that the Pre-Service Teachers don’t use Twitter so they hadn’t thought of a hashtag, etc. – this just tells me how much more such activities are needed! Ideally, I’d like to have about half as many full-time teachers in attendance as Pre-Service Teachers – Over the years, I’ve averaged 20 Pre-Service Teachers and only 2 Full-Time teachers.
-In the past, when I sent out the pre-workshop email, I provided an online environment for participants to ask questions, network, etc. It didn’t get any action so I’ve dropped that aspect. It nags me though, because I tend to think, a Pre-Conference online environment might promote greater networking among future attendees – both f2f as well as online.
-I’m surprised with such services as Skype, Ustream or Livestream being freely available, there are not more dual mode presentation options formally available. I say, formally, since many an adhoc choice is ‘tweeted’ throughout any given week, where a laptop webcam and onboard audio attempts to present P.D.
Susan Lister, OCT, BEd, HBOR, MAET
NewMedia Consulting Services
twitter: slister / Skype: sl_info