This year, the Field Guides, Technology Test Kitchen (TTK), and Speed Networking Lounge are teaming up to provide you with an intergalactic mission. Should you choose to accept this mission, you will get to experience three interactive and engaging spaces within the conference that promise to enrich your learning and connect you to amazing people. Connections are a main reason for people to attend conferences, whether they want to meet new colleagues, engage with new ideas, or discover innovative solutions to problems. Within the OLC, this connectedness is ultimately what brings us together, as we all share the goal of contributing positively to the future of digital and online teaching and learning. As authors and members of current OLC conference leadership, our goal this year is to help you make those connections, engage with those ideas, and discover those solutions more easily. How…you might ask? Well, to answer that, we bring you the new collaboration between the Field Guide Program, the Technology Test Kitchen, and the Speed Networking Lounge!
In years past, the Field Guide Program, the Technology Test Kitchen, and the Speed Networking Lounge have run as though they were completely separate programs (though their leads were often in regular communication with each other). Here is a brief idea of what these three programs are designed to do:
- The OLC Field Guide Program is designed to help first-time conference attendees get comfortable with the conference layout, learn more about teaching and learning opportunities during their three-day stay, and network with other attendees. During OLC Accelerate 2019, the Field Guide program will highlight some of the most exciting areas of the conference. Swan and Dolphin Conference Center tours on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning will point out important conference spaces and deliver tips and tricks for navigating the conference (cheap food, anyone?). Another exciting tour opportunity, at 11:00 am on Wednesday morning, will visit the Exhibit Hall, Technology Test Kitchen, and SpeedNetworking Lounge. Tour attendees will be introduced to these areas and will have the opportunity to participate in engagement and networking activities to kick-off their time at the conference! This is the perfect opportunity to learn how these spaces work together to enhance your OLC experience both during and after the conference.
- The Technology Test Kitchen (TTK) is designed to provide you with hands-on learning experiences that will support your online/digital teaching and learning efforts, through demonstrations and guided activities, applicable and implementable strategies meant to be translated into participants’ own teaching and learning spaces, and particularly the low-stakes and approachable learning venue constructed at the conference (where testing, failure, and iteration are welcome). This year, through a series of themed, interactive stations (each with their own set of fun challenges and tasks), the TTK invites participants to embark on a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-styled and space-themed learning journey. Folks who enter the TTK during the conference this year can expect to engage with multiple pedagogical approaches and new and interesting ways to incorporate educational technologies, as they work to become a “Galactic Pathfinder” during the TTK’s “Pathfinder Mission.” They can also check out the OLC Escape Room Mission on Friday as part of their engagement with the TTK this year.
- The Speed Networking Lounge is an informal conversation space that allows participants to connect with fellow attendees through lightweight, collaborative activities. All are welcome to pop into the space at any time during the conference, using the area for informal chats, co-working, or reflections. Our hope is that you will use the space throughout the conference to collaboratively explore emerging digital pedagogy.
Though these programs have historically been designed and planned in relative isolation from one another, this year we are thrilled to be working together on an exciting, dynamic, and fun collaborative program. Upon arriving at OLC Accelerate this November, you will be given the chance to embark on the space-themed “OLC Mission.” During the mission, you will have the opportunity to visit the Field Guides, the Technology Test Kitchen, and the Speed Networking Lounge, where you will be invited to engage in a series of interactive challenges tailored to meet the needs and goals of all three of the conference spaces. In the Technology Test Kitchen, you might be challenged to use a digital technology to successfully close-caption a video. In the Field Guide station you might be asked to share your teaching and learning story with new friends. And in the Speed Networking Lounge, they might test your networking skills through games and creative activities . Regardless, these challenges will provide great ways for you to meet and collaborate with new people, orient yourself to the conference and the OLC, test out new technologies, try out new teaching and learning strategies, design innovative solutions to your teaching and learning challenges, and even take ‘brain breaks’ as a way to relax, network, and play between conference sessions. As you complete these challenges, you will take note of them in your OLC Mission Passport and will be rewarded with the opportunity to enter to win ‘out-of-this-world’ OLC prizes that only those participating in the OLC Mission can win.
As the leads for the Field Guide Program, the Technology Test Kitchen, and the Speed Networking Lounge, we are each extremely excited about this new collaboration. With respect to the Speed Networking Lounge, Cathy Russell (first time Chair of this program) says, “Networking can be intimidating. Our goal is to create fun, low stakes activities for you to participate in while meeting others. To help with this, we have designed a set of challenges in the mission passport that can help you make connections.” In thinking about what excited her about our work together, Torie Wynn (also a first time Chair for the Field Guide Program), said: “I was new to Instructional Design and Online Learning only a few short years ago. Networking at the OLC conferences gave me a professional support structure that extends across the globe. Collaboration opportunities like the one between the Field Guides, Technology Test Kitchen, and Speed Networking Lounge aim to help you begin and foster connections with other teachers and learners.” Finally, Madeline Shellgren (similarly new to the Chair role within the Technology Test Kitchen) expressed that she is ready and looking forward to the storytelling that conference participants will engage with at this year’s conference: “Like Cathy and Torie, I have personally gotten a lot from my engagement with the OLC. At the other conferences I’ve been to, though, it can often feel like each part of the conference is separate and unrelated to the others. By collaborating together in the way that we have this year, we will provide a space for folks to not only make meaningful connections with new people and new ideas at the conference, but also increase their ability to tie together all that they are engaging with and learning while they are there. It has additionally brought us as program leads all together in a way that we haven’t accomplished before…making sure, through regular conversation and touch points, that everything we plan and prepare for this year’s OLC Accelerate will result in a truly amazing and aligned OLC experience.”
No matter what your networking, learning, and collaboration goals are for OLC Accelerate 2019, the engagement team is here to help! Again, the ultimate goal of the Field Guides, Technology Test Kitchen, and Speed Networking Lounge is to help you make connections with other online/digital learning professionals, enhance your engagement with teaching and learning, and strengthen your capacity to meaningfully contribute to digital and online spaces. We promise fun, we promise learning, we promise interactive challenges, we promise intentional connections, and we promise the opportunity to win amazing prizes. Finally, we promise that participation in any (or all!) of these engagement spaces will result in an enhanced conference experience unique to the OLC…the likes of which you won’t see at any other conference.
Cathy Russell (Co-Chair, Speed Networking Lounge)
Madeline Shellgren (Co-Chair, Technology Test Kitchen)
Torie Wynn (Co-Chair, Field Guide Program)