Sometimes, we need to try things differently, to explore alternatives and to trial new ways. Sometimes, this experimentation works, sometimes it doesn’t but it is important that we try, that we question and that we reflect on why we do things the way we do.
Doing things in a new way was an approach our Early Years Team took when organising our recent conference. We wanted to reach our online community members who are spread across New Zealand. A face-to-face conference was not going to be an option that would attract many because of travel, accommodation, and time required. An online conference seemed right, even though this was a new way of conferencing for most of us.
Benefits of an online conference
Just like any conference, connections and discussions were an essential element. Being online enabled people to attend from all around New Zealand; people who would not normally be able to connect because of distance, travel, or time. Our audience included a range of people including community health, teachers, parents, and educators. Some of the connections formed online are continuing still as people share with others with similar interests – this is exciting and something that may not have been possible without the online conference.
The online option meant we were not limited by travel budgets for bringing together our team of presenters. Our presenters were as far north as Whangarei and as far South as Dunedin. They were all able to attend and present from their office. Using a video camera at the beginning of each session meant the attendees could ‘see’ the presenter so there was a sense of knowing who was speaking. During each presentation, the chat box meant attendees could add their thoughts and resources as the session was happening. And, of course, there was opportunity for the attendees to talk and ask questions.
The online approach provided flexibility. Attendees could attend sessions that suited them—whether this was because of interest, need, or time requirements—so they could come and go as wished. Some attended the full two days, others attended one or two workshops. While attending, some had lunch, coffee, or during the evening session, even a glass of wine.
Benefits from social media
ECE Online conference trending on Twitter
Connecting online happened in ways we weren’t expecting as well. Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, enabled others to participate even though they weren’t attending. People hooked into us trending on Twitter for the two days and contributed their thoughts and spreading the conversations.
The risks were well worth it
We took some risks and we weren’t sure what the response would be, as this was a new approach for many of our Early Years Teachers. Our community took risks themselves as they explored this new way of learning together, noting:
- Thank you to everyone involved for making this opportunity available. I love learning, and on-line is a cool way to participate.
- The interaction, convenience of blackboard right then and there! Connecting with the wider community through multi media.
- Absolutely fab conference – we have experienced a team conference! One we could all attend at no cost to ourselves for a change. Thank you so much for the opportunity – would definitely be keen for a future one
We did something differently, and took new ways of learning and connecting to our community. We have a heap to reflect on and, overall, are thrilled we took the opportunity to try something new.
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