A Virtual Journey with Real People

Every time Troy Hicks suggests I try something new, I hesitate briefly. For over 10 years, he has been nudging me forcefully out of my comfort zone. My instincts make me consider and re-consider the work that will go into the next “opportunity,” but ultimately I just trust the guy. I find myself saying “yes” to Troy most of the time because the pay-offs have far exceeded my expectations over the years. And so it was with agreeing to be a facilitator at the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing (4T means Teachers Teaching Teachers about Technology).

Through some emails with Delia Decourcey of Oakland Schools, I learned what signing onto this project entailed:
“The commitment for professional learning is 5 Virtual Sessions between August 3 and October 2, plus 2 hours of additional virtual work/collaboration time for session facilitators and moderators.
Dates and times of sessions:
Session 1 – Thursday, August 6 from 10am-12pm
Session 2 – Thursday, August 13 from 10am-1pm
Session 3 – Tuesday, August 18 from 10am-1pm
Session 4 – flexible scheduling for talk through start-stop of webinar (90 min)
Session 5 – Saturday, October 3 from 10am-12:30pm
Present one hour webinar at the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing on Oct 11-14”

For this investment of time, I would receive $300 and 14 free SCECH hours. I would be learning a new skill, practicing the skill, getting coaching to improve, and getting paid to do it all. The time commitment listed above does not include the hours I would put into creating the webinar, of course. As it turned out, however, this was just the opportunity I was looking for, so I jumped on board.

I had been on a webinar panel before, but never led one myself. I had also written on a blackboard years ago, but never used the online, webinar creator called Blackboard Collaborate. It had even been a couple years since I had taken a course. I came to understand, though, that I was in good hands. The folks at Oakland Schools had done this before and worked out the bugs; they were organized and thorough, competent and patient. In addition, I would be presenting with the aid of a moderator. Knowing that I had a wing-man who knew his way around Blackboard and technology in general, lessened my stress level right away. Craig was solid and I literally could not have done it without him (partly because I would have gone crazy trying to keep track of the chat room).

This whole 4T experience strengthened my understanding of what it takes to facilitate a webinar. I’m confident that I could handle the creation and leading of a webinar — possibly with some coaching help and/or a chat room moderator. They gave me the tools and the time to work out my concerns (Did I struggle? You betcha. Did I consider giving up? Yes sir. I ended up trusting that I would figure it out and not make a complete idiot of myself. Mostly true.) I see all that goes into a webinar and, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to lead another webinar in the near future. I like the interactivity that blackboard allows participants, but the whole experience is a bit impersonal. Too distant and detached for me as a teacher (and as a learner). It may be the next wave of teaching opportunities, but I’m not completely on board. I would much rather deal with airport security and go to a conference to present (and you may have heard me rant about airport security before). It could be that I just need a break from thinking about webinaring (is that a word?) for awhile. Maybe with time, I’ll feel like jumping in again. It was rewarding to get positive feedback on my presentation; the topic seemed to resonate with several of the attendees.

Here’s a link to the webinar I presented called “Helping Students See Their Own Growth Through Digital Writing.” Webinars on other digital writing topics are on the page and even more are listed under the tab,’Conference Archive.’ I recommend taking the time to check out some that sound interesting to you.

Bonus video: A stunning Milky Way and Northern Lights display

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