Thursday, July 14, 2011

That post-conference feeling

Conferences are an important part of my faculty life. As the only faculty member in my discipline and as a junior faculty member, I rely on conferences for networking opportunities, for new and engaging ideas, and for professional growth in both pedagogy and research lines. This past week I was fortunate to travel with three colleagues to present about our institutional Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at a conference. I blogged earlier in the week about the excitement of a new conference and the great rejuvenation that takes place when surrounded by brilliant minds interested in similar concepts. I learned about a lot of topics (some new and some very familiar) that I hope to discuss in more detail in future posts, including:

  • Google tools: GoogleSearch, GoogleSites, GoogleMaps, and using Google in assignments (more than my current use of GoogleDocs). You name it, Google is somehow a part of it.
  • Vialogues - A discussion tool to examine videos and have a web basted, interactive discussion through annotated playback. 
  • Toolwire - A great hands-on program that can be a classroom lab to encourage experiential learning in online courses.
  • Echo 360 - A kind of enhanced lecture capture program that incorporates the mission of blended learning. 
  • YouseeU - Provides the opportunity to securely share videos from a distance, useful in online and on-ground courses.
  • VoiceThread - A forum to create a collaborative slide show that can house images and documents while others provide comments.
  • Adobe Connect - Webinar solution that can be used in learning to improve response rates and participation.
  • Lecture Tools - Offers a way to increase student participation in the classroom using their mobile devices and a foundation of active learning.
  • GoingOn - Enhances online learning through student engagement, faculty involvement, and social interaction.
  • BlackBoard Collaborate - Provides interactive learning experiences with virtual classrooms and meeting spaces. 
I am very excited about everything I learned at the conference, but especially about the items above. There are other emotions that come along with conference travel, speaking engagements, and using your brain during long days while constantly encountering new information and new people. Those emotions can be overwhelming. Yes, the Educational Technology for Online Learning conference in San Jose, CA this past week was wonderful! [See ET4OL information under "Lora's Links" above]. Even though it was wonderful, I return to a huge pile of demanding documents, seemingly endless student needs, and numerous meeting requests that can lead to feeling drained and overwhelmed.

The downside of conference travel happens when you turn to the desk and realize that the productivity you tried to have in your hotel room with spotty wireless service and after a 12- or 14-hour day of "conferencing" simply wasn't enough to stay on top of the many tasks. In fact, it feels as if you LOST time (though it was time well used) and have to scramble to meet deadlines and various duties. I face that task after a very rewarding couple of days in the conference world and find there is some frustration to returning to those waiting tasks. I have all of these new ideas---but don't have time to immediately investigate or use them!

There will be time, however, and it will somehow all work out. A faculty member's life is full of this balancing act and so juggling new, exciting ideas with current research, deadlines, class, and meetings should not be a new concept. In light of the fact that this post-conference feeling is comprised of equal parts of exhaustion and exhilaration, I look forward to exploring the new tools and ideas more fully.
Image of juggler used with free use rights.

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