Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Fishbowls and @vconnecting #ESLTIS19

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This weekend, I participated in one of my favorite VC sessions this year, and that’s saying a LOT coz we have had many great ones this year. This one was special because it gave me a few aha moments about VC.

Thanks to Louise Drumm, who proposed a VC Fishbowl session at the #ESLTIS19 conference, this Friday, she was the presenter and onsite buddy, and I was virtual buddy.

If you don’t know what a fishbowl is, it’s basically a format where a small group of people (inside fishbowl) are doing something, and others are watching, but then people outside can step into the inside for a bit if they like. We tried this format several times with VC – we do it a bit meta as well, in that we describe what we’re doing as we do it.

You can watch Friday’s session here:

This one was super special for me because we took time to reflect the last 10 mins of the session, and what people said about it really touched me emotionally and stimulated me intellectually.

  1. Someone said they felt like they had VIP tickets to the conference because they got to (Virtually) chat with keynote speakers for an hour. As they said that, I realized how VC had been critiqued for doing this…taking keynote speakers away from onsite ppl who rarely got such opportunities. However, I realized that a fishbowl allows both onsite and virtual folks this VIP ticket because onsite folks are able to step in and sit near keynotes and talk. Quite a few did that this time around
  2. Someone from the audience onsite reflected on VC as similar to other web conferencing stuff… but one of the virtual participants (this was her second VC, Mags, because I think she referred to a previous experience of it) corrected him and said, “no, this is like being at a conference corridor”. What I loved about this is that this is exactly what VC calls itself. Hallway conversations. But I also smiled at her use of corridor as maybe a more British term. As a non-native speaker, I hadn’t differentiated them much
  3. Julie, one of the keynotes, mentioned how valuable she found it, as a disabled academic herself. A reminder for me every time we have a guest with a disability or a clear reason why conferences are difficult to go to… that we can really make a difference in this way. It’s happened a few times this year.
  4. Charlie Farley, also keynote speaker, is someone I have wanted to meet and I think we were at a conference together at least once, but I didn’t get a chance (probably because I didn’t plan it out and I am always overwhelmed with commitments when at conferences). Virtually Connecting helps with this kind of thing. Planning to meet informally 🙂
  5. Louise Drumm was amazing. It is really gratifying for me that she saw a VC fishbowl back at OER18 and volunteered w VC a few times since then, and found this opportunity to do a fishbowl and ran with it. So much respect.

And so now I’m thinking VC should hold a fishbowl at every new conference we go to and meet multiple goals at once

  • People get an opportunity to find out what VC is without committing to participating a priori
  • People onsite and virtual get to converse with speakers, whoever we choose
  • People can ask questions and we can respond to misconceptions

Win win win, I say :))

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