Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 AECT Conference

Yeah, this post is MONTHS overdue. Welcome to academia. The two months it has taken me to write about the (not so) recent AECT convention is no reflection on how good it was. As always, this was my favorite professional event of the year.

The 2013 convention was held in Orange County, California. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which was the best hotel experience I have ever had. Kudos to those folks. I arrived a day early so that I could recover from travel and jet lag before trying to learn anything. That turned out to be a smart move, because I ended up arriving much later than anticipated due to airplane repairs in Las Vegas. I highly recommend you do the same if you are ever traveling across multiple time zones. Registration was smooth, which considering how many people attend this convention is a miracle in itself.

Concurrent sessions began on Wednesday at 1pm. The first session I attended was Promoting Personalized Learning with Open Educational Resources by Yu-Ju Lin, followed by Chronotypes and Online Learning by Yi Luo. Are you a morning person or an evening person? Do you know how this affects your participation in online learning? Yi Luo does!

What do instructional designers do and why do they do it? That was the subject of An Investigation of Instructional Designer's Decision Making in Higher Education by Bruce Sowers. This was followed by Toward an Instructional Design Theory of Accessibility by Lloyd Rieber and Michele Estes who spoke about social, physical, intellectual, and motivational accessibility.

My last concurrent sessions of the day included how to overcome transactional distance by E-Ling Hsiao and Effective Asynchronous Course Design for Virtual Schools by Michael Barbour. Both of these addressed asynchronous online education, which covers a large portion of this educational market.

The first general session of the convention was in a TED Talks format called AECTX. It included talks by Ali Carr-Chellman, Thomas C. Reeves, and David Wiley. I love this format, and these speakers were amazing. This was followed by the Welcome Reception. The Graduate Student Association and the Design and Development Division went out on the town afterwards, but I was already exhausted. So, I crashed before the big day - Halloween at AECT.

The day started early with a great discussion with Katherine Ley and Ruth Gannon Cook on online interactions and social presence. This discussion ended up bringing to my attention a great tool (Zoom) that I am still using in my work today. Talk about transfer of learning! This was followed by another general session honoring David H. Jonassen, a leader in the field who died shortly after the last convention. Thanks to the Technology Help Center, I had everything I needed for my presentation on ACUI's The Exchange, their innovative digital library. After my presentation, I had the pleasure of hearing from E-Ling Hsiao again on the topic of using wikis for personal knowledge management.

Lunchtime provided opportunities for networking, which is one of the best parts of conferences and conventions. It's an opportunity to connect with colleagues I rarely see and to pick the brains of those more knowledgeable than I.

Do you ever go to a presentation and think, "Wow. There goes my dissertation idea." Well, that's what I thought when I attended Modeling Third Place as an Environment to Foster Sense of Community in Online Instruction by Ibrahim Ahmed Gashim, Tahani Aldosemani, and Craig Shepherd. They did a great job with their presentation! Afterwards, Robert Kennedy and Glenda Gunter shared insights from Interactive India. These were followed by posters and roundtables. I love that the posters and roundtables had their own slot instead of having to compete with the concurrent sessions. I also like that the concurrent sessions on Thursday were broken up by breaks of other types of events in between. Way to go convention planning team! During round-table sessions, I took the opportunity to talk to Verily Tan who is doing some great work in the area of informal learning.

The last concurrent sessions of the day focused on cultural diversity, including Engagement that Recognizes Cultural Diversity with Annette Backs and Ana Donaldson. Donaldson followed this up with Phases of Engagement with an Emphasis on Cultural Diversity. The Fun Run and the 3MT Competition were next, but I was utterly exhausted and needed a nap so I could be fresh for the Halloween Dance later that night.

Despite the late night, I managed to make it to the Breakfast with Champions at 7am for some more networking. This was followed by a general session with Howard Rheingold on How & Why to Become Net Smart. I honestly can't remember anything else from Friday morning until the Distance Learning Division luncheon and meeting. As a Crystal Award Co-coordinator, I was particularly excited to see the winners of the award be recognized. More posters and roundtables followed where I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Elizabeth Boling about studio classes.

The afternoon concurrent sessions were near and dear to my heart, as I was a research subject for one of them. Nilufer Korkmaz and Marisa Exeter presented on Advising in an Online Instructional Technology EdD Program, and Thomas Royce Wilson presented on The Role of Empathy in Transformational Online Education. After concurrent sessions the AECT Membership Meeting was held, followed by the University Reception.

Saturday was the last day of the convention, but it was also one of the best for learning. The first two presentations were on peer interaction and feedback in online environments. Then, I attended a workshop with Tom Conway on Using Universal Design for Accessible Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVE) Instruction. If you ever get the chance to attend a workshop or presentation with Tom Conway, do it. This workshop was wonderful, even in the last session of the last day of a whirlwind convention.

That afternoon, I treated myself to a trip to Disneyland to enjoy the surreal combination of Halloween and Christmas decorations they had going on. Seriously, the Winnie the Pooh ride was my favorite. I'm apparently still four years old at heart.

Next year's AECT Convention is in Jacksonville, Florida, November 4-8. The Call for Proposals is open right now if you want to take advantage of it.

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