Many of us working within the educational technology community are unable to get to large national conferences such as the ALT Annual Confernece due to restrictions of time, funding or both. So as a new group looking to grow a new community across Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland member group committee came up with the idea of organising a virtual get together for the live streaming from the conference. We ran our first one in 2017 and wrote it up for our local blog. That year was especially significant as one of our committee members, Richard Beggs, was one of the Learning Technologist Finalists. After each year we have learned and changed the approach with what we found works best.
- As a members group this is an event that requires minimal organisational planning, beyond booking the rooms and catering when budget allows
- Everyone is able to watch the live streaming from the comfort of their own office but coming together in a dedicated space ensures participants step away from their computer, and importantly distractions, to focus on the event
- Participants get an opportunity to be part of the community without cost
- Quality streaming via large screens and speakers
- We get to explore different learning spaces, so far we have used a moot court, maker space and an indoors garden room and this year a new learning lab – the events include exploration of the technology employed in each room
- Spreading the word about ALT with the help of merchandise
- The beginning of September is one of the busiest times for many, so it is still a struggle to be able to clear diaries to attend
- At least one committee member is needed onsite throughout the event
— Louise O'Boyle (@louoboyle) September 6, 2017
- In response to the barriers above in the second year we reduced the official event to the morning session, however, when possible people are welcome to stay and continue conversations/networking
- This year we are adding a new practical element by including a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop after the keynote by Ollie Bray, Global Director: Connecting Play and Education at the LEGO Foundation, to encourage a more participatory aspect and create a physical link between our attendance and the conference content
— Richard (@RbeggsDL) September 5, 2017
Our Virtual ALT-C sessions have proved a great way to connect with people virtually and in a physical setting with very little overheads or organisation. It even helps connect people within the same institution – where meeting together is more productive than a phone call or email would have been.
We specifically choose informal spaces with comfortable furniture, where people can relax, and chat with a coffee or snack. We have opted to have two days only at each of the two universities and this has worked well. Whilst, it will never provide the same experience or atmosphere as attending the main three-day conference, we hope it is more inclusive than watching the live stream alone.
— Clare Thomson (@slowtech2000) September 11, 2018