Looking at the feedback (35 people so far), I think we got an awful lot right this year, with a few improvements which can be implemented for the next one. What is immedaitely obvious is that this is now a ‘proper’ conference with a large number of people attending and speaking and is going to need a lot more people next time to guarantee it can continue to grow and serve the language learning and teaching community. We may even be looking for a third or possibly fourth sim on which to run it next year. Here I’d like to look at some of the feedback and comment on it:
1) Technical Support
Having said we would not be able to provide technical support on the day (the team was just too small) we inevitably ended up with a lot of new SL users and quite a few with problems. The biggest problems were not knowing how to deal with notecards and landmarks, and not having configured voice. I think we did what we could, but frankly if voice has worked for someone before and isn’t working at the time, then there’s little that can be done. I advised people with voice problems (provided they had used it before) to exit and come back in-world and that seemed to work most of the time. SL behaved amazingly for me for 24 hours and I only had to exit twice during that period. Next year we may need some technical support staff on hand.
This year we scheduled talks over a straight twenty-four hour period and tried to get people to speak twice in order to guarantee a spread and a decent choice. One of the questions at the end was whether it might be better to have two twelve-hour days. My response was “twelve hours for whom?” As with a f2f conference, you’re never going to be able to see everything, and if we divided it into two twelve-hour days, we would have to do something like a ‘European’ twelve hour slot and an ‘American’ twelve-hour slot. And, to my mind, that makes… um…. a normal day! I’m not sure if the 24 hour model can be improved on, but suggestions are welcome in comment.
3) Variety of talks
I’m not sure if this is an SL thing, but people going to a f2f conference usually expect plenty of PowerPoint and a lot of talking, followed by (if they’re lucky) some discussion. In SL this is often criticised as not making good use of SL, but I’m wondering why SL is supposed to be different??? We did have a lot of PPT sessions followed by discussion, but we also had four field trips, an ‘introduction to building’ and a couple of other sessions. I guess I’d like to ask the person who said that it was dull to watch presentations in SL what they would do – and if they’d be prepared to actually come along and do it next time. Having said that, I think more workshops would be good. What’s holding that back is, of course, the skillset of a lot of the participants. I managed to get sixteen people with no experience of building to produce a notecard giver, but that’s hard work, and risky – people can get disappointed easily.
I think those are some of the more important issues, and there are things to do to improve on the event… Things we definitely got right were the sign-up process and the support website (thanks Howard!), the clear timetable, the social events and the variety of speakers. I think it’s now time to sit down and see how we can take this conference to new heights next year.
It’s all worth it, however, when you get feedback like this:
- I guess it’s been perfect from my point of view. Very carefully thought, organized, varied, etc.
- It was awesome! Two days non-stop educational conference? Where else???
- As an ESL teacher in Canada I know that this would just rock my colleagues.
- It’s been the best organised conference (in RL or SL) that I’ve been to all year!
- I think this is THE conference for language educators in SL.
- I learned more about SL in the few hours I was in this conference than the whole of the rest of my time in SL so far. In fact I signed up in SL to have just these types of experiences, so I finally felt that I got what SL was all about (finally)!
So, pretty good, I reckon. Lots to improve on – the one area I think we could definitely work on is getting next year going sooner with more information for speakers and presenters, and building the interest earlier. The other area is obviously more practical sessions – more building, more design, etc.
Time to start planning SLanguages 2009…