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Brave New World: Presenting at Online Conferences

By CUE Guest Contributor and Guest Blogger Adam Seipel @adamseipel

participant mapSix Continents

Somehow this past September while sitting in my guest bedroom, I was able to reach learners on six continents simultaneously.

I’m one of those lifelong learners who loves student leadership — a lot. There are probably members of my community who are tired of me going on and on about how important it is to let our learners help guide educational decisions. While I’ve never been shy, especially when it came to this particular topic, the scope of CUE’s online summit made me a bit apprehensive. I mean, the event’s other presenters included some of the educators who I respect the most, which made me question, “Who would spend their time listening to my spiel about the power of students?”

Then I saw the schedule, and I even considered backing out so that I could catch some of the concurrent presentations.

Finally, I was a bit intimidated by the Hangout on Air structure of our event. All in all, it seemed like an ambitious and daunting experience in the days leading up to the event.

Then Something Happened

I emailed fellow presenter Chris Aviles — one of my GTA heroes from Atlanta — and we talked about how we were preparing for the big event. I set up some practice sessions with my PLN, and, shockingly, everything went pretty well. I figured that it must be a fluke, and my trepidation continued.

On the Saturday of the big event, I eagerly awaited the initial keynote mostly because all of those speakers are essentially the titans of 21st century learning, which is a driving force in my life. There was likely a secondary desire to catch a glimpse of the audience experience prior to my early afternoon session.

As my time — conveniently nestled during my two-year-old son’s, Miles, naptime — drew nearer, I accessed the presenter link for my Hangout on Air. I quickly got all of my resources prepared for my session. So far, everything was moving along smoothly.

Moments Later

My moderator logged on, and we started to chat. Now, I have to be perfectly honest here. I’m a pretty big nerd and I have a tendency to geek out from time to time when I meet — even digitally — someone whom I respect deeply. My moderator just so happened to be one of those folks: Mike Lawrence.

Allow me to explain. Months earlier, I spent a frantic week in Atlanta. In that whirlwind week, I had the absolute pleasure of experiencing a Google Teacher Academy, which Mike helped produce [Level 1 in my Mike Lawrence respect]. A few days later, I attended my very first ISTE conference — the scope of which was both daunting and inspiring at once. Mike played an integral part in the opening keynote at ISTE [Level 2 in my Mike Lawrence fandom].

Anyway, at this moment, I found myself having an uninterrupted fifteen minute discussion with Mike. During this time, we talked about a host of topics: my GTA experience; his busy day of youth soccer; my upcoming presentation; and my ideas & dreams for student leadership, specifically the idea of a Google Student Academy. The most salient memory of this time, though, was the relief that I felt knowing that everything was going to be OK during my presentation. Mike helped get all of the technical aspects figured out and seemed genuinely interested in my topic [Levels 3-27 of my Mike Lawrence reverence]. Both of these seemingly little roles that he played left me feeling prepared as the time grew closer.

I spent 50 minutes sharing my passion with educators from around the globe who are equally devoted to learning. Ultimately, my only persistent challenge was not being able to respond to my audience’s physical reactions throughout the session. As someone who leads about ten in-person PD sessions a week, the lack of physical responses from my audience honestly threw me off a bit. Though I’ll admit that even this setback was largely resolved by the Q&A feature in Hangouts on Air.

Personally, I was able to rejoice in the fact that both the content and technical facets of the day had gone well. More importantly, I left with a network of people who wanted to continue working together on my project to bring students to the forefront of decision-making.

Key takeaways:
  • While I was initially concerned about missing some heavyweight presentations, the online nature of the conference meant that everything was neatly archived on YouTube. I’ve been able to go back and watch these sessions as I need them. Other participants have too, and I have had continued contact with attendees over the past two months. I love this aspect of the online conference.
  • The technical fears that I had heading into the event were unnecessary. Hangouts on Air turned out to be a great venue for sessions. In fact, my district is exploring HOAs as a delivery method for the future as a team of 8 tries to serve 81 schools.
  • CUE always seems to foster a culture that leads to engaging, challenging, rewarding, and, ultimately, transforming experiences. So far, all of my interactions with anyone associated with CUE have been absolute highlights of my professional learning.

Editor’s Note: Join CUE for the next CUE West Coast Summit featuring Google for Education in March 21-22, 2015 and follow ups to September’s CUE Learning Revolution Online Summit featuring Google for Education will be held in April and October 2015…more to come!

IMG_8160Adam Seipel resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife, Amy, and two-year old son, Miles. After spending six years as a tech-minded English teacher, Adam transitioned to being a District Instructional Technology Facilitator. He attended the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta in June 2014, helps lead the Google Educator Group in North Carolina, and really enjoys reading at night to Miles.

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Adam Seipel

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