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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Connecting communities and conferences: We have the technology!

Last week I made my way up the M1 to join the #socmedHE conference. Strictly speaking it was the #socmedHE18 conference but as it happened in 2019 I kept to the generic hashtag mostly. I was off to present - or rather to facilitate experience of - Virtual Exchange. The rationale for this was to connect participants at the Nottingham Trent based conference with those attending the Future teacher 3.0 conference in York. Both exciting HE conferences on the same day but about 90 miles apart. Both sharing experiences and expertise in online or digital teaching. My aim was to use what I have learned through designing and running virtual exchange over the past 8 years and share my enthusiasm for the work of the @ft3uk team. I have regularly attended their lunchtime webinars which are always comprehensive, interactive and useful for professional development. 

The design for this session was founded in experiential learning. I designed 3 tasks to take the participants through these stages:

  1. Information sharing
  2. Comparison and Analysis
  3. Co-creation
Timing being short the tasks included a little ice breaking but, unlike the cohorts I usually work with, the participants in these 2 conferences are more homogenous - all working in UK education, mainly Higher Education practitioners. The embedded gdoc in this post shows the tasks in more detail. My slides were a remix from those used by UNICollaboration to present virtual exchange. The co-creation was aggregated using the two conference hashtags through a Tagboard and a wakelet post. (again this was a modified version of co-creation due to the time constraints, our virtual exchangees have to intentionally co-create artefacts but they typically have weeks to negotiate this). 

My session was a face to face session at Nottingham Trent #socmedHE18 transmitted through my Blackboard Collaborate Ultra room to York. The Erasmus Plus Virtual Exchange initiative supports practitioners through training to design and engage successfully in virtual exchange and offers opportunities for students to have meaningful international experiences which may compliment or even take the place of physical mobility in cases where it is not possible for whatever reason. 

Recognition of training or participation is provided in the form of open badges. A framework for the creation and issue of open badges for virtual exchange is shared here. The badges are issued through our account with Open Badge Factory which is based in Finland and those who earn them can collect and display them through setting up a profile on Open Badge Passport. Here's mine. 

This taster session - the resources for which remain open - hopefully gave in insight into the excitement and potential for working with those who are at a distance. Having experienced for myself how virtual exchange and connected practice can enrich your understanding of the contexts and challenges faced by others, help develop technical and learning design skills, bring new and exciting opportunities to both students and teachers, I feel that it was a valuable experience and certainly a first for me to present in 2 conferences at the same time!