In this #coachbetter episode, Kim is chatting with Pana Asavavatana, Founder of the Early Years Exchange Conference and an ES Technology Coach at Taipei American School.

This episode is all about how to run a successful virtual conference. In the last academic year, Pana had to make the transition from hosting the Early Years Exchange in Taipei to an entirely online event. In this episode, they talk about what worked, what Pana would do differently, and her recommendations for creating a successful virtual event. If you have any plans to host a virtual event, this episode is for you!

This episode is another great insight into the kinds of conversations that the COETAIL program inspires. COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) will empower you to leverage innovative, technology-rich learning opportunities in your school setting – as a teacher, a coach, or a leader. Registration for our next global cohort opens on the 18th of October and closes on the 14th of November. Find out more, and join the waiting list at today!

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Show Notes

How did the Early Years Exchange start?

EYE Early Years Exchange: supposed to be a regular in person conference, had to decide if I was going to postpone or make it virtual.

Started outlining what a workshop would look like, what platform would we use, would we still do job alike sessions, what would sessions look like.

Having a volunteer committee was essential, I wasn’t able to think of all the possibilities myself: they came up with offering graduate credit, allowing people to showcase their program, structured the whole conference from one conversation.

Pulled from my virtual network. It was important that I was confident in my virtual and broader PLN, could draw from different people in my PLN, spread the word further. It’s a first time event, and we need help. Utilize your network. The word still didn’t get out far enough.

What did you learn?

Some platforms didn’t work as well as we thought they would. Didn’t want people to sign in to multiple platforms to access the event. Wanted a one stop shop. We can make that more seamless. 

I had people sign up to do job alikes, we thought we could orient and train them well enough to facilitate those sessions. But you never know how much support they need, or how much experience they have. Because I didn’t know who they were, it was harder for me to coach into that. Might not be able to control that, opening up entirely for the first time, was not a great choice. Next time will look to network or people who come recommended.

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Show Notes cont….

How did it go?

Very well received. We go to conferences to make connections & the relationships you form. Because I chose to make all the workshops pre-recorded, how can we have those free form conversations. Built in a live job-alike section, but those go a little slower. There’s a delicate balance, it’s like a puzzle you have to piece together. Knowing the key priorities that you have, as well as the limitations of technology.

Last time I used Teams, it was hard to get external people onto our internal TAS network. Most of the people were new to Teams, so everything went slower. Ended up using a virtual platform called Wonder, and you can have a circle of up to 6 people talking to each other. So people can move from conversation to conversation without having to wait. We want participants to be in control of their conversations. 

It was important to do pre-recorded, this way we could get people to share from anywhere in the world, and not worry about time zones. Live Q&A attached to every workshop in 2 different time zones. We can look at participant location more closely to chose live timezones.

Get the word out farther. I didn’t tap into the EARCOS network and local Taiwanese networks a month before the conference. By the time those organizations had publicized our conference in their various ways, we were pretty close. I would write to them earlier, and more than once. Their reach is so much greater than mine.

Within my own network, I should do better at contacting people personally. Instead of just tagging people in a tweet. Sending a personal message because you know the person personally, they might be more likely to respond.

Educators need to stick together. We need to learn from one another. I mean, that’s probably the, one of the biggest things that I learned when I was taking coattail. Right It’s the network is there for you. You have to give back to the network for it to actually be fruitful. The circle has to be continuous and ongoing and you can’t just take and take and take. You’re going to get bored. If you give something, you get feedback. There’s, you know, there’s so much more it’s about relationships. All of it. It’s always about relationships, right Learning is about relationships. So if you’re going to make the digital network world work, you have to make it about relationships too. And what a strong relationship looks like in the digital realm

Early childhood is in my heart. On a selfish level, this conference was my way in attempting to reconnect with that, and at the same time find new ways for my colleagues to come together and build a stronger network of passionate early childhood educators. This is a unique chance for people who love the same thing to sit at the same table and talk about it, without the worry of time zones.

I want to do the social piece better. The content was great. Just trying to utilize platforms like Wonder in unique ways. Just one room for the whole time, means one link and no one gets lost. It’s over 8 days. I want to find ways to encourage our audience to step up and find out if there’s some expertise in the room about a specific topic.

The power of virtual events: I want to do it one more time as a proof of concept. Knowing what we know now. The world of conferences likely won’t go back entirely to the way it was. Everyone has learned something from the pandemic.  I really want to figure out a hybrid design. I’m building a community now, around the conference. I don’t want to cut off those people in other regions of the world who could never fly here. Schools knowing that people can do PD online this well now, aren’t going to allocate the money to travel for PD. You can learn just as much in a virtual setting. While relationships are still important, I just don’t see f2f events happening as frequently.

What are your top 5 tips for people building an online event like this?

Make sure you have a strong IT team, or even just a person, behind the scenes ready for you the entire time simply because it’s virtual and you need things to work.

Make sure you have your trusted people, your core go-to people, whether it’s at your school or beyond, that will give you the advice that you need. There’s no way that one mind can come up with all of the ideas needed to make something this big happen.

Make sure there’s a relational component in the event. Learning is rooted in relationships. If you don’t have the relationships, the learning isn’t going to happen. 

The feedback loop: a lot of my reflections came from how much I sought feedback. I tried to have as many virtual conversations with everyone involved to ask how did it go for you, in your role. I’m always going to get more out of a conversation than a survey. In as much detail as you can.

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All educators are welcome: classroom teachers, coaches, specialists, school leaders. The program is customizable for educators in any setting. COETAIL is for educators who are ready to transform their practice through innovative pedagogical practices, and committed to a 1.5 year professional learning experience in a global cohort.

Our annual COETAIL cohorts begin in January every year. The cohort will run from January through to the following May (1.5 years). Registration opens the October before the cohort begins.

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