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Thursday, November 06, 2008

How to Improve Results from Attending a Conference for EVERYONE! (even those who stay behind)

Mitchell Weisburg has written a phenomenal reflection on what he learned from Educause.

My favorite quotes:

  • Lectures are increasingly being captured, either so that students can use them as reviews, or so that students can miss the live lecture. Institutions are increasingly creating collaborative assignments, completing the assignment in a group. This increases the engagement of the students, and also gives them an additional life skill, that of working as part of a group. Solutions that capture lectures, increase engagement, and help collaboration are in demand.
  • the software to integrate with the LMS (Blackboard, Sakai, Angel, etc.), and for it to be tagged and searchable.
  • the professor may decide to save a particular demonstration for other classes, especially if it cannot be replicated.
  • projectors, elmos, smartboards, speakers, and student response systems.
  • Technology helps students and researchers visualize, map, and tag data, collaborate, and share resources.
  • For example, researchers in different locations may record data on different but related phenomena. Institutions want applications that make it possible for students or researchers in different locations to access, analyze, chart, map, tag, report, and present this information. In another example, highly specialized or expensive equipment can be remotely controlled; imagine an astronomy class being able to control a telescope in Australia or the probe on Mars.  
  • With today’s mobile students, there is also demand for applications that can function through smart cell phones with tiny screens, individual computer screens, and shared large screen output devices, depending on the location and needs of the student at the time. Issues around these applications don’t just revolve around the user interface and screen size, but also the processing power of the device and the collaboration needs of the projec
  • Efforts to increase effectiveness are forcing academic, student, financial, and administration systems to share information
  • There is a bias in many postsecondary institutions toward using open source software.
  • Institutions feel pressure to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and go green, while facing a hostile environment for fundraising, withdrawing money from their endowment, and increasing tuition.   IT is often called in to solve these problems, yet there is an inherent conflict between IT, which needs a stable controlled environment to maintain security and reliability, and the academic environment, which often encourages openness and experimentation.
The whole article is much longer and deserves a complete read.  The content is great, but I also want to make another point about the power of reflection.

Require Reflections from Conference Attendees

I think every person who attends a conference should be REQUIRED, yes, I said REQUIRED, to write a reflection.  It should ideally be an open blog post, but at least one on the intranet for others at the workplace to see.

It could also be a gcast, or cell phone recorded podcast, or a video where a person talks to the screen.  Really, it could also be photographs that are shared.  But it should be something, done in a medium that is the simplest way for the person who attends to communicate in.

Reflections unleash the power and connections that a person makes at a conference.  It tells others and sparks interest. 

I think this is what we should do.  We need to make time to reflect - -and then, use the standard tag for a conference to share with others.

But, make it better, ask others to read and post a comment or question -- get the conversation going.  Let's get a new mode of operation as it relates to conferences.

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