To Err is Human: Listening, Forgiving and Forgetting

It t’was the MOOC before Christmas

And through the interwebs

All the creatures were stirring and…

… I actually found it kind of hard to keep up with everything but that was ok. (I know that part doesn’t rhyme – I’m not that kind of poet)

It’s not every year one gets a Graduation Solstice Birthday Christmas New Year but 2015/16 is the one for me. It’s travel time and I’m off and about staying true to my wandering nature. Along my way I’m carrying #HumanMOOC with me – no worries; it’s not so heavy. I have been paying attention and participating as I find fit and I thought I would reflect some.

First off – Wo! The participant hangout thing actually took off a little bit and that has been pretty awesome. It has me thinking about my thinking and wondering about differences in processing information synchronously vs asynchronously. For instance, the other day we had this one about digital citizenship put together by Sundi Richard and I found myself answering a question about what it means to be a good digital citizen by stating that it had to do with participation but in the same breath I somehow threw listening in as an act of participation. I could write a whole other post on this idea and of course it stands on the synchronous #HumanMOOC convo with Kate Bowles, tons of #HumanMOOC async convo on twitter and probably all the way back to my musings in #rhizo15 about lurkers, but my point is I had never really thought about it in relation to digital citizenship in that way before. That is, the idea that listening is a responsibility of being an active member of a society. But there it was, all manifesting itself as it came out of my mouth in that moment. Live on the Internet… Recorded. There is something kind of magical and terrifying about that.

In taking on a reflection here at the 3/4’s mark of #HumanMOOC a part of me wants to reflect on the competencies for weeks 1 & 2: Instructor and Social Presence, but alas I have these other pesky constructs coming out of the conversations that I have been participating in (yes some of them were only listening) that are screaming in my brain and making it hard for me to hear anything else. I might be down the rabbit hole with the questions.

Warning rhizomatic mind wanderings below

This first for me is the big question. What does it mean to be human? Can we humanize an online course if we don’t take a moment to consider this? I recognize that this is the big unanswerable philosophical question that flies in one’s face making lewd gestures and strange noises. For this reason it is often only taken on by those that bring it some air of seriousness for it is so easy to just go out drinking with it and let it get the best of you. And while I have not been known for my seriousness in these open online adventures I can’t resist it. So, please forgive this uptake of a big question by a not so serious girl who is only moderately read.

In considering what is human I have to wonder what is not human? Is it the wild? I found myself revisiting my public vs wild post from #CLMOOC due to #HumanMOOC convos. 

I’m tempted to reflect on what it means to create such a thing as good or bad or mediocre and then apply that construct to others and one’s self. Is this human? As I consider this question of what is human the phrase “to err is human” comes to mind. And this makes me wonder what it means to err. Didn’t humans create the idea of error? Maybe not, I’m not so sure that this separates the human from the wild. I suppose the wild could err if there is a pursuit that ends in failure or setback – perhaps a hunt or a gathering. But it seems to me that those kind of errors would not lend themselves to forgiveness.

To err is human; to forgive, divine

Is woman/man caught in some kind of middle here? Between wild and divine do we find human? This seems like a common enough of a thought. 

But I think I reject it. I think it might be a fraud. I think woman/man is wild as well as divine and dances in the liminal space of chaos in the universe.  So humor me with this as a foundation while I reflect a bit on how this relates to my recent thoughts inspired by #HumanMOOC.

What if to forgive was not divine? What if to forgive was just as human as to err?

We’ve had some talk these last few weeks about digital forgiveness and what that might mean. Alec Couros started this in a #HumanMOOC hangout with reflections of what it means to err in a wold that does not forget. He referenced his recent blog post where he comes to the conclusion that forgiveness may end up being the answer. I agree and I think that this is attainable because I think that forgiveness is not divine – but human. I worry that if we think of forgiveness as divine that it seems too unattainable.

Not everyone seems to agree – some would rather focus on forgetting rather than forgiving. Perhaps they think forgiveness is more than human and beyond what the human can achieve. That the only way to give someone hope would be to wipe the slate clean and erase all hints of the error. Some would even call this forgiveness.

In thinking about forgetting I can’t help but think of Socrates and how the old man warned us all those years ago on how writing stuff down would ruin our memories. Apparently there is some truth to that but I would argue the effects are not all that bad and that the benefits of writing outweigh what we have lost. Now, here we are worried that writing stuff down will ruin other people’s memories of who we used to be. Maybe the written word is ruining our history more than our memory? Or maybe it is just forcing us to rethink some things and asking us to be better people. Maybe it is doing both at the same time.

If forgiveness is something attainable by the human how do we learn to do it? Alec gives us guide points in his post such as considering context and intent. These seem helpful and clear to me but with some limitations. I wonder how many of us will take the initiative to seek out transgressions to forgive or (more likely) when encountering transgressions as they come will think to consider forgiveness as an option. The thing that seems missing (to me) in all of this is the willful act of asking for forgiveness; of realizing that a wrong has happened, recognizing the weight of that wrong, as well as who has been wronged, and genuinely asking for forgiveness.

What would it mean to request digital forgiveness? To realize a wrong, look it in the face, feel remorse, know it can’t be wiped away, yet ask for the right to go on in a particular direction? And what would that kind of forgiveness look like? It certainly sounds familiar to me. It kind of sounds like learning.

Why We Rhizo

There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact – it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.
~Gerry O’Driscoll Doorman for Abby Road Studios
partly heard on Pink Floyd’s Eclipse

When questions about reasons and why collide with WEs and THEMs

The “Why do they cMOOC – Why do they Rhizo?” Question

All semester we had pondered the nature of technology and what it means for human learning. Week 1, Heidegger drew this line in the dirt saying technology was in opposition of nature to the detriment of man. Clark swooped in for week four claiming the stick Heidegger used to draw the line was an extension of Heidegger’s human will and that in doing so Heidegger had himself become part machine.  The arguments flew. I wondered where the girls were. I wandered into the wrong link at the right time, had a memory, put some pieces together and ended up in #rhizo15. I decided the informal and formal needed to/should hang out for this one even if I were to be the only bridge (and I was not).

End of the class; middle of the MOOC, the question came up:

Why do they cMOOC – (for me “Why do they Rhizo?”)

They’re not getting paid for it.
They seem to be having fun but it takes up so much time.
Maybe it is just to see if they can – I’m sure that is a part of it.
Ha! Maybe they just do it just to get new people – all eyes on me
“Uh oh look out I’m about to get sucked in….” everyone chuckles.

The class ended – #rhizo15 continued.

It’s been three months and now I find I’m asking myself:

The “Why do we Rhizo?” Question

And I’m struggling with the idea that getting more people might be the big answer! No. That cannot be right. There is just something in me saying that is not a good enough reason. One does not create community for the sake of creating community. Community can be messy. That is a dangerous proposal.

Then I hesitate. Gosh I sound like a sad and disgruntled old man. Reaching out to more people in a community to grow knowledge is a great reason; a noble reason. Of course we want to create opportunity where it is possible. Open doors where they can be opened for people that want in that particular door – where it has been closed before.

But the sole reason?

I think some of my hesitation may also be selfish – Ron Samul, a fellow rhizo newbie as of 15, helped me out in unpacking that one. I think I may be just wondering what happens to the new girl when she’s not so new anymore? Especially when she is preoccupied with thoughts of longevity and questions about what get’s left behind.

But here I am and without a doubt that question has shifted from a “they” to a “we” for me. And now I am struggling with it. Now it is personal.

What about those doors? (Warning Metaphorical Space Ahead)

The thing about the corridor of doors is that often we think of the doors as being closed as one walks along the hallway but I think the truth is that the doors are in all different kinds of states. Some are open, some are closed, locked, unlocked, ajar, propped… some squeak and stick… some swing… others slide… sometimes they’re those split dutch doors and either half could be in any of these states. Trap doors. Hidden doors. And the state of the door does not belong to the door itself. No, it changes depending on who is trying to access it – it is a very strange place.

The doors symbolize barriers yes but they also symbolize opportunity. Opportunity to change state. They can let people in but they are also the way out – and that happens – I think that is okay but what does that mean?

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.
~ William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

There is something so freaking satisfying about opening those big heavy doors that have been locked for a long time. The doors that were locked to our mothers and fathers that are now open to us. Doors that held us back because of time and space, for instance. Distance? Time zones? Miles? Kilometers? Where the sun is at in it’s chase of the moon? Never mind any of that door – crash! You’re in!

Something so powerful about that.

Power is a funny thing and I find I have this affinity for subtlety.

Why We Rhizo

I had dinner with a colleague the other night and I found myself saying something like this in relation to the effect that #rhizo15 had on me:

“No longer can I accept this argument that you cannot form meaningful connected relationships in an online course. Yes, there can be barriers and those can vary from person to person, discipline to discipline, and I agree there are some environments where it is not going to happen but no longer can anyone tell me that it is not possible at all.”

And I’m not sure I ever really bought that argument for myself but I used to cut people some slack for it and I don’t think I can do that any more. That is not a little change. I’m already seeing a difference in the way I speak to people about online learning. It’s not a small thing – I’ve taken something valuable here.  So, I feel like I’ve got a debt to pay in terms of making WEs of THEMs and it is one I am glad to attempt to pay as best I can – honestly I get more than I give when I make those attempts. However, I struggle to say that is the end – to my means.

I think that, for me, being a part of a knowledge community is centered around the discovery, creation, and communication of knowledge. In writing this I struggled with even agreeing to the term “knowledge community” thinking that could be perceived as static or fixed in some way – I was thinking maybe questioning community or community of critical thought – but that all does seem, in the end, to lead to knowledge.

The thing about knowledge is that it is slippery and can take on all kinds of biases depending on your lens. (There is a good chance all of this is me just applying my thoughts, experiences, and personal bias in education theory in general to rhizo). So, we need other people; a diverse pool of people to look at knowledge from all different angles and perspectives. If we really want to say that we are a knowledge community then I feel like we need other people to challenge each other, create with one another, give perspective to one another. It is in this way, I think, that making WEs of THEMs is tightly tied to the idea of a knowledge community without being the sole reason for it.

The Connecting May be Virtual but the Authenticity is Real: #digped From Afar with Virtually Connecting

Cross-posted on http://virtuallyconnecting.org

Photo Credit Bowin Chin: People Connecting
Shared with Creative Commons Licensing NC-ND


 

Before we get started I should come clean and say that I have never actually tried one of those virtual conferences. I have been on both sides of webinars and streamed lectures enough that I imagine them to be lacking in the way of participation. You always hear that going to a conference is more about connecting and networking and that the virtual conference offerings cannot give you that. I suppose most virtual conferences are fine for what they are but it is not what I would imagine as participatory or social – I feel like they lack something in the way of authenticity.

My virtual experience for #digped was not like that.

I have to say it really outdid any of my expectations for a virtual experience. I should be clear that it was not the kind of experience you might think of when you see a conference offered “virtually”. This was never really “offered” to me; I paid no fee for a virtual registration, I was not provided with instructions on how to login, or given any special credentials or a link to follow. Heck the video stream of the keynotes (which were advertised as a maybe) did not even work. So what made the difference?

A huge part of my experience centered on getting more involved in Virtually Connecting (@VConnecting).

I was reminded about the event few days before the Lab/Institute began when I saw that Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) and Rebecca Hogue (@rjhogue) were planning to do some VConnecting sessions for it.  I started talking to them about it and expressing interest in participating virtually. I had participated in some sessions for HASTAC and I knew it would be a good way to get a glimpse of things on site. They gave me the schedule and I signed up to participate in a few hangouts.

On the first day of the conference I got into things by sending this tweet which was pretty well received.

This tweet started to get a small number of favorites and retweets and at first I just thought that was cool. However, at some point I remembered that my first interaction with VConnecting was because Maha reached out to me after I faved an announcement about an upcoming session. Mind you I did not reach out to Maha with a reply or mention to say “Hey I really want to do that please count me in”.  While that may have been on my mind I did not say it; I was at this outdoor concert, camping, and did not think that it was something I could participate in at that moment. However, based on my fav Maha reached out to me and invited me in and when I explained where I was she gave me advice about connecting via the mobile app. She made the experience accessible and friendly for me.

So, getting these favs and retweets on this particular tweet was my WWMD (What Would Maha Do) moment. It also reminded me about Maha’s recent conversations around hospitality and how it had spurred my own thinking around digital citizenship. So, I started reaching out to those that were favoriting and retweeting (well those that I could tell were not already at the Lab/Institute) and seeing if they wanted to join up as virtual participants and sending the yes’s over to Maha or Rebecca.

This set a trajectory for me and before I knew it I was in full swing with the program for the whole week. I found myself in some of the planning backchannels which was awesome and somehow ended up co-hosting as a virtual buddy with Apostolos Koutropoulos (AK) (@koutropoulos) for the final day. In the end, I was in a VConnecting session every day except the one day that Alan Levine (@cogdog) hosted which was a bummer but I had the broadcast on in the background while at work and caught bits and pieces. That authenticity also showed up for me as I got to collaborate with our onsite buddies Andrea Rehn (@Profrehn), Lisa Hammershaimb (@merryspaniel), and Sarah Hammershaimb (@S_Hammershaimb). With all of the planning and organizing I felt like I got to know them and I felt connected to the onsite event. We were participating in the event in a different way but we were participating and it felt more authentic and real than I can ever imagine watching a broadcast could.

I think a big piece of the authenticity around VConnecting is that it is far from perfect. Especially in the live broadcast the sessions are exceedingly human; prone to awkward pauses, last minute changes, overlapping conversation starts, and all of the awkwardness that quite honestly triggers my social anxiety when meeting a new person for the first time. I’m struggling to define it but it reminds me of some kind of flip or hybridization on context collapse as Michael Wesch defined it for recording web video. Though it is recorded it is also live and in a social situation. I’ll be honest the experience is not always comfortable in the moment but I think that there is something to be said for being given the opportunity to look those contexts in the face and try to make sense of them. It is this sense of opportunity, humanness, and spontaneity that brought authenticity to VConnecting and VConnecting brought it to #digped and I got to jump on board for the ride.

Just like in a face to face experience when you go to a large gathering of professionals you will meet a lot of people but find that you might connect at a deeper level with others. The VConnecting live sessions allowed me to talk to some amazing presenters whose work I really admire, however, I found that the off air interactions were extremely rich. It is hard to plan and organize something with a group of people and walk away not feeling that you know each other a little more. Again, I can’t see how you could get that from watching a live stream no matter the chance to tweet a question and have it relayed by a moderator.

The pre and post show interactions and the planning logistics that went into creating each session were an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with many people that I otherwise would have never known. Some of these people I had met before through VConnecting or through other online interactions but for some it was my first time meeting them. Particularly, I think my relationship with Maha, Rebecca, and Andrea was deepened from all that communication and interaction. The laughter and silliness that ensued while AK and I tried to record a trailer for our session is something that makes me smile even while I recall it to write about it here.

After #digped we all got together in a hangout for a debriefing session; Virtually Connecting is still in it’s infancy having only launched earlier this year. It is still growing and defining itself but we were able to clarify some roles that need to be filled for future events and there is a call for more members now. If you can’t attend a conference that you really want to go to I would highly recommend seeing if VConnecting will be there and if so jumping in to see how you can participate with them from afar.

We are currently planning to be at several ed tech conferences including the altc conference in Manchester UK in September and the dLRN conference at Stanford next month. If you are organizing an event or conference contact VConnecting about bringing them onsite to your event – it will give your virtual participants an experience that cannot be replicated.

Public Space vs Wild Space: A #clmooc Reflection Without Much Background

I’m sad that I couldn’t find more time for #clmooc. But I think it might be fun that if I only get two posts in, that it be one at the beginning – my Untro – and one here at the end on public spaces.

I was not sure what was going on when I noticed many of my friends were changing their icons to little rangers on twitter. What the heck is the deal? That was when I realized that this final #clmooc prompt had to do with public spaces.

I caught some of the calls to pin maps with people’s favorite public spaces, photos, blog posts, and a twitter chat the other day which I actually got to take part in… but to tell the truth I did not get a chance to really dive into the conversation. Still, I’m inspired by this prompt… so without much background here is my reflection.

One of my first thoughts was about the open web as a public space and how that plays into digital citizenry. What the responsibilities are of the citizenry in public spaces of all kinds but then how that plays out on the web. How communities like #clmooc (and #moocmooc and #rhizo15) serve as good examples of digital citizenship by encouraging people to not just be on the web but to think, create, question, converse… build affiliations, acquaintances, friendships,… by using tools of the web to reach out to one another and be creative in positive ways that encourage a better public space for everyone. It seems that is an important part of a public space – realizing that it is public and that it is shared and that to share we need to work together to make a better space.

But then I had wondered if I had used the wrong metaphor in calling the open web “in the wild” for the #tomereaders book group that I facilitated on the open web. I did so because there were some people that did not want to participate in the open web and wanted a closed LMS instead – which I coined “in the lodge”.  I used these metaphors somewhat based on the fear that was expressed from the people that did not want to use the open environment and I’m not sure it was the right fit. This got me thinking about wild places and what it really means to be a wild place.

A wild place is different than a public place. It seems to me a public place is a place for people. In contrast a wild place is a place where nature comes first – not nature as in flowers, rocks, and animals but nature as in that sense or source of energy of the way things would be without a lot of man-made rules, structure, or laws where the flowers, rocks, and animals are there because of a shift in what is valued. In one sense a wild place is dangerous because it has not been massaged by the rules of humans and the wild things could have their way with you if you were out in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in a bigger sense the wild is vulnerable because we all know how humans can bend the wild to their own needs with pavement, machinery, and bureaucracy.

This led me to think of the recent protests in Portland OR where the protesters were trying to stop Shell from transporting equipment they needed to drill oil in the Arctic. The protesters were dangling themselves from a bridge putting their bodies in the way of the barge so that it could not pass. To some they are troublemakers and standing in the way of legal drilling that was given the go ahead by the government. But to others they are standing up for that value of the wild spaces that are vulnerable to the impact of humans.

And then looping back to the digital citizen in how all of this is documented and tweeted and blogged about; debated and conversed about on the open web leading to redefinitions about what it means to be public, what it means to be wild, what it means to be a citizen and be responsible to each other and to the public and wild spaces.

I’m not sure where this all goes and what this all means but I’m grateful for public spaces to have the conversation and think about the different spaces in our world.

Technologies, Taxonomies, and Acronyms! Oh My: A MOOC-ish Taxonomy

Lately, I’ve been coming across a lot of posts regarding definition around the MOOCs.  So I thought I would collect some of what I am seeing on the web and in my own personal network into a blog post.

Recently, Fred Mud posted on the xMOOC, cMOOC, and the rMOOC. With the rMOOC being the rhizo MOOC citing Dave Cormier’s #rhizo14 and #rhizo15 as the impetus and prime example. Apostolos Koutropoulos (AK) just took a critical look at SPOCs – I have to agree it is a silly acronym but I am a fan of the small open endeavors. And while it is not recent, I found this Hybrid Pedagogy piece from 2012 created by hundreds in a google doc that spells out the MOOC acronym and challenges the ideas of teacher/student. It is a great reminder that this is not a new discussion.

In personal conversations I’ve found some avoiding the acronym MOOC entirely, while others augment it to meet their needs by changing what the letters mean, some keep the core MOOC but throw something on the beginning or the end, and others create whole new acronyms.

About a month ago I ran into Vicki McGillin at a local conference where she presented as a part of a group that was creating an assessment tool for MOOCs. The tool is aimed at helping schools assess their MOOC endeavors and thus for a moment the conversation shifted itself to MOOCs not designed by schools. The acronyms started flying and Vicki mentioned that she had created a taxonomy of MOOCs. My ears perked up. I asked her to share with me and then asked if I could share with the world – and she agreed so here it is Vicki McGillin’s MOOC-ish Taxonomy.

A MOOC-ISH TAXONOMY

V. McGillin (August 2013)

cMOOC

xMOOC

bMOOC

wMOOC

gMOOC

Known As “Connectivist” MOOC; Also SPOC (Self-Paced Open Course – anyone can jump in anytime, anywhere) and some DOCCs (Distributed Open Collaborative Course co-developed) MOOC – most common understanding of what a MOOC represents “Blended”/  “Mash up” MOOC;MOOC as Text/MOOC as Open Educational Resource “Wrapped” MOOC ; full MOOC course connected in some manner to an existing credit-bearing course “Guided MOOC; Also SMOC (Synchronous Massive Online Course) and MOOM (Massive Open Online Masters – Georgia Tech)

Initiated

2008

2011

2012-13

2012-13

2013

Offered By Original Canadian MOOC  developers (George Siemen), feminists (DOCC), UMary Washington Coursera, Udacity, EdX, Blackboard, Canvas, NovoEd, Coursesites, Open2Study Anyone, e.g., Cuyahoga Community College is developing materials for remedial math on a MOOC platform Any MOOC platform Any MOOC Platform (e.g., Georgia Tech MS in CS; UT – Austin F’13 Intro Psych class)
Pedagogy Learning-centered; Co-learning by all; goal to develop communities of practice Teacher-centered; Video lecture /quizzes/peer-grading; Content is downloaded to students who are quizzed on competency; some group work/peer feedback Students study selected background material from MOOC (and other online sources) as an Open Educational Resource to better discuss/engage in fcredit-bearing class/learning lab Face to face class incorporates entire MOOC either as prelude or throughout blended / flipped learning class Students complete xMOOC with support from Assistants assigned to respond to questions/facilitate online discussions/grade
Role of Instructor Collaborate in developing content/goals; take lead initially Creates content, assessment, activities & learning pathways Create course experience including content; select MOOC and other content sources to incorporate; create assessment and feedback for students Create course experience (may be a completely separate class) including other content, exercises, assessment and feedback; Select MOOC around which to wrap/follow the course Instructor-Same as xMOOC; Role of Assistant – to guide experiences, facilitate discussions, evaluate assignments and grade outcomes
Role of Student Open enrollment, Co-creation of experience; share knowledge; create projects and join communities of practice Open enrollment, Receives information; participates in group work, responds to quizzes/assignments Normal admissions; Receive MOOC and other content information; apply concepts in credit-bearing class; assignments Normal admissions; Receive MOOC information; apply concepts to wrapped course materials/assignments Normal admission of LARGE number of students; Receive MOOC information; complete assignments, participate in groups
Credit None ACE recommended Transfer credit for 8 courses; Three state systems approved as transfer credit (given review on campus); More adding F’13 through prior learning assessment Credit awarded for on-campus course Credit awarded for on-campus course; some offer credit for MOOC upon completion of on-campus “half” or other test of learning in the MOOC Credit/degree awarded based on performance on assignments evaluated by GAs
Business Model None Certificate fees (Coursera/Udacity); Modified tuition; Licensing content or platform (Udacity) Normal tuition charged for on campus course Normal tuition charged for on campus course; IF also award transfer credit for MOOC upon completion of campus class, COULD earn two courses worth of credit for one paid enrollment Modified tuition charged for MOOC guided courses (Georgia Tech; UT-Austin); S. Thrun (Udacity) believes this is the formula
Strengths Promotes collaborative discussions; Creates communities of practice; excellent for professional development Efficient download of information that does not change over time; Effective with adults with degrees; Assessment best when R/W answers, machine-scored; EFFECTIVE use of adaptive learning technology helpful. Most non-quantitative courses are survey/intro classes to this date. MOOCs as Open Educational Resources providing mini-lectures, exercises – enhances efficiency if same materials can be used in multiple courses; addresses criticism of MOOCs through promoting student participation in credit-bearing class; help prepare students for in-class, in-depth engagement with the material; “flipping” classroom enhances in-class engagement with learning/application Same as bMOOC but use entire MOOC as primary OER content source. Two courses for the price of one is possible. 1 professor/50 tutors is much less expensive that 50 professors, so can charge lower tuition; student will have someone to engage with and provide valued feedback on performance; adaptive learning software COULD increase effectiveness of quizzes; possibly viable business model and compromise educational model.
Challenges Not efficient if working with stable, consensual content material; no business model Lecture=least effective mode of pedagogy whether face-to-face or online; criticized for western hegemonic model of education; Not efficient if content changes quickly Udacity/Coursera licenses may preclude “reuse” of material; without agreement, unless put in the Commons, no guarantee course/materials would be available Same as bMOOC but more so as dependent on one source for “flipping” materials; like xMOOCs, not at all efficient if content must change quickly Same as xMOOC

(derived from an article written by Jeannie Crowley, Campus Technology 2013/08/15)

Connecting Virtually – Considerations from a Virtual Participant

What is Virtually Connecting?

Recently, I had the privilege of being able to participate in a couple of Virtually Connecting hangouts;  an experiment set up by Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue. What is Virtually Connecting?

Well, for a while now bigger Ed Tech conferences have been streaming sessions, sometimes for a price and sometimes for free. It is great because you can tune in and watch sessions that you are interested in and sometimes they even have a place where you can type in a  question and a moderator will relay your question to the presenter.

But let’s be honest, sessions are only one part of the conference experience.

A huge part of the conference experience is that person that you bump into in the hallway who just happens to be doing similar research or someone that you end up sitting with at a shared lunch table who last year implemented that same technology project that you are working on right now. It is those serendipitous little connections that just sort of happen.

How do you attempt to replicate that virtually?

Well… this is how it happened for me.

I was attending the Nelsonville Music Festival in Nelsonville Ohio, the first multi-day music festival I have attended in a long time, trying out my new 2 person Big Agnes Mountain Glo tent as accommodations for 3 nights and making food on my old propane 2 burner camping stove. Not bad data on the cell service but not the best either.

Nelsonvilletent

This is my attempt to replicate my situation/internal dialog/conversation with Maha Bali:

…Oh look a tweet from Maha about a hangout with some people from the HASTAC conference. I’ve always wanted to go to that conference; looks like a blast. I bet that hangout would be a blast; wish I could play but I am on my way to see this band – hiking the path from the camp site to the festival grounds – I’ll just favorite the tweet to show Maha my support.

Oh… DM from Maha ‘do I want to join the hangout’. Yes! I do want to join the hangout but I’m at this thing without all my tech – I only have my phone. What? There is a Google Hangout app? ‘It starts in about 90min’. That would give me some time to gather some things; earbuds, power cord, find a quiet place… Okay I’m in at least to try…

What was it like?

Well you can see for yourself:

But let me give a little more.

So, the majority of the labor for a thing like this falls on the virtual host and the on-site coordinator who together work out times, onsite location, technology set-up, etc. As a virtual participant you really get the sweet end of the deal – you just get to drop in. I ended up being a virtual participant in three of these sessions over the next few weeks with Maha as the virtual host each time.

They were Hangouts On-Air so besides the people in the hangout who are participating there is the potential for a whole other audience that might be tuning in and they are recorded so others might be tuning in later. I had at least one experience with someone blogging about our conversation after the fact when Simon Ensor reminded me about the magic of technology. I thought it was a wonderful way to extend the conversation.

Overall, it was a great experience each time. I got to meet some really smart people including Mia Zamora who I’m encountering again as she is helping to facilitate #CLMOOC. I also got great insights to some conferences (HASTAC and DML) that I have been wanting to check out for a while.

The spontaneous nature of the thing encouraged that serendipitous energy and each time it really did remind me of bumping into someone at a conference to chat over coffee – that thing that is so hard to replicate in virtual conference offerings.

I will admit to a bit of social anxiety, which people say I hide pretty well but it is there.  I was meeting people that I had never met before and who’s work I was not really familiar with so in the beginning there was a little bit of anxiety. However, Maha was a great host and did a wonderful job of getting everyone acclimated and it was easy to feel comfortable once things started rolling.

If you get a chance to be a virtual participant I would highly recommend the experience. It is a wonderful way to broaden your network and connect with some people that are doing good work in the field. The Virtual Connecting website also has suggestions on how you can run your own Virtually Connecting sessions if you want to give it a try.

Here are a few other blog posts and articles that describe the experience from the other sides:

Articles from Maha and Rebecca in Hybrid Pedagogy and in The Chronicle Of Higher Education’s Prof Hacker blog.

Insights from Alan Levine and Andrea Rehn on being an on-sight participant