Conferences, Techno Geekiness

It’s almost like being there…

but not quite. Over the past two days I’ve been “attending” Educon with varying degrees of success.  The Elluminate rooms were interesting because the limitations of the technology really showed – if the mic wasn’t positioned well, sound got muddied; if there weren’t enough people in the backchannel, the experience was lessened; and if the presenter didn’t remember that those of us in the backchannel were also there, the group work wasn’t useful (not to mention that the whiteboard area didn’t lend itself to many people adding/sharing at once).

Alice commented:

Even the strictly presentation format was awkward: camera @ rear of room doesn’t capture more than back of heads.

I’m thinking it would be easier to just see the aggregated tweets, videos, etc. after the fact than try to follow along in RT

While CathyJo tweeted:

Dear moderator, the cams in the rooms do not need to focus on visuals bc this kind of conf is more about the conversations NOT the…

Amen to both (assuming the videos have decent audio).  Many presenters did provide links to their presentations, which was great.  Some really took into account the backchannel and encouraged our participation along with the F2F group.

Skype wouldn’t work well in this situation (and watching Cory Doctorow’s Skype session at the YALSA preconference was painful); Dimdim might.  Etherpad has potential, but with only 16 people allowed in at a time?  Not great for conferences.  Google Wave?  Google Docs?  Also have limitations in terms of format, sharing, etc..

My big takeaway is that we’re heading in the right direction with conferences; ALA needs to do more virtual stuff because travel expense (and time away from job) often prevents people from being more active in the association.  However, the technology isn’t there yet.

As much as we talk about moving to more constructivist, “guide on the side” situations in our schools, we still present in the old format.  How can we change that to include virtual participants, thus expanding our conversations/learning?

6 thoughts on “It’s almost like being there…”

  1. My experience was very similar to yours. I found the response from Elluminate so slow sometimes I had given up, and then 5 minutes later, the page appeared. Once I was logged in, the video and audio were adequate within the limitations of the format. It was so frustrating observing when participants went into small groups. There was no way to be part of that process.

  2. The first year I went and led a conversation with Carolyn Foote and Joyce Valenza SLA students used UStream. Last year when I didnt get to go it was vimeo. This year (with em at home again) it was Elluminate. I’m GLAD SLA is looking at the best options, truly exploring the possibilities, and I really thought the elluminate would be a vast improvement. But I was increasingly frustrated over the audio quality. I am shocked to realize Elluminate did not work well at all. I really thought using Elluminate was going to mean best quality ever. But I must say it was the hardest to follow this year. That first year, many physical attendees seemed to enjoy interacting with the attendees in the virtual group. Not so much this year. Virtual attendees were in a virtual Elluminate room, and it almost felt as if we were sequestered from the actual attendees. Boo. During Will Ricahrdson’s session, Jen Wagner finally set us up a wiki so we could dow a virtual group when the session broke into smaller groups. It almost felt like we were contributing, We had to beg our moderator to bring our wiki and thoughts into the session, which finally did happen.

    In my exit survey (which by the way I was only asked once–perhaps a snafu since Im sure they wanted feedback form each session) I graded Elluminate poorly as an effective tool for virtual audiences. I also recommended that if possible, each session have a camera person to FOLLOW the conversations, and one person to monitor the virtual audience and their conversations. It truly felt this year like being left out. Actually, I think there should only be ONE chat session, and that should be used by both the in-person attendees as well as the virtual audience. If that did happen this year in any one session or panel discussion, I certainly did not see it.

    I suppose Chris and his staff will ask for feedback and carefully reflect on afterthoughts to make this dynamic conference even more so next year. I have GOT to find a way to get back to Philadelphia. I cannot describe how WONDERFUL it was that first year.

    Sorry—didnt mean to get too wordy. You can have your blog back now. 😀

  3. I would have to agree w/ Cathy — except Lisa Durff set up the wiki — not me!!

    I have to say that this year was probably the most organized, in regards to sessions being available — I was able to attend everything. The VOKLE (??) environment was my favorite — all 3 keynotes/panels used that.

    But, as Cathy Jo said, it was interesting to see that the back-channel this year — at least in the 6 sessions I attended — was overlooked often. I think it is a consideration to figure out why.

    Also — I have to agree with the author of this post — having the powerpoints/presentations available was quite helpful….especially with the garbled sound.

    But all in all – I was able to attend fron the convenience of my own home, often in my jammies, with no financial burden of registration, airfare, hotel or eating out… I cannot truly complain too much.

    If nothing else, it has made me realize I really need to BE THERE next year in person. (smiles, then I can make sure the back-channel is not forgotten!)


  4. Cathy,

    I agree with quite a bit of what you said. Ustream seems to be a much more accessible choice.

    I was kind of surprised this year–seemed a little less awareness of the backchannel/nonattendees.

    I know there was a lot of great interaction going on, but Ustream does seem a better, more spontaneous way to catch that action.

    I was very thankful when Will Richardson quickly set up a ustream for a group conversation when the session he was in broke into groups–we felt like a part of the group and it also hopefully enriched the session a little bit by having some extra members 😉

    Another session which really did a fairly good job of taking into account remote participants was the one on Caring. Maybe partly that was because two of the speakers were coming in remotely but they were monitoring the backchannel on Elluminate.

    Thee was less opportunity to interact with the actual groups that were in the room, but we still had an enriching discussion amongst ourselves with two of the presenters in the chat.

    Will Richardson also did a great job in his own session of checking the Elluminate and including the back channel as a natural part of his session–because he just ASSUMED he would have one.

    I think that was what surprised me–that some presenters weren’t “presuming” there would obviously be some offsite attendees, and then incorporate that or pay attention to their own Elluminate feed.

    IT’s a lot to keep up with and I’m really thankful for getting to participate and chat with the nonattendees as well, and since we weren’t attending of course what you get, is what you get.

    And I very much appreciate SLA’s effort to provide this option.

    Just a few comments about the experience. Lastly, I think if we really want more people to be part o it, we might want to think about accessibility and complexity…as far as ALA or AASL goes. The simpler the better.

    That said, I feel so glad ot have had the opportunity to be a part of this experience. I learned a lot just by watching great speakers and having interesting conversations.

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