A very interesting topic of discussion, indeed, thanks Sylvia and Sarah !
Participating in webinars is an activity that emerged recently (last 5 years?) and from then there are more and more possibilities to attend a conference or a speech from your sofa…this is a radical shift in the participation modes that does not leave the intact the nature of interaction…
If you happen to attend webinars (I really recommend the very active Classroom web 2.0 series of webcasts, http://www.classroom20.com/... ) you’ll find a range of types of webinars. All over internet, there is no webinar that is identical to another, although there are several types that can be identified. Without wanting to oversimplify things, webinars can range from discussions where the chat functionality is turned off and participants only listen and vote, to online participants being able to use a micro to ask questions on the top of chat, to the panelists in front of their screen directly taking questions, to recordings of expert talks that participants can comment after the talk (and not during the speech), etc.
I think that for researchers engaged in computer mediated communication, these now forms of interaction with experts and the community allow for deep reflection in terms of narratives, attitudes, engagement, learning and collaboration. We are far from being able to say
The more I read messages by Sylvia and Sarah, the more it seems that questions come into my mind. Here are a couple of those:
-did online participants really want their exchanges to be shared with panelists (it seemed to me –and perhaps I was wrong- that everything was not addressed to the panelists, as Sarah wrote, sometimes it was a parallel discussion between experienced teachers and colleagues)
-this (from time to time) parallel discussion was crucial to be shared publicly with panelists and the face-to-face participants? Correct me in this point but being a participant at our first webinar, hosted by the University of Turku in February, I often felt happy in the “online cocoon” of the chat, discussing with peers and expanding the discussion there, although the panelists kept talking. Do other online participants shared this feeling of conviviality in the chat room that, although it occurred in a public space of a panel, it was still something “semi-private”?
-what about multitasking and different foci of attention? Multi-literacies?