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C'est la Z

Virtual Conferences - CSTA 2020 part 2

Now that CSTA 2020's over time for some more thoughts on the conference and also on virtual conferences in general.

I only got to attend a couple of sessions as I was working my CS teacher certification program but a nice feature is that I was able to hop in and out of sessions without disturbing or disrupting. You can't really do that in person. I'm also looking forward to when they release the sessions for later viewing. In addition to not being able to get to everything I wanted, my session overlapped with Nifty Assignments - always a fun show. Now I still get to see it!!!!

Speaking of my session, JonAlf and I had fun but I would have much preferred doing it in person. After a few minor hiccups, Hopin worked perfectly but it suffers the same problem as Zoom when your kids turn off their cameras. I didn't really feel connected to the audience, Sure, there was the chat, but with the number of people in the session, it flew by way to fast. We could have invited a few attendees "up on stage" but that would have made the dual screen share smaller. None of this was a deal breaker but the tech still has some limitations.

So, sessions worked but had some pluses and minuses against in person and the networking feature I described last time was a clear winner so what's next - the exhibits. Exhibits didn't work for me. I can't say why. I think it's because I like strolling the exhibit hall and just chatting with both attendees and company reps. I generally don't like the formal booth talk and that's all we got here. Nothing wrong with the booth presentation but it's just normally not my thing.

The other thing missing and it's related to those exhibition hall chats was the hallway track. That was the biggest loss. The informal and semi-formal meetups. Impromptu lunches and dinners and one offs that just happen. Can't really have that with the current virtual tools.

A final point was that when I go to a conference I get to both explore a new part of the world and I get to turn off the outside world for a couple of days - I can just enjoy the conference. You can't do that if it's virtual but you get other advantages - no cost of travel and the ability to attend at all your schedule doesn't allow you to get away for half a week.

So, what's the verdict?

The 2020 edition of the CSTA conference was a big win in my book. I hope we can do it in person next year but even if we can, it would be great to offer at least parts virtually to make at least sessions available to a wider audience.

Either way, I'm there.

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