Tonight I participated in my first live educational conference online through EdTechTalk. The conference is called “Teachers Teaching Teachers” and takes place every Wednesday night. I did not join the group via video, but rather just watched/listened to the other participants and participated through a live chat feature. I didn’t feel comfortable joining as a video participant because I wanted to get my bearings first. However, I think I would have felt more connected and I would have gotten more out of the experience had I just bit the bullet and joined in.
It took me a while to catch up to what was being discussed. Participants were throwing around the term “Youth Voices” and I thought at first that it was just a cool catch phrase for high school kids who were blogging. It wasn’t until i joined the live chat that I got a better idea of what Youth Voices is. Youth Voices, it turns out, is a huge site where the main purpose is to offer a space for youth to participate in discussion. It is a place where youth can post their thoughts and comment on other youth’s thoughts. It is used by many middle years and high school teachers to give their students a forum for discovering their identity in the online community. One educator I connected with was Chris Sloan, who gave me insight through the live chat into the basics of Youth Voices and how he and his students are using the site.
One of the discussions among the video participants revolved around how teachers should/are assessing their student’s contributions on Youth Voices. One educator shared how she is setting guidelines for how much/what her students need to contribute to Youth Voices within a specific time frame. For example, she will stipulate that her students need to write one post and make one comment within a week, and if they do both they get the marks for it. This particular educator works at a school in the Bronx and has found that participating in Youth Voices has empowered her students to have their voices heard. She noted how much time and effort can be put into a short comment, because the students are very aware of their online presence and ensuring they present themselves appropriately.
Although I was ‘there’ I had a difficult time being fully present in the conversation going on. I think that a lot of this had to do with being a listener, but not a participant. The fact that I was also trying to eat dinner at the same time probably served as a distraction as well. Also, I found the constant switching from video to video to be distracting at times. I don’t know if it is set up that the moderator of the group chooses who to focus on, or if it is set up as an auto detect where the video switches to whoever is making noise. Whatever the case, it was odd for the focus to switch around to other screens than the person who was talking. I also found it difficult to follow the conversation because there wasn’t really an introduction into what the topic was. I guess the participants must have all been very familiar with Youth Voices…again, I’m sure that if I had joined as a video participant and been open about my naivety to the topic, the conversation would have been shaped much differently. But regardless, because I was lost on the main gist of what was being discussed, I couldn’t really follow many of the details. Despite my not being able to get much out of the conversation, it was an interesting experience to view it. I think the biggest thing I got out of the experience was that I was also able to network with educators from far and wide- always a positive when you are working on developing your professional learning network.
With regards to the idea of having live conferences/conversations via EdTechTalk, and other sources such as Classroom 2.0 , I think it is a really easy and personal way to connect with fellow educators. I would love to come back to join in a conversation in the future, especially if I am looking for information specifically related to the topic being discussed. I am curious to know whether there are any live educator chats/conferences specifically for Early Childhood Educators. If you know of one, pass it on!