Building bridges today that society tomorrow will walk across
Even though things did not go as planned I feel that I still got a lot out of my experience and attendance as virtual participant. Often we have ideas and visions of things and experiences that will come to us, however when these initial ideas change into something different we end up disappointed and discouraged. I would like to say that staying positive and looking into what was actually accomplished rather than not accomplished is the key to success in situations like that. We need to appreciate and to recognize the ways of how individually and/or together we had achieved our goals. So once again I would ask myself - what have I gained from my virtual participation? To me this conference is a valuable opportunity to connect to other educators who are on the web. I had a great start of the day yesterday by hearing all the NGO presenters (luckily I actually had good connection to the stream all morning!). Hearing what they had done and how their work has helped and put many people on the path of a better existence, got me all excited to be part of a team and look for solutions on how to help further. Having to go through the confusion and uncertainty of not knowing which one was my actual team, was not so great and not knowing my tasks brought on a frustration and uncertainty. However towards the end of the day I ‘left the conference’ with the positive feeling of being part of a team, and knowing their tasks and what was expected of me.
Day two also went in a much more different way than I had anticipated: I could not get in touch with the team again, and felt, once again, lost for a while. To add to that I could not get my Live Stream to work at all- not even once during the day (possibly due to the sand storm we had in Beijing). And then once again-things started looking up, when most of the virtual participants that were left ‘connected’ and decided to go to the back channel and we started a project of our own titled “ How We Helped Ourselves”. As I read the remarks, looked at the pictures that we all added to our Google document, the discussions and reflections of other participants being shared- it all felt great! Was it what I expected that I would be doing? Definitely not, but did it feel good to be part of this ‘community’? -Absolutey!
Suddenly it seemed that we were really involved! So it downed on me that perhaps the question should not be how to include the virtual participants in this conference: the question should be: how do we engage and keep these participants involved. I know that saying that is easier said that done, but my suggestion for next time would be to have a virtual group, on its own- this way we rely on each other, help each other and actually have time for each other. I found that having mixed groups created more of an obstacle- people who were at the actual conference were busy with their own tasks, and did not have much time for us- the ‘virtual lurkers’. Or maybe having pre-assigned/pre-planned tasks ( as Jason had suggested) would be another great way to ensure that everyone is involved, and stays involved in the activities. Might there be other, better, ways ot keep us virtually engaged?? I am sure of it, but these are the two suggestions I have thought of for now. Certainly every community is unique, and being part of this ‘virtual community’ has uniqueness of its own that only we can understand and relate to( being frustrated because the video stream is not working would be a good example here). And finally, I hope that all virtual participants have valued this experience as much as I have. I will be looking forward to other virtual events, such as this one, which has given me the opportunity to be part of a ‘new’ community of sharing and collaborating.