On April 20-22, OLC-Innovate will be held in New Orleans on the edge of the French Quarter. If you haven’t heard of the conference name before, it’s because this conference represents the combination of #et4online and blended conferences from years before. If you have a history of going to either one of those conferences, I encourage you to check out the program listing, as you will see some familiar things but also many changes. Early bird registration closes on February 29, 2016, so I also encourage you to hurry up.
One of the changes that comes with the new conference title is the approach the conference is taking to digital participation. [Spoiler Alert: Notice that I wrote digital participation – not virtual experience.] Yes, the conference has virtual registration, with opportunities to view live streamed key conference presentations. However, in keeping with the conference theme (“Innovation”), the conference steering committee is attempting to take all virtual things a step further:
We are acknowledging, valuing, and attempting to facilitate the digital participation of conference observers and attendees – physical and virtual – as a major facet of and opportunity for conference learning and meaning making.
So, what does this mean?
We are aggregating the backchannels, so that it’s easier for us serious backchannelers to get to the action more quickly. Most ed tech conferences have informal, upstart social media backchannel conversations and those are great (in fact, that’s where I spend most of my time at ed tech conferences). No one is messing with that. However, we will be aggregating Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube on the conference website, so that you can see what’s trending on each platform in a glance. And for the record, the conference hashtag is #OLCInnovate (I bet you saw that one coming from a million miles away).
Because we are in New Orleans – a very visually interesting backdrop – we are highlighting the potential of images and video for learning and communication (note the aggregation of Instagram and YouTube, above, as well as the scheduled photo safaris, below). This is not to take away from Twitter and Facebook – which also have image and video capacity – but we academics tend to be text-centric; we are asking you to stretch your expressiveness a bit and try new things and new media.
We are taking social media platforms seriously as huge opportunities to encourage deeper learning and broader participation around conference themes. There will be invitations to engage in creative digital “makes” that allow physical and virtual attendees (as well as virtual observers) to think about conference themes from a variety of perspectives. With help from participants, these will be captured and aggregated on the conference website, stimulating even more thinking, learning, and networking.
Furthermore, we plan to have a digital sandbox for participant engagement. Some workshops require participant interaction and engagement around videos, others need a place for crowdsourced scribing. We will have an entire virtual spot devoted to participants engaging with each other over session materials in those wiki and wild ways we all love.
We have the PlugIN lounge, a large physical presence at the conference , because we all need a place to plug in our devices occasionally, right? (also references to the augmentary powers of the WordPress plugin, etc etc). The PlugIN lounge will offer a variety of resources and experiences related to digital networked participatory culture:
- Self-guided opportunities in the Learning Resource Center
- Scheduled networking photo safaris around the conference halls and New Orleans
- Maybe even some gaming and game theory <she whispers> This one is still being baked.
- A Help Desk with people and resources to troubleshoot and get you started in the digital participatory world
And, finally, Virtually Connecting is back, with amazing opportunities for virtual attendees and observers to meet and interact with physical attendees and presenters.
That’s just a beginning, but I hope it’s enough information to convey that we are, indeed, trying to shake things up a bit. This isn’t your typical ed tech conference, I don’t think. Why don’t you come check it out? Also, if any of these things I’ve mentioned look particularly interesting to you – catch me on Twitter and let me know how to make it better and how you would like to get involved. Seriously, I need your help. No matter what, I know we can make it fun and educational all at the same time ;).