Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

You Can Only Sit Beside Two People at a Time

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One of the things you discover when switching between online and f2f networking is that you get to make some difficult choices. I know this one is funny, but it’s also a real dilemma. You know, when you go to the movies with your friends and you get to pick whom you sit next to? Unless you’re part of a couple, you usually get to pick two people to sit next to. I like to talk during movies and that’s something some people love and others hate. So I usually wanna sit next to the people who will talk with me and share my sense of humor. I feel that way at conferences also. I like sitting beside someone I can talk to. Rude? Well we tweet anyway during a keynote and occasionally we do snarky subtweets (I rarely initiate but occasionally participate in those). I remember at ALTC I was probably sitting next to Rebecca but we were tweeting with Martin Weller, Ashley and Sarah (all of us in the same room) and probably someone who wasn’t in the room…

When you are on Twitter you can broadcast your backchannel or pick a handful of people whose Twitter handles fit and others can jump in. But in person, you can only sit beside two people at a time during a talk. And you can only sit with a few people at a roundtable at a time. And it’s limiting.

When f2f at a conference… Do I go to THAT talk where I am interested in the topic, or THIS talk where I love the presenter? Do I go to meet new people or strengthen existing ties? Do I go to the talk with my crowd of people coz they’re all going to THAT talk, or do I stay in the hallway to chat with different people? 

The good news is…sort of… I don’t really think I will have many opportunities to make those choices at #oer17. For one of the keynotes I can’t sit beside anyone as I will be speaking inshallah (!) but I hope to walk around and be close to many people. I have two accepted sessions, a 20-minute one w my vconnecting buddies and a longer panel…and all these have to happen in one day…so I am probably not gonna have loads of free time except like…lunch time and maybe 1-2 conference slots. I just hope all the sessions I want to attend aren’t happening during ones I am presenting!

And hoping to get breakfast and alcohol-free dinner time with friends.

Who frets about such things? I do. Because f2f time with people is precious to me… Because it’s so hard for me to get there and I want to make the most of it and I want to have DM in person with a lot of people. As in, I want in-depth private time with friends. 

I tweeted recently how I felt saying no to a keynote-type invitation. I have said no to all-expenses-paid engagements something like 4 or 5 times in the past couple of years. It gets harder each time. Because there are more people I will miss meeting. And there is also the sadness of recognizing the people who value my voice as an Arab/Muslim woman in a variety of fields (I have been invited to talk open, digital pedagogy, intercultural learning, educational games, digital Humanities – different things,  yeah?) and then not being able to be there to represent… That hurts. When I could, when it wasn’t a keynote invitation, I have suggested others, or suggested working on hybrid presentations with others. And that’s been cool. But it ain’t the same as being there, of course.

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