The Power of Virtual Connections
March 05, 2014 01:12 pm
The power of connections between humans is as old as the human race itself. Yet the ways we connect continues to grow and change. While reading “Little House on the Prairie” to my daughter, she was amazed that the Ingalls family was only able to send and receive letters once a season; there was no other way for the pioneer family to connect or communicate with family back in Wisconsin. I was living overseas when Facebook took off and became a way to connect; it was vastly different than the tinny, echo-filled phone calls I had with my Navy dad on his 11-month deployments in the 1970s.
There is no question that technology developments both enhance connections while presenting new challenges. We’ve all had the experience of getting frustrated over an e-mail exchange and felt gratified when we were able to just get up from a desk, walk down the hall, and have a face-to-face conversation that was much more productive. We are fortunate, in this day and age, to have so many ways to connect; the hand-written note still holds value, even when we are more likely to FaceTime with family across the country rather than talk on the phone.
During this year’s run-up to Digital Learning Day, we greatly increased the intensity of our virtual connections. We ramped up our outreach on social media and were gratified to make connections with new teachers, librarians, principals, and leaders. We extended our efforts to include students, both in high school and college, and benefited greatly from their contributions.
We participated in a wide range of Twitter chats, including co-hosting/co-moderating several, and came away inspired every time. The depth of the connections forged by the educators that contributed to those chats cannot be overstated. Some felt like the lone digital wolf in their schools; others that worked in small schools or rural areas and were gratified to have a wider range of colleagues to learn from. The interactions that took place on Twitter on Digital Learning Day continued to amaze and inspire us. We doubled the number of tweets on the Digital Learning Day hashtag (#DLDay) from 2013, and saw countless examples of learning through photos, videos, and stories.
This year we also tried out a new platform for connecting with a wider audience. Through our partnership with INXPO, we were able to create an immersive and engaging user experience within the Digital Learning Day Virtual Conference. Anyone who has participated in the FETC virtual conference may have found our INXPO-powered virtual conference to be familiar. In times where travel budgets are on the chopping block, where polar vortexes and never-ending snowstorms threaten travel, and when it is just hard to get away, the virtual conference provided a fantastic way for educators to connect.
Anyone who’s been to an education or technology conference knows the excitement and “wow” factor of the exhibit hall. We sought to recreate that experience in not one, but three different exhibit halls, which allowed us to showcase far more resources than we ever could have before. Part of what makes Digital Learning Day so powerful is our corporate and nonprofit partners and the expertise and ideas they bring to the table, and the new platform provided us with a fabulous way to showcase that. The system logged over 6500 visits to various sections of the exhibit hall, and some of the virtual booths logged hundreds of hours!
We were also amazed at the connections that were facilitated by the Social Space. After all, once the exhibits and the keynotes have ended, just chatting with your fellow conference attendees is where the learning takes place! The average visitor spent over an hour in the social space conversing. That doesn’t include the amazingly rich live chats that took place during the two main webcast events that were streamed live from the Library of Congress. Averaging one post every 3.8 seconds, the chats were rich with insights, reflections, resources, and ideas.
Nobody in any of those conversations would ever want to completely replace face to face, handwritten, or other non-digital interactions with those powered by technology, but that technology allowed thousands of people to participate and share in the day’s events at the Library of Congress on top of the over 200 that were there in person.
Today is the last day to visit the virtual conference, so check it out! And let us know: Did you visit the virtual conference? What did you think? Are there other kind of virtual events you’ve found useful? We hope this event is just the beginning of new ways to connect people and ideas here at the Alliance.
Digital Learning Day