Discuss the role of conferences in your professional learning and how you share what you learn after attending a conference.
I have held many types of positions in higher education in my career and each has granted me different types of access — from no none to plentiful — to conferences. My experiences as a part-time faculty made me very aware of the lack of funding that contingent instructors receive and it disturbs me. In the United States, we have a model of higher education that was designed for full-time, tenure-track faculty yet, today, only three out of ten fall into that category. As I write this post, I am thinking about the thoughts shared by Laura Gibbs about conferences and I acknowledge how they’ve shaped what I write here (she is also a fox lover and influenced the featured image I selected for this post).
When I first considered my response to this prompt, I started to filter through my experiences with conferences. I thought about how diligent I used to be about writing a blog post after a attending a conference. I searched my blog for the word “conference” and retrieved 14 pages of posts (!) and even found a series of 3 blog posts documenting my attendance at a 3-day Sloan-C conference nearly ten years ago. I began to feel a bit shameful about how my conference-related blogging has diminished, but I recognized that I’m sharing and learning differently than I was ten years ago.
Laura’s post made me realize that I should credit the live tweeting I do at conferences as sharing. It is a practice that helps connect those not in attendance with the resources, ideas, dialogue, and people on-site at the event. So learning can happen without travel. It’s funny because I know that — and I regularly benefit from those who live tweet. I love following conference hashtags on Twitter when I’m not at a conference. Yet, for some reason, I did not value my own tweeting as a sharing practice. That’s interesting. Thanks, Laura. 🙂
When I am fortunate to speak at a conference, I make an effort to share my slides publicly (with a Creative Commons license) and tweet a link to them. Over the years, I’ve done this in various ways — uploading my slides to Slideshare and sometimes making a blog post or a page on my site with the slides and resources. But I also keep an ongoing list of my speaking (which includes all types of speaking engagements, not just conferences) with links to my slides. I do this for several reasons: self-promotion, sharing, and it helps me to remember what I’ve done over the recent past. It’s so easy to lose track of these things. Last summer when I applied for my current position, I was so grateful to have this list already in place!
Secretly, I long to start making sketchnotes of my conferencing experiences. Sketchnotes are visually-oriented notes that are, well, super cool. I met Bethany Smith last week in New Orleans at the ELI Conference and she created a sketchnote of every session she attended then tweeted an image of the visual. See below for an example. Cool, right?
— Bethany Smith (@bethanyvsmith) January 30, 2018
I asked Bethany if there are other ways she shares what she learns after a conference (as I had the seed for this prompt already planted in my mind). She said that she collaborates on a blog post with other colleagues who also attended the event. They write the post, noting key take aways, and publish it on their academic technology/center for teaching and learning blog (not sure if I described their blog adequately there, but you get the point). I would love to see my organizations give faculty/staff a place to share what they’ve learned and a blog seems like a natural fit. Imagine how it would become a growing, public repository for peers on and off campus to learn from.
Do you have access to a campus-supported blog to share what you learn at conferences? I’d love to know!