During the times of closed schools, Estraad brought several school classes together to discuss their literature critique work, to meet and converse with the authors directly as avatars and, finally, to mingle with old and new friends.
Award Ceremony - Education
The Youth Critics Award is an award for contemporary Norwegian fiction, where high school students choose the best book for adults published in the respective year. Organised by Foreningen Les, the final event comprises discussions among the students within their class as well as with classes from other schools that worked with the same books.
While this event was initially planned as a more traditional video conference of the different school classes, in early 2021, after a very long time of closed schools, it was of major importance to not only fulfil the pedagogic goals of the students’ exercise, but to meet their social needs. Allowing the students to get back together with their classmates, as well as meeting students from other schools to mingle and spend time together was of almost equal importance.
Together with Foreningen Les we evaluated all the different aspects of the event and concluded in creating dedicated areas for the educational content as well as areas for informal gathering and socialising.
We created rooms dedicated to each author’s work that were inspired by the book design and invited to explore the different elements. The content featured videos of interviews the students conducted with the authors as well as questions about the book hidden in the space. A large blackboard encouraged all visitors to leave greets and remarks for the authors, something that was well received by all participants.
The absolute highlight of the day was for sure that all authors would appear for at least one hour as avatars in their respective rooms. Being in a virtual space enabled all authors to join the event no matter where in the world they were at that point in time. Given the nature of the setup, the students were able to have a direct conversation with them. If they were lucky, they could even meet them by themselves, having a private conversation and picking their brains on all the questions that did arise during the last months. Having this spontaneous face to face interaction with the authors would have never been possible in a regular video chat setup and was highly appreciated by the students and authors alike. In addition, it also enabled interaction with authors that usually prefer to stay anonymous and did also chose to not participate in the video interviews conducted by the students beforehand. Their avatar gave them the privacy they required whilst allowing active participation in the event.
The social gathering space contained images of the different school classes as well as open blackboards to post and exchange all type of information. The tools in the social rooms allowed posting of images, videos, drawing in space, and even uploading 3D models, giving lots of space and freedom to the students. While teachers were present in the room, the students would gather in smaller groups, meet friends, introduce each other to their friends and run away far enough from the teachers to have some privacy in their chats. To our surprise a lot of students stayed beyond the four hours of the events, chatting to each other and genuinely enjoying their time together.
Dividing the authors’ and the social rooms proved highly beneficial for the behaviour of the attendees. While the social rooms were cluttered in the end with loads of pictures, drawings, and random 3D models, the author’s rooms were treated with utmost respect and the students were focusing on the author’s work in their comments and posts. Giving full freedom in some areas resulted in an overall very friendly and respectful behaviour that barely required any moderation. And, thankfully, cleaning up a virtual space is a breeze.