In the summer of 2020, Crowdcast opened its Equality Program to sponsor organizations using Crowdcast for activism, anti-racism, and political resistance.

We’ve been so inspired to see the events coming out of the Equality Program, and we want to share some of the ideas that have moved us with you!

To kick this off, we interviewed one of our Equality Program members, Ken Shelton, to learn from his experience in creating digital events that are more engaging and equitable.

But before we get to the interview, we want to let you know a little bit more about Ken:

Ken Shelton has an M.A. in Education with a specialization in Educational Technology as well as New Media Design and Production. He has worked as an Educator for over 20 years and spent most of his classroom experience teaching technology at the Middle School level. As a part of his active involvement within the Educational Technology community, Ken is an Apple Distinguished Educator, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and a Google Certified Innovator. Ken has worked extensively at the policy level with a number of State Departments of Education, Ministries of Education, non-Profits, and was appointed to the Education Technology Task Force formed by a previous California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Ken regularly gives keynotes, presentations, consults, and leads workshops, covering a wide variety of Educational Technology, Equity and Inclusion, Anti-Bias/Anti-Racist, Multimedia Literacy, Cultural Intelligences, Visual Storytelling, and Instructional Design topics. Ken is the ISTE Digital Equity PLN 2018 Excellence Award winner and due to his extensive and broad impact, Ken has also been named by EdTech Magazine as an influencer to follow!

We've learned a lot from Ken and hope you enjoy learning more about how to make your events more inclusive and meaningful for everyone!

Diving into Digital Storytelling

What advice would you give to someone who’s starting to use technology to share their message?

Technology can serve as a great equalizer when it comes to access and opportunity. But, if we are not mindful of the inherent challenges between getting connected as well as participation, it can amplify disparities.

The key is to recognize how content is interacted with on different devices and account for that as well as ensure all anticipatory barriers are dismantled.

So, for example, if you are posting a video, at a minimum use an auto-captioning app prior to posting. Be intentional in your use of colors for graphic designs. Also when posting images include in the description an alt-text description of the image.

Normalizing all of this into your workflow will ensure your message ultimately is inclusive by design. Lastly, when posting make good use of hashtags to ensure your content is searchable in the areas it best fits.

How can online event creators become more empowered as "digital citizens" in doing anti-racist work?

The first, and arguably most important, questions an online event creator should consider regarding this are:

Also, one final, critically important element is to ensure all referenced information is properly cited. Sometimes information is shared but not properly cited which equates to another type of marginalization.

How do you use digital storytelling to make online events more meaningful?

Storytelling is our most effective means of communication.

If you think about how you communicate in your daily life with friends, family, and acquaintances you do it through story.

Online events are no different in that we want to engage in experiences that we can ideally connect to on a cognitive and contextual level.

Therefore whether it be promotions and marketing, engagement with your audience, or engagement with other participants in an online event we are most effective when we do it through story.

Digital Storytelling is one of my favorites in that you can create stories with images, video, text, graphics, and augment all of the above with the right music.

I find that when this is done effectively your audience tends to be more "invested" in the story and thus able to better connect to your message.

Tuning into Techquity

Could you define techquity for us, and tell us about how you see it evolving?

I define techquity as merging the effective use of educational technologies with culturally responsive and relevant pedagogies to support learner development of self-actualization and essential skills.

In a non-academic space I use it simply by saying how are you using technology to ensure any and all barriers to access/participation are intentionally dismantled.

How can organizers/educators who are used to meeting in-person bring more techquity into their online events?

Consider all the variables to participation. Devices, bandwidth, functionality, and use platforms, as well as participation activities that ensure the attendee experience will not be compromised or diminished.

Can you tell us about the difference you see when techquity is more of a focus in online events?

In short, the main difference is the attendee provides feedback on the experience and not the lack of engagement, obstacles, or diminished experience. Also the delivery of the content is not identifiable as a lecture or a transactional conversation.

If everyone has a voice, how are you ensuring every voice is heard?

Creating a Container

When you hold an online event, how do you create a space where the attendees feel open to participating?

Establishing a community ethos around the purpose of our time together, the expectations of that participation, and accounting for the different ways in which an attendee may contribute. This means voice, text, etc., and also accounting for attention spans as well as neurodiversity.

What are some tools you'd recommend for how others can create more of a container for their online events?

Identify as many ways you can differentiate the content to meet the needs of the attendees as possible.

Maintaining consistent but not too frequent communications prior, during, and shortly after the event as well.

In the lead up to an event consistently include affirmations of purpose and "the why" to the attendees so they feel they are a critical part of the purpose of the event. This can be applicable to any theme as well.

How does using Crowdcast affect the space you hold for your events?

My main thing with Crowdcast is the functionality around engaging with an audience in the chat, via polls, questions, and even bringing them on stage. This makes for an inclusive space without it being intrusive or without the inherent pressure I have found on other platforms.

Closing Thoughts

We’re so grateful to Ken for sharing his thoughts with us here! We hope that you’ve been inspired by the different ways to make your events more equitable for all of your attendees and share your message more effectively.

More live events are moving online! And by applying the ideas Ken shared here, you'll make your events more open and welcoming to everyone.

As Ken explained, when you take care of the obstacles that can prevent your attendees from feeling fully included and engaged in your event, they’ll be able to focus on what they can learn from you.

Are you ready to start hosting more engaging and inclusive online events for your community on Crowdcast? Click here to start your free 14-day trial today!

For more information on our Equality Program, click here!