Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

PJs and a Headscarf – My Private/Public Life

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If you’ve been following, Rebecca and I started a thing called et4buddy at et4online where she brought me virtually into the conference several times for socialization. We invited others virtually. We had fun. We got feedback from others and like many who participated and watched, we think it’s a great idea so we are now www.virtuallyconnecting.org btw and @vconnecting on Twitter).

I love doing these. And not for myself any longer. Et4buddy was for me, purely selfish. But I felt elated at how others who couldn’t join enjoyed them and how people on-site also seemed to enjoy them (with v few exceptions).

I love feeling less left out by my difficulty traveling and I love the insight it gives me into these conferences so I can better decide which one(s) to go to when the time is right. I am definitely interested in exploring ones in Europe for ease but also thinking when I manage to go to the US, I should definitely try to attend two conferences in a row if possible since so many great ones happen in summer and early Fall. I don’t know if logistically or financially this will ever make sense (leave my child for so long? Take her and travel a lot? Hmm neither sounds great, does it?)

But even tho these hangouts help me relax and feel that I am virtually present, doing these hangouts at a conference I am not officially attending (i.e. i have not officially asked for babysitting help) is a little complicated for me personally (see my commentary on the last hangout).

I participated in 3 hangouts at 2 events this past week, without Rebecca for 2 of em; she was camping.

#DHSI2015 w Alex Gil via Andrea Rehn
Andrea Rehn (2nd event on-site buddy) connected me with Alex Gil at #dhsi (Autumm was there virtually). This was really interesting coz I enjoyed the pre-chat with Autumm a lot; i already met Alex f2f, and the meeting made me realize Alex and I spent so long listing our common friends when we met that I didn’t learn enough about one of his specialist areas of minimal computing even though it is something I care about deeply coz…#techquity and www.edcontexts.org 🙂

Here is the hangout:

#DML2015 w Mia Zamora – 2 hangouts w many rockstars
Then yday Mia Zamora (first-time on-site buddy) connected me with Alan Levine, Mimi Ito, Christina Cantrill and Anna Smith. All people I know and collaborate with on different levels, which is interesting and a bit strange. Like Alan and I are very close; Mia and I are v close in different ways and have worked together on a research paper about to be published. We talked about clmooc and I realized I met Mia Anna and Christina thru it. This year I have a related role (which I mention in the hangout and we discuss it a bit). I got to know Mia better during ccourses – same for Alan and I only met Mimi thru ccourses. It was awesome to meet Mimi again after our first meeting at et4online in April. I think it made a great difference to have someone who is big in DML behind the buddy thing, one who had tried it before as well. Even though people at et4online were enthusiastic and supportive of et4buddy, it was all new, we didn’t know what it would be like. Now, people have a better idea and Mimi, Mia and Alan had participated in similar ones before. This hangout was interesting coz we talked about the conference itself and what each of them are presenting but also we had a lot of personal/social stuff and it felt a little like maybe ppl who didn’t know us wouldn’t enjoy it – but some ppl watched and others retweeted the recording so obviously some ppl like it 🙂

Finally today was extra special in many ways and extra tough for me (hence the title of this post). I knew Howard Rheingold would be at DML for a v short time so I didn’t wanna pressure him to meet. But he generously offered to make the time and Mia didn’t mind doing this twice for one conference. Rolin Moe noticed he missed y/day’s so he joined today as well as did Alex Sedique. As did about 7 virtual people.

So here is why this one was extra special. First, I love Howard, have hungout with him a few times (once just us but we were still newish fo each other) and more recently with Alan Levine and others during Blog Talk Garage at the #dmlcommons thing. My main purpose for meeting him at DML was to give other ppl a chance to talk to him – and also I do so love seeing the energy of on-site ppl interacting! Esp Howard and Mia who, for me, are something special put together Coz in my mind, these two plus Alan Levine were the heart of #ccourses,the first cMOOC i got invited to co-facilitate mid-way thru 🙂
Also cool is that apparently Rolin Moe didn’t know Mia personally beforehand (dunno about Howard) and for the first time ever, someone I don’t know at all joined: Alex Sedique. Wonder if to Alex, I seemed less friendly? The dynamic was interesting!
And the virtual group was amazing. Several rhizo ppl – Scott, Terry, Autumm, Rebecca and also gz whom I recently got to know thru hpj101 and more. None of the virtual ppl knew gz but Rolin (on-site) did a little coz of Hybrid ped and he recently reviewed an article of gz’s on OER. Which Rolin mentioned in the hangout which is so cool. That an on-site person is promoting the work of a virtual person is a shift in power dynamic, I thought. Mia also did something similar when she asked Terry to talk about clmooc since both of them were on the facilitator team. Another shift. (i don’t count myself in those shifts coz… I’ll analyze it later but i often contributed anyway; not all virtual participants get that same voice and i felt tonight they did; see next point).

Another nice shift is that gz asked a question and folks on-site were about to get in session. First, they made a point of answering in full – 3 of em. Meanwhile, I texted the virtual folks to ask if they wanted to keep talking. They did. We did. Some ppl kept watching. Turns out Simon Ensor was one of them 🙂 That convo took a turn to talking about professional development (something I am thinking about a lot lately….).

Anyway!

Public/Private Issues
Here is what you see/don’t see in the hangouts:

I am wearing PJs and a headscarf. In summer this means having to change my top as well to sthg long-sleeved which i don’t usually wear at home. Yday i was too lazy (hangout was at 12.30 midnight so u can understand).  I think it’s kinda cool that i can do that. Sit cross-legged on my living room sofa and chat

My daughter is either:
A. asleep (for 2 of these) and I need to keep an ear out in case she wakes up (this is occasional but still happens)
B. Not asleep and will pop her head in while we are talking. I have said before i love it when she comes when a session is not streamed or recorded. Today she did a performance for Scott which he seemed to enjoy. But during the recorded part, my husband called me for a potty emergency (yuck) so that was awkward and afterwards she came to sit on my lap during the hangout and tho i realize it’s cute, it distracts me from the convo and makes me uncomfortable in many ways. I laugh it off. I think it’s part of who i am and why i am on the living room couch in the first place. But still… I’d rather not. But i also can’t ask for too much “official” babysitting favors coz it isn’t an actual conference presentation. It’s a social thing so i don’t wanna overdo it.

Finally it is really strange for me when everyone in the room is close to me on different levels. And don’t know each other. And things like that. I had been reflecting that i have only ever had female on-site buddies. Rebecca and I were v close thru rhizo then her illness. Whitney and i got close thru several things and during et4online. Andrea and i got close during working on hacking tvsz and multiple conf presentations on it. Mia and i got close during #ccourses and doing research together. Alan Levine might be the only male so far I thought to consider asking to be “Buddy” (he offered but Mia was already doing it).

Speaking of, I realized the term “buddy” tends to make ppl feel they (who are not the official “buddy”) need to verbalize their friendship to me. Happened twice so far and it’s hilarious and the reactions are hilarious.

So…despite the personal, private difficulties of making this work, I love the public benefit of it beyond my own emotional needs. I am gratified each time someone shares how they felt being there on-site or virtually or watching. Strangely some hangouts work better w big numbers and others work better with small. Some are great because they are focused; others are great because they aren’t! Some are great for the intellectual conversation, others are social and bring out playfulness and warmth that i have to assume some other ppl enjoy watching.
Simon wrote something about magic.says it was mentioned in the hangout. Mia said something about magic. Human relationships can be magical. The power of how we can build them and interact in this way is something special.

Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride. I am blessed that so many wonderful people have been willing to play with us (Rebecca and me). It’s generosity to be an on-site buddy, to join one of these online or on-site. See you soon!

6 Comments

  1. Here is the power of the connected world, and I love seeing faces of friends of mine in your various circles, too, and wish I could have joined in (but, I was teaching when you were meeting, I think).
    Kevin

    • Too bad! I hope you can make it to one of these soon. Ur face and voice are so familiar to me and yet we’ve never met synchronously

  2. Maha, loved Hoda’s performance. Very talented foot waving and not being shy. Our daughters at her age would start out being shy and then switch to being clowns. They are both outgoing and we have a picture of Lindsay at her first ballet performance where she was sooo nervous and suddenly started laughing–very funny.

    I liked what Howard had to say about professional development. I need to write about how strained relations were when Leslie and I started working at the college and as hard as it was, putting people at ease was exactly what worked best. And thanks to Mia for rephrasing my questions, need practice in shortening my thoughts.

    • Hey Scott, yeah i can see you Enjoyed Hoda! I am glad that part isn’t recorded, but happy she bonded with you

  3. Pingback: The Conference Buddy Experience at DML

  4. Pingback: Tania Sheko

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